Thursday, 20 February 2014

Fable: Anniversary

10 yeas ago the original Fable came out. Leading up to it’s release there were huge expectations after the promise of a game having a fully reactive world that was alive, which ultimately ended with Fable disappointing many fans. This was solely the developer’s fault, as so many features that were talked about just didn't make into the game. For instance, I remember Peter Molyneux banging on about how the character could have kids in the game once they got married. Sure, this was later added to subsequent Fable titles, but it's something that should have been in the original game. Fable Anniversary doesn't fulfil the promises that Fable originally made, even the ones that later titles added in. Fable Anniversary is more of a celebration of what Fable was, as opposed to giving it the George Lucas treatment. It's the same game... only better.

But wait, I know what you're asking. “What's updated/added compared to the original Fable?

Not much. Like I said, this remastering is not about adding content that was never in Fable in the first place. That said, the visuals were completely rebuilt from scratch using the Fable 3 engine. Other additions include a combat system that has been slightly updated to Fable 3's standards, SmartGlass use to view your map and back-stories for characters, redone menus that are still somewhat clunky, and, most importantly, The Lost Chapters have been added to the game. The Lost Chapters was an expansion to the original game released in 2005, and contains new weapons, spells, towns, armour, expressions, side quests and ending. With it added here, this makes for the most complete version of the game so far, without hacking it to pieces or morphing into something else entirely.

Developed by Lionhead Studios, Fable Anniversary aims to achieve two things; bring Fable to a new audience, and tickle the nostalgia bone of the older gamers already familiar with Fable. The story is simple yet highly effective. Set in the beautifully realised fantasy world of Albion, the game opens up with a prologue that has the player control a young boy in the town of Oakvale. This opening section teaches the player about everything the game has to offer, just on a small scale. From using simple attacks, picking up items, to the Alignment mechanic, the player gets a taste of what the game has to offer. After Oakvale is ransacked and burnt to the ground by a group of marauding bandits, the young boy is found by Maze, a former Hero of Albion, who brings him to the Guild of Heroes, the centre of learning in the land of Albion. While training at the Guild of Heroes, the boy one day vows to take revenge on the bandit that led the attack on Oakvale, the masked villain Jack of Blades. From here the player will control the boy through his life to the ripe old age of 65.

The world of Albion is stunning, and the new graphics hit home. From the reconstructed, small simple town of Oakvale where the hero once lived, to the busy, bustling city of Bowerstone and every forest in between, Albion is a lovely place to inhabit. The only aged aspect of it, is the fact that the roads between locations are quite narrow and linear. This does cut back on atmosphere after experiencing Fable 3's open world areas, but the main locations are what matters here. From the characters, locations, creatures and spells, Fable Anniversary looks truly terrific from start to finish.

While there's a main quest set in place for you to finish, most of your time may be spent on side quests and optional elements of Fable Anniversary. From unlocking demon doors that hide magnificent treasure, wiping out bandits, getting married and buying a house to even choosing a special name that the townsfolk will call out to you, there's a lot of content to enjoy here. Sure, the main quest is pretty awesome, and the final battle with Jack of Blades is pretty damn epic, but most of the fun and charm is to be found away from that.

Hell, sometimes the best fun is to be had doing random things such as kicking chickens, farting near children, running through the streets in your underwear or getting a Fu Manchu moustache then having hilarious virtual sex with your wife or husband. That said, the main quest is fantastic, and the journey your character goes on feels unique and special. The combat, which covers the likes of swords and maces to long-ranged weapons and even to spells, is robust and fun, if a little easy at times. Switching between these three types of attacks is a breeze too, so you'll often find yourself jumping between them in mid-battle.

But the heart of this series isn't the combat or story, but rather the much talked about Alignment game mechanic. This basically means that throughout the game, depending on the moral choices that you make, your character will change physically. From their eyes pulsating red and growing massive horns to a halo appearing above their head, your character reacts to your good and bad deeds. Like luring shop owners into the wilderness to kill them? You body and face will strike fear into the hearts of the people of Albion. Are you good natured and kind? The people will praise the ground you walk on. This body/face morphing also extends to scars received in battle and, of course, the effects of old age. You'll start the game as a young boy, and end it as an old grey haired, wrinkled man. It's really quite a journey.

Overall Fable Anniversary is a gorgeous love letter to the original game. It doesn't mess with the recipe much, but what it does add only makes the concoction sweeter. If you're new to the Fable series, this is where to start. However, if you've played it before, well, you haven't played it like this before! Check it out.

Fable Anniversary successfully retells a classic tale with a glossy new look and gets a 5/5, []

Denis Murphy
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