Oh, Fable. What an interesting series to talk about. Made by the overly ambitious and consistently underwhelming Peter Molyneux, Fable is a RPG franchise that is well known for, let’s be honest, all of the wrong reasons. Instead of being a game that changed the face of the industry, it is more known for being overly hyped, resulting in an underwhelming experience. The series has an inconsistent sign of quality since they seem to get worse with each consecutive sequel that is released. Even the spin-offs are not safe from being average to mediocre. It is definitely one of those franchises that keep getting games made even though the overall fan reaction of the games are negative. I mean, it’s kind of hard to consistently hate on one guy for making a franchise that has been underwhelming. I will say that while I don’t fully respect him as a game designer, and sometimes I think he shouldn’t talk until he has made an amazing game, I do respect that he has a vision. He wants to make a good game out of the ideas he speaks about, but I think he doesn’t have either A. the talent or B. the manpower to get his vision 100% met. I know Molyneux has some other games that have been well received, but when your main fantasy RPG franchise is so infamous for being a major letdown, it basically covers up all of your other achievements and work. How about we look at the recent HD re-release of Fable, known as Fable Anniversary for the Xbox 360? How does this HD re-release of Fable: The Lost Chapters hold up? Should you read these lost chapters? Or should you just go buy Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning?
The story revolves around you playing a young boy in the village of Oakvale. On the day of this boy’s sister’s birthday, bandits attack his village and almost burn it to the ground, killing most of the villagers. The boy stayed hidden until the attack was over and was found by a member of the Heroes Guild named Maze. Maze sees great potential in this young boy, and decides to take him to the Heroes Guild so he can train and become a hero. I mean, why else would you take him there? Anyway, throughout many years of training, the boy is now a young man and has graduated from the Guild, and ventures off to either become a hero for good, or a villain. Since this is the HD version of the updated version of the first Fable, there is even more gameplay and story to encounter once you beat the original version’s story.
Fable is an action RPG. You will be going across all over the land of Albion completing quests, fighting monsters, buying stronger weapons and armor, and taking down bosses. Your combat includes melee weapons, bows and crossbows, and magic. The X button is for your melee weapons, the Y button is for your ranged weapons, and the B button is for your magic. There are a multitude of spells for you to learn, and you can choose which ones to equip to your character for use. You can also enhance your weapons with special gems, but choose wisely because those enhancements are permanent. Throughout the game, you will gain experience points to upgrade certain abilities or stats of your character. You can also buy armor and clothes that will not only affect your stats, but will also do things like make people react differently around you. You can have a woman of your choosing to fall in love with by giving her gifts and using gestures. Since you can be good or evil, there are four endings, so if you are looking for a game that has replay value, you really can’t go wrong with this game. With this new HD version they added achievements. So, that is good for the people who like those pointless achievements.
The one thing I liked about the game’s presentation was the soundtrack. It’s quite lovely to listen to while you go through the land of Albion. Well, the reason why the music is good is because it had two composers, Danny Elfman and Russell Shaw. Danny Elfman, for those in the know, has composed great music for Tim Burton’s films. Russel Shaw has composed music for a multitude of games that were made by Peter Molyneux. However, Danny Elfman only did the main theme for the first game.
