Ten years later, “For every choice, a consequence” is still an intriguing tagline. Fable paved the way for many games that feature a morality gauge as an immersion tactic and since its 2004 release developers have taken this and ran with it. So much so, it is now often hard to find an RPG without it. Fast-forward to 2014 and many gamers have come to feel cheated if they are not given enough choice and consequence.
Fable also raised the mainstream profile of one of the world’s most passionate game makers, Peter Molyneux, a man who subsequently became famous for his ability to promise the most intriguing game features and mostly fail to deliver. Players would not be able to watch an acorn grow into a magnificent tree as the game progresses. Every aspect of the hero’s life will not be controllable. Despite Fable’s broken promises it is still an original Xbox treasure with a great sense of humour, full of paths worth re-treading or creating anew, and dastardly or heroic deeds worth committing again, especially with the release of Fable Anniversary.
Fable is an action RPG that follows the exploits of a young boy whose home and family are torn apart by bandits and the malevolent Jack of Blades. With the help of the local Heroes Guild and its members, the boy is rescued and learns the way to fight back and have his revenge; by becoming the ultimate hero of Albion.
After a few years of diligent study, the newly minted hero must decide who he is to be. Is he to be a white knight, rescuing villagers from bandits and donating books to the school library? Perhaps a roguish archer, thieving everything that isn’t bolted down or being watched by the beady eyed guards? Or is he to be an evil wizard, murdering traders for their spoils and eating live baby chickens for sustenance?
At a time when there was no Saints Row for gamers to piss about in and be a general asshole to the characters inhabiting their game worlds, Fable introduced a world where every almost every action affected the game’s environment and its inhabitants depending on the player’s choices. Living every facet of a hero’s life was what Molyneux intended players to experience and while his promises did not entirely come to fruition, the premise of Fable is still the same. There will always be a good or evil choice for players to make for their Hero. However, the choice was rather simple for most.
No player could pass up the chance to be a complete and utter bastard in-game, at least on one playthrough.
Fart in the general direction of a guard or passerby. Backhand the odd villager and burgle their houses. Scare little kids by laughing maniacally. Offend the ladies with your unfashionable pudding-bowl haircut. “For every choice, a consequence.” The consequences of living vicariously through the Hero are mostly cosmetic, soon enough fire and brimstone will burn around his feet and his eyes will glow a malevolent red if an evil path is taken.
If players choose the more divine route, they will soon find villagers applauding their heroic deeds and falling over themselves to marry their saviour. The acts of saving little children from the jaws of monsters, donating money to benevolent gods, forsaking beer in favour of tofu, just to name a few, will result in an angelic aura about the hero; shimmering halo and all.
Albion and its inhabitants have been buffed to shine, having been rendered in Unreal Engine 3, bringing Fable and its only DLC, The Lost Chapters, up to date to stand proudly next to Fables 2 and 3 on the Xbox 360. To give players a stark contrast of the new graphics against the old, players need only look to the frescoed vignettes that propel the main story along. These cut scenes were left conspicuously untouched. While they reflected the original art style perfectly in its rugged way, unfortunately what was once beautiful about them now makes them look like cave paintings next to the updated character models and environments. It is a constant reminder of how dated the game is.
An extensive menu overhaul has also been applied and while it is certainly modern, this doesn’t make it any easier to navigate. The sub-tabs have sub-tabs of their own and all of these leave an air of unfolding complicated origami with every push of the shoulder button.
Confusing menu system aside, the combat has been upgraded to fit the style of Fable 2 and 3, with buttons designated to each attack type; melee, ranged and will or magic. This is a significant welcome change from having to manually equip each weapon type in the original release, though this style of gameplay is still optional. One very unwelcome fault from the original Fable is its awful targeting system, which not only fails at times to lock onto and quickly change targets, it will sometimes lock onto non-combatants, sending those virtuous players into a frenzy of guilt when arrows or fireballs are let loose in the heat of battle. This is all entirely fine if players are emulating Lucifer because they were going to murder those traders later anyway.
Small additions to Fable Anniversary such as SmartGlass functionality enable the player to view game maps, character biographies, unlock game secrets and check out their acquired achievements. While this option is not necessary it is a nice touch, enabling players to delve a little deeper into Fable lore.
Fable Anniversary still maintains the original charm of the 2004 release but trips down memory lane can dangerously call into question the relevance of a franchise, especially when so many RPGs utilise Fable’s ideas in a myriad of increasingly elaborate ways. Fortunately Anniversary still continues to stand apart from its peers with its ridiculousness and flair for letting its players take the piss out of it. Best of all it doesn’t care. However with no Molyneux at the helm, Lionhead has a reputation to live up to in its creation of the highly anticipated Fable Legends. Just don’t promise a tree-growing minigame.