A decade. That’s the most shocking aspect of Fable Anniversary, that the original game was released ten whole years ago. Yet while the series itself has moved on considerably in that time, not to mention the state of gaming as a whole, this remake of 2004’s overly-ambitious RPG now feels a bit dated – twee, even.
The biggest problem stems from the combat. Rather than grandfathering in the improved systems used in Fable II onwards, Anniversary reverts to the original system. There’s not much more strategy or skill required when facing enemies than to attack, block, dodge, and attack again. Magic and archery add a touch of variety, but have their own problems – aiming arrow shots in particular feels rote and listless. It’s worth noting that the control layout can be switched to something closer to Fable II, but the underlying systems remain unaltered.
Also flawed – or perhaps disappointing – are the moralistic quandaries offered to the player. Fable has always promised a level of choice far greater than it actually delivered, and returning to its earliest roots only reinforces how starkly black and white the decisions you can take really are. Although your hero’s appearance changes according to your behaviour, with people’s reactions to you shifting to match, the differences are polar opposites – become a paragon of virtue or malevolent arch-fiend, there are no subtleties or shades of grey. The emotion system – ostensibly meant to quickly communicate with other characters by tapping on the D-Pad – is also fiddly, too often giving you an unwanted reaction.
However, this revamped Albion – the medieval, ever-so-slightly English setting – has never looked better. A particularly neat function of the companion Smartglass app for tablets allows you to compare elements of the game against its source material. It’s here where a lot more effort of the remake seems to have been invested, including detailed maps for locations and other helpful extras. A very nice implementation of the ‘second screen’, something that wasn’t available when the game was originally released.
With the inclusion of the Lost Chapters missions, adding over a dozen new quests, an enhanced storyline, and expanded roles for certain fan-favourite characters, there’s a lot of content on offer here. The real question is if that, and being easier on the eyes, is enough to entice long-time fans back to Albion, or to convince new players to visit for the first time.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen