Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Released on Sep 12, 2014
Fable Anniversary is a fully-remastered rendition of Fable: The Lost Chapters using the Unreal engine, giving the original 2005 game a fresh new coat of paint. After 20 years, long-time Fable fans will once again, get to relive the birth of a legendary hero, in their own image. And this hero’s destiny shall be carefully molded through the player’s actions: by committing a series of good or evil deeds.
Genre: A Single-Player Fantasy RPG
In the first Fable game, you are the hero of Oakvale, a boy whose dad made him do good deeds around town for a few pieces of gold. He has to buy his sister, Theresa, a box of chocolates as a birthday present. It is here that you test the waters of your hero’s moral compass: Returning a stuffed teddy bear is a good deed, but destroying private property is an evil deed.
Once upon a time, there lived a young lad in the peaceful town of Oakvale. Then, everything changed when the bandits attacked. Only the hero, master of all three attributes (Strength, Skill, and Will) could stop them. But because he wasn’t quite the hero yet, he could only watch in terror, as the bandits burned everything to the ground.
In the blink of an eye, the villagers were slain, their houses looted of all possessions, and Oakvale was no more. The hero had lost everyone he loved; with his father dead and his sister kidnapped. Though by sheer luck, he runs into Maze, the wise leader of the Heroes’ Guild, who saves him from the remaining bandits and trains him in the ways of the hero.
And soon enough, the boy grows into a young man, dedicating his days to combat training and hitting the books late into the night, leaving behind his traumatic past, which lingered on as a distant memory. Lead by the guild master, he is taught the principles of sword fighting, ranged archery, and channeling magic through focus.
Alongside his friendly rival, Whisper, the hero graduates from his apprenticeship, earning the guild seal as a symbol of pride and access to quick travel. In the heroes’ guild, you can pick up a bunch of quests, ranked from bronze to gold. Completing the main quests always drive the story forward, but you need to do the side quests if you want to earn Exp orbs and be rewarded with tons of gold.
The country of Albion encompasses many regions including Bowerstone, Greatwood, Darkwood, Witchwood, Oakvale, and Hook Coast. There are towns where you can visit to restock on supplies. Taverns usually have plenty of beer and some shopkeepers sell consumables like apple pies, red meat, and fish which boost your skills by a bit. No one wants to eat the tofu so they just sell it to some poor sap.
Being a hero is no easy task, given that monsters will attack you relentlessly no matter where you’re traveling. That’s why you should have 10 or more potions on hand before entering a quest area. If you plan to cast mage spells, drinking Will potions is a must, restoring your mana after you put up a physical shield.
I will admit the outfits are rather comical in the right context. You have the standard leather or chainmail armor, and then you have outfits that are copies of those worn by famous NPCs. Some players are ardent collectors, so they will insist on owning guard outfits even if those offer next to no protection in battle.
Some outfits are labeled by their alignment as bright or dark. Wearing dark armor makes you more evil by default, perfect for scaring away the innocent children. The funny thing is, you could get away with cross-dressing in a Bordello quest (pretending to be a prostitute) and seduce guys who are none the wiser.
Most of the humor in Fable is probably found in descriptions of clothing: Lady Grey’s cosplay dress is “stitched to create maximum uplift and reduce breathing to shorten conversation times with those poorer than yourself.” The chicken hat won at a chicken-kicking contest tells you that wearers used to worship the chicken god, Eggtor, until they got kicked out of town by an angry mob.
If your running out of gold, then I’d suggest buying low and selling high to merchants as a strategy for generating huge profits. You might as well get rid of your old gear once you’ve bought the next tier weapon trading in iron for obsidian. Evil heroes might try to lure shopkeepers outside and kill them to steal their wares, that is when the guards aren’t looking.
Later in the game, you have the option to invest in Albion’s real estate. You can choose to buy the house and live in it, or rent the complex out to the villagers. They can get pretty expensive, though one could argue the payoff would be well worth it when you do need to buy a 19,000 gold Master Axe.
If you leave a town and come back in a few days, you’ll be able to collect monthly rent. To raise the property’s value, you just have to hang up some trophies of your noteworthy conquests and decorate the interiors until they look absolutely posh. Yes, this is a British game.
The more battles you win, the more experience you gain. Once you’ve collected enough orbs, you can spend them on improving your abilities. For example, higher Physique makes you swing harder with a melee weapon while increasing Speed makes you faster in shooting your bow.
The most fun you’ll have is acquiring a set of eight magic spells. Enflame and Battle Charge lets you knock down a group of enemies, as opposed to blasting one in front of you with lightning or a charged up fireball. Slow time is incredibly useful if you’re overwhelmed because it slows down projectiles hurled at you in mid-air.
Assassin Rush pushes you behind unsuspecting enemies, to deliver a painful backstab. You could learn to summon previously fallen foes, materialize a ghost sword, or find creative ways to combine your Multi-Strike with a combo finisher. The most powerful one is arguable Divine Fury/Infernal Wrath depending on your hero’s morality.
There is no real leveling system in Fable Anniversary. Instead, players decide how to build their hero, gradually transforming him into a tall, muscular, force to be reckoned with. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to grind by killing monsters when you’re in the middle of a quest.
Now comes the fun part, the actual combat system. It’s not always about hacking and slashing your way out of a group of Hobbes. Arrows can be charged up if you need to aim at a distant enemy. But it also leaves you unprotected against close-range attacks.
You can target hostile creatures by marking them, in case you get overwhelmed. The best way to finish them off is to rack up a huge combo multiplier by charging your melee or ranged attacks. Spells drain your Will, so they should be used sparingly. They are certainly more powerful for dealing heavy AOE damage.
The HUD has an area map showing the position of enemies as red dots. There is also a clock which displays day and night cycles. It’s a real shame the shops are closed at night. The eye points to how many people can see you. This is only useful if you’re breaking into their houses to steal some rare hairstyle or tattoo cards.
In the next part, I shall discuss the side quests, minigames, memorable characters, and hidden treasures, all of which adds enjoyment to the game, providing bits and pieces of lore about the history of Albion and its current residents such as the infamous guild master.
That guy is always inserting thoughts into the hero’s mind: “Try to get your combat multiplier even higher.” or “Hero, your health is low, have you got any potions or food?” Many players regard him as an annoying afterthought for stating the obvious.
Continued in Part 2 of this review.