There have been a lot of HD remastered games out recently, and even more set to be released in the not so distant future. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to playing all of them, but there are definitely a handful that I’m looking forward to picking up. Fable: Anniversary just so happens to be the first on my list.
And with that being said, I really need to let out some frustration.
I. feel. so. much. better.
And sorry if that hurt your ears (eyes?). I just had to let out some steam, and seriously, if you play this game, you will need to, too. So, before I give a more detailed analysis, I want to make this very clear:
DO NOT BUY THIS GAME!!!
Or at least not yet.
Why? Because it freezes. And it freezes a lot. That means having to get up, unplug your console, plug it back in, and restart your game from the last point you saved. That is a hassle, and it completely kills this game.
Now, in the future, there may be some patches that will fix this, but at the time I am writing this, I’ve already downloaded two, and the problem is still there. I don’t care how much nostalgia you have for this game. WAIT!
Glaring problems that make this game nearly unplayable aside, it’s really not too bad.
If you’ve never played the game before, it’s set in a medieval world filled with an assortment of magical and mythical creatures and unnaturally powerful people called heroes (not to be confused with superheroes). You play as an especially gifted hero who discovers that he is the only one who can save the world from the evil Jack of Blades, who is bent on conquering it.
If that doesn’t sound like a very original or inspiring story, it’s because it isn’t. But it really doesn’t need to be. This game’s claim to fame is that players can progress though the story however they like. What does that mean? Quite a bit actually, not least of which is total freedom, or at least as much freedom as an old game can give you.
You can dress and wear your hair however you like. You can eat so much you become fat, drink so much you become drunk, and you even get other characters in the game drunk, too. You can buy a house, make people fall in love with you, marry people, including people of the same sex, have sex, flirt, give people the bird, smile, fart, and a ton of other things. You even age as the game progresses.
And you can choose to be really evil, really saintly, or somewhere in between. You can either help people, or hurt them. You can save cities and towns, or run through and kill all the inhabitants and buy their vacant property. The more good things you do, the more attractive and saintly your character looks. The more evil things you do, the uglier and more fiendish you become. You even get giant devil horns and glowing red eyes! I personally prefer to be good, but you certainly don’t have to be if you don’t want to.
It was a bold concept when the game first came out in 2004, and it even sounds great today, but due to the limited hardware of the original Xbox, it certainly feels a little underwhelming when you actually play it. The problem is, you have the ability to do all of these things, but the AI of the non playable characters is so basic, all they can really do in response to your actions is cheer, run away screaming, and comment on how good or bad you look. The saddest thing is, the sequels never really improved on this weakness.
So what’s different about the anniversary edition? Quite a bit, actually, but the changes aren’t all welcome.
The first thing worth mentioning is the completely overhauled graphics. I remember when this game was first released, it had some of the best graphics I had seen up until that point. As you’d expect, compared to games now, it looks kind of meh. So when the developers decided to re-release the game for its 10 year anniversary, they re-skinned the whole thing, using new textures and a new lighting system.
The new graphics aren’t spectacular, though. To be fair, this is an old game, but putting pretty textures on polygonal characters is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. It’s certainly better than it was, but I’d say if this is the reason the game has poor frame rates and freezes at times, then I would have been perfectly happy with just an upscaled version of the old graphics.
There are also some odd, uglificated (my new word: to be made ugly) things in the new version of the game that used to look a bit more, um… normal. I’m sure you can thank laziness on the developers’ part with the new textures for that. The saddest thing is, the worst offender for this is the main character. His face is just hideous! Thank goodness you can change his hairstyle and facial hair so that it covers more of his face. But even then, some of the styles that used to look good are just terrifying now. I’ve resigned to making my character look like Gandalf – hair everywhere. It’s the only way I can get by without having to look at his ugly mug.
Another thing worth mentioning is the altered gameplay and menus. Players are now given the option to play with the Fable II and Fable III control schemes if they wish. The inventory and start menus have been completely overhauled, as well.
And it really is nice that the developers gave the option for different controls, but the menu change was wholly unnecessary, and turned out to come with a pretty big learning curve. That’s not to say it’s really difficult to use, it’s just not easy to find everything. The old menu definitely could have used some tweaking, but they went in the complete wrong direction when they tried to fix it.
Also new to the game are Xbox Live achievements. There are a total of 1000 achievement points available. I’ve never really cared to earn them, but they’re there for anyone who wants them to boost their score.
Xbox Smartglass integration was also added to this game, meaning that players can now use their iPad or tablet to access maps and take screenshots while playing. I haven’t used this feature, so I can’t comment on how well it works, but I can say with a good amount of certainty that, unless you just really want to use a second screen while you play, you don’t need it.
And of course, there is new DLC available (any way to get more of our money, right?). It isn’t much, though. All there is are few new skins and weapons, most of which will cost around $5. There is also a free Minecraft-ish hat that you can download, which is honestly the only DLC worth getting.
All in all, I’d say Fable: Anniversary is an okay game. The graphics have been improved, but just about everything else is the same. If you haven’t played this game before, I’d recommend picking up the original Xbox version, Fable: The Lost Chapters, as it will still run on the Xbox 360. But if you really want the updated graphics experience and you simply just cannot wait a few months for a patch to fix the freezing issue, you won’t be too sorely disappointed. It is a good game. In fact it was one of my favorites on the original Xbox. Just be ready to throw a few tantrums (see the beginning of the review for a good example).
Considering the lag/freezing issue, I give this game a 4 out of 10.
If the lag/freezing issue ever gets fixed, it’s a 7.5 out of 10.