Now then, here is my criticism for this game. Let me start with the minor issues like the graphical glitches. I saw many little graphical glitches during my time playing this game, and they took me out of the immersion of playing it. Let us not exclude the most common issue I have seen in any game using Unreal Engine 3, texture-pop-up. It happens a lot in this version, and I guess they just couldn’t get the rights to use the original game’s engine for this, but it’s just a small gripe I have with the game. To be honest, I could not get into this game’s story. Personally, one of the reasons why I couldn’t get into it was because the character I played as was silent. I know the silent protagonist trope in RPGs is either hated or liked, but in this case where the big draw is that you make your own destiny, they could have had at least some kind of character customization back then to make your own character. I would also rather have had a character who had personality and had a speaking voice. I don’t really remember any of the characters besides Maze, and that is because, well, who names their character Maze? Sometimes there was something cool that was shown in the game’s story, but overall, in my eyes, the story was not all that interesting. Artistically, the original Fable is ugly. A lot of the character models looked incredibly bad. Many characters apparently liked having their mouths open the whole time. Some of those issues are still in this version of the game that use Unreal Engine 3. It looks okay in some areas, but a lot of the character models are ugly, or dare I say, uglier than the original game. I will say though that some of the scenery around you looks nice. Even if the sequels to this game are worse, at least the art style improves in those games. The voice work for the game is hit or miss. Some of the voice actors do a good job, but sometimes they just sound a bit too goofy, even for Fable standards. I also didn’t care for the combat. It might be better balanced than the next two games in the franchise, but I never felt like I was having fun. It never felt satisfying to swing my sword or use a bow to shoot an arrow. Blocking and dodging are the same button, and it feels weird. The overall controls feel rather clunky and stiff. It never felt satisfying unless I was using a bow and arrow on an enemy that was far away. Even though the world of Albion has a couple of cool things about it, I was never pulled into this game’s world because I felt like I was going down a corridor in each new area. Oh, and I don’t know whose bright idea it was to not have a halfway safe point during the arena level of the game. I hated going through this area because not only does it punish you for taking a break and spending money on new gear, about halfway through the arena level, you get your buddy from the Heroes Guild. Her AI is about as helpful as a pillow made of a bunch of Japanese giant hornets. The AI becomes even worse when you fight the rock trolls who love to spam their long-range attacks, and your AI partner does nothing to help distract one of them. This part made me rage-quit the game so many times in order to keep all of my money and not lose any of it just because the game takes it away if you take a break during the tournament. The relationship mechanic where you can have any woman fall in love with you is also rather underwhelming. Instead of building up a romance with a woman you have known throughout the game, you just do a few gestures and give her some jewels. I think the rest of my criticism can be summed up with one word I just used in a previous sentence, “underwhelming.” It all feels like they had a few good ideas, but never built upon them, leaving the game to feel very generic. It also doesn’t help that there were more successful RPGs that came out before, during, and after Fable was originally released. We have games like Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning, The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Jade Empire. Even JRPGs like the Tales franchise and the more recent Ys games do a much better job at being RPGs with action-oriented gameplay and memorable characters and stories.
In the end, it was hard to balance to critiquing this game and remembering that the original game came out 10 years ago, but you also have to really look at it and not get blinded by stuff like nostalgia. You really have to judge it by how it holds up nowadays. It’s by no means the worst thing I have ever played, and there are a few good things about this game. For one, it is actually a challenge, unlike the two other games in the main franchise that are unbalanced and way too easy, and the magic and weapons are balanced out to where you want to use all three weapons instead of just your magic. If you haven’t played the original game, you can get the updated version called Fable: The Lost Chapters off Steam or the original Xbox for reasonable prices. If you are looking for an action-oriented western-style RPG, you are better off getting Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning or Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma. Heck, I would even try out the Xbox360 Kinect Fable game known as Fable: The Journey instead of checking this game out. In my opinion, they should have just spent the money on making an HD version of a much better original Xbox game like Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without A Pulse. Plus, there is a Fable collection coming out with all three of the main three games, so this version is a waste of space and money. Unless, of course, the collection coming out does not include this version of the game. In the end, the Fable franchise just isn’t that good. It’s a very mediocre and a rather vanilla series of RPGs. Either Microsoft needs to get a developer who can handle what the original intent of the series was to become, or stow it away in a dark corner of the Xbox One production warehouse, never to be seen again and watched over by top men. I know there is a new cooperative Fable game known as Fable Legends coming out, but with how disliked the series already is, it seems like an odd move. However, maybe they can make a worthwhile cooperative experience with this game. Plus, I’ll be honest and say that the trailer for Fable Legends looked kind of cool. Personally, I would recommend skipping Fable Anniversary entirely, but if you must try it, get the original on the original Xbox. This is definitely one Fable that you can easily skip.
This game gets a 4 out of 10.