Fable Anniversary - Preview

We took a trip to Lionhead Studios to see if, behind the shiny new graphics and achievements, Fable is still as fun as it ever was

Release Date: 22/01/2014

Fable Anniversary Preview for Xbox 360 at GAME

Nostalgia is a funny thing, and one that seems to be creeping into gaming. Just as we enter the newest generation of consoles, there appears to be a trend for celebrating gaming's (recent) past running alongside it. In this age of "next gen graphics" and "power of the cloud" boasts, the arrival of the likes of The Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds have snapped up headlines for reminding us how good these games were. And to celebrate a decade since the original game was released, Fable Anniversary is following in these same footsteps, proving that Nintendo aren't the only ones with a classic fantasy adventure to re-live.

The last Microsoft game to get the ten-year anniversary treatment was Halo, so it's fair to say that Fable is in some pretty good company in being allowed a similar honour. Yes, there have been plenty of HD re-releases in recent years, but unlike some of these other titles, Fable Anniversary has been rebuilt from the ground-up. Using the Unreal engine that has served Batman and Gears of War so well, Fable Anniversary offers all-new visuals and enhanced sound. But underneath this makeover, the game is the same as before.

The Same New Story

Indeed, from meeting the producers of the game, it seems that this is the game that Fable would (should?) have been if they'd had access to the same hardware we have today. As we started our playthrough, the first thing pointed out to us was the stonework on the buildings of Oakvale. Gone are the flattened, straight-lines-and-right-angles stones of the original Fable, replaced with bricks that are uneven and filled with the same sense of character as the people inhabiting the village. Plus the action has been expanded to a full widescreen display, offering up just that little bit more of Albion in every shot.

Fable Anniversary Preview for Xbox 360 at GAME

The sound got the same treatment, with the team going back to the original audio files rather than using the compressed versions used on the original game - the arena now sounds like a proper crowd, rather than the disappointing whistle on the original Xbox - as well as re-mixing Russell Shaw's score in full surround sound. We even got a look at Lionhead's swanky new audio suite where we got to hear the score in all its audible beauty, as well as seeing the new foley pits used to record the walking sounds for the forthcoming Fable: Legends. That was, sadly, pretty much all we the producers were willing to reveal about the next chapter of the Fable saga, despite lots of prodding...

So Fable Anniversary looks better, and it sounds better. But how does it play? Well, if you played the original game, then you know the answer - the story, the characters, the side-quests are all the same as before. Lionhead opted to not really change a thing so as not to upset the Fable faithful - after all, as they told us, one person's least favourite part of the game could be another's absolute favourite, and no-one deserves to have that taken away from them. However, that does mean that even those bits that seem dated now (or that the producers themselves weren't complete fans of) remain in the game. Yes, enemies still have that red "Ready Break" glow around them, and those you can talk to still have the green glow, too (UPDATE: Since publishing this Preview, Lionhead have been in touch to let us know that these coloured glows can be turned off). Other, more frustrating, elements also remain - your hero can still only be male, and will still have that slightly confused look as he silently makes his way through the cutscenes.

Choices, Choices...

That's not to say things are exactly as they were. Some elements have a few more options now - the on-screen map can change in size or be taken off completely, and you can finally skip through the ramblings of the Guildmaster! The controls also offer an updated tweak to the original game, with the producers choosing to default to Fable II's control scheme, deemed to be more practical and familiar for today's gamer (don't worry - you can switch to the original controls if you wish). Those familiar with the sequel's control scheme will be off to a flying start, but some of the more unique button uses do take a little getting used to if this is your first dip into the Fable universe.

Fable Anniversary Preview for Xbox 360 at GAME

The notion of every choice having a consequence is still at the heart of the action in Fable Anniversary, and the good or bad choices you make will inform the other big addition to the game - Achievements. 15 Achievements have Good and Bad versions for you to earn. For example, the "Definitely not on rails" achievement can be earned by either visiting every region of the game (Good!) or by sitting in a tavern until you're drunk and morbidly obese (Bad!). During our time with the game, we managed to earn the "Get Rich Or Die Trying" Achievement by, well, dying. We assume this is the "Bad" version, and would much rather have earned it by getting rich.

We spent a good couple of hours playing Fable Anniversary, and with the initial training followed by exploration and side quests we barely scratched the surface of what Albion had to offer all over again. To be able to jump in and go back to the original instalment in glorious HD is something that a lot of fans, old or new, will really appreciate. There's still joy to be found in running up a series of misdemeanours just so that the constable can list them off when he catches up with you, the variety of regional accents remains fresh compared to the usual American characters we meet in games today, and new fans can go head first into the rich mythology for the first time. Whether you're looking for humour or adventure, and whether you missed out on this gem the first time around or you're looking to take a wander down nostalgia lane, there's more than enough here to satisfy your appetite.

And of course, there are plenty of chickens.

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