Sunday, February 2, 2014

If You Liked The Original, Don't Overlook Fable Anniversary

Update: REVIEW now available

Fable Anniversary, an HD remake of Lionhead's now ten year old Xbox original adventure/rpg hybrid Fable will be available for purchase both at retail and online this Tuesday (at least in North America) for $39.99. The question you may be asking yourself is, is it worth the asking price? Considering the fact that this is a remake of an already existing game, that question seems entirely warranted and valid. Let's consider the facts and perhaps together we will answer this question for you.

The first thing anyone who has played the original will notice upon first seeing Fable Anniversary in action is of course the updated visual fidelity. Lionhead, tasked with bringing Fable to the modern era, utilized the Unreal 3 engine and employed 100 artists with the aim of totally redoing the textures, lighting and special effects. Widescreen support was added, a very important upgrade since the original Fable only supported a 4:3 aspect ratio. This might not sound like much in 2014 but pop in the original Fable and you'll be met with black bars on both sides of the image, which are now thankfully removed as the native aspect ratio has been updated to the industry standard, widescreen enabled 16:9.

In addition to the aforementioned textures and lighting, draw distances were improved, as were the particle effects, shadows and water effects. All of this has resulted in a much prettier version of the original game. It still retains the visual style and flair of the original while updating the visual offerings to a level more suitable for consumption in the modern era.

One of the strengths of the original game was the sound, especially the musical score. At the time, this high point was held back by audio compression as well as being limited to two channel (stereo) audio. Fast forward ten years and the original score that was so beloved by the fans is not only still intact but allowed to shine, freed from the chains of compressed, two channel audio. For