Tag Archive: Albion

Chasing the chicken, for old time’s sake

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the first Fable. Like many who played it the first time around, Lionhead’s fantasy RPG has always held a special place in my heart. I loved the idea that your interactions with the world around you could affect your character’s quests and their physical appearance (good characters received a “holy glow,” while bad players would sprout demonic horns) gave the sensation that your choices actually carried some weight—a rarity back then.

The combat was deeply satisfying, and finding the balance between Strength (melee), Skill (ranged), and Will (magic) to fit your playstyle delivered an instant gratification you rarely see in RPGs even today. Plus, the game featured a charming story that may not have been all that original (boy’s parents are murdered, boy becomes hero, boy enacts vengeance on those who wronged him…kind of like Batman), but it was still entertaining, especially since it was garnished with some classic British humor.

So, even though it didn’t redefine the genre (no matter what Peter Molyneux may say) and has been surpassed many times over at this point, Fable still remained a personal favorite of mine. It didn’t do anything spectacularly, but everything it did back in 2004, it did well. But I must admit after all this time that my memory may have been looking at things through Briar Rose–colored glasses.

Fable Anniversary builds off the content of the expanded 2005 re-release, Fable: The Lost Chapters on the original Xbox, providing a much-needed facelift by updating every asset with Xbox 360-caliber graphics. Along with this, Achievements have been added, and a brand-new user interface has been integrated into the game, one that not only allows players to save wherever they want, but also makes navigating store and inventory menus far easier. There’s even some interesting loading screens depicting an ever-growing map of Albion as you explore.

Besides the look, however, Fable Anniversary fails to offer anything new to the game. That’s not to say the game doesn’t benefit from the graphical update, but seeing Fable’s roots—especially with Legends on the horizon and Fable II, III, and Journey all in the rear-view mirror—makes Anniversary reek of a cash-in on the admitted nostalgia gamers like myself feel toward older franchises.

I’m here to warn you that time hasn’t been kind to this one. Compared to everything that’s come since then—even within the Fable series itself, let alone other RPGs—these roots seem shockingly bare. The stark realization that things aren’t as good as you may remember could leave a decidedly sour taste in your mouth. It left me quite sad, actually.

In one way, it’s an interesting exercise in seeing how far the industry has come. Now, you can choose to be a female protagonist in many RPGs. You still can’t make that choice in this Fable, nor can you customize your character to any reasonable extent. If the developers were going to take the time to update the entire look of the game, couldn’t they have afforded a few more in-depth customization options?

And would it have killed Lionhead to add a couple of extra missions and lengthen the game a little bit? Couldn’t they offer players an experience a little different from the one we had back in 2005? My Xbox 360 still plays Fable: The Lost Chapters (remember when systems had backward compatibility?), so there’s really very little incentive for me to go out and buy a whole new game—even with a $39.99 budget price—unless I’m an Achievement hunter or an OCD collector.

Anniversary lacks many of the features we’ve come to expect in modern RPGs, and the passage of time has dulled the punch of those few that the game did tout. The only value now lies in showing players who came to the franchise late the beginnings of this ongoing tale. It still works from a technical point of view, but only the combat remains rewarding—the one element not ravaged by time over these past 10 years.

What hurts Anniversary most of all, though, is coming to the realization that when Fable first came out, it was very good, even if it really didn’t break new ground. Now, it’s borderline irrelevant, since so little work has been done on this re-release to make the experience stand with contemporary RPGs. It was depressing to trudge through an Albion that looked so very different to me, not only due to the new graphics, but because of my sweet memories being shattered and replaced by a harsher reality. The tagline for Fable used to be “For every choice, a consequence.” Well, the consequence of Fable Anniversary is one disappointed reviewer—and the newfound understanding that, sometimes, it’s better to just leave your memories in the past.

Developer: Lionhead Studios • Publisher: Microsoft Studios • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 02.04.14
Fable still has some charming elements that have stood the test of time and survive in Fable Anniversary. But most of the game shows its age, so if you played Fable or Fable: The Lost Chapters the first time around, there’s little here to bring you back for more.
The Good Friendlier user interface and a graphical facelift; combat system holds up.
The Bad Everything else is starting to show its age.
The Ugly How entertaining I thought the fart feature once was.
Fable Anniversary is a Xbox 360 exclusive. 

An Unwanted Return to Albion

Although Fable has always been a franchise that stayed true to some very traditional RPG tenets, it’s unique story, creatures, customization, and choices has made it beloved by gamers everywhere. So, when Fable Heroes was announced as a side-scrolling beat ‘em up based on the popular action/adventure RPG series, I admit my curiosity was piqued. But, unfortunately, like many games that stray too far from the formula that works for them, like a toddler teetering away from its protective mother’s grasp with those first exploratory and cautious steps, Fable Heroes falls flat on its face. In fact, it’s so far from Fable that you wonder if this wasn’t some other game that simply had an Albion shade of paint thrown on it in the hopes of capitalizing on the strength of Lionhead’s premiere product.

Fable Heroes allows you to choose from several puppets designed after the series’ most beloved characters like Hammer, Maze, Garth, Reaver, or the Hero him/herself. You then side-scroll through familiar haunts in the Fable universe like Bowerstone or Mistpeak and take on familiar foes like Balverines, Trolls, and Hobbes, as you look to collect gold for a game within a game. You see, Fable Heroes is almost set-up like a Mario Party board where you collect gold in each level, do a handful of simple mini-games or boss fights, and roll dice for the opportunity to upgrade your characters, which then allows you to collect more gold. The end only comes after conquering each area of Albion and players are then awarded first through fourth place, as the game offers both local and online 4-player co-op, depending on much gold they collected in each level.

This additional twist to the side-scrolling beat ‘em up action does offer at least a small reward at the end of day, but it all just feels disjointed and definitely not something that long time Fable fans should respond to. The limited amount of action is dull and repetitive and with even less options for combat than traditional Fable games, I don’t see how anyone could play this for long stretches of time. The art style for the game is a definite plus though as recognizing iconic Fable locations and enemies in the child-oriented, but very vibrant and original, puppet style of the game is cute and the music stays true to the series.

At the end of the day, this isn’t even a passable side-scrolling beat ‘em up though. The ESRB rating may be E10+ (everyone 10 and older), but 10 seems to be the age limit instead for the game as this is definitely geared towards younger gamers. And they probably won’t enjoy it either because with no story told in this game (it relies on you having played the previous Fable titles) it just seems like a bunch of random set pieces mashed together with a fancy paint job. No matter if you are a fan of the franchise or not, I highly recommend that you steer clear of Fable Heroes.

SUMMARY:  Beyond the creative art style’s unique take on Fable III’s Albion and seeing everyone’s favorite characters return in puppet form, the downright boring and uninspired game play keeps this from being worth anyone’s time.

  • THE GOOD: Vibrant, unique art style
  • THE BAD: Uninspired game play
  • THE UGLY: Still dressing up like a Hobbe

SCORE: 3.0

Fable Heroes is an XBLA (Xbox 360) exclusive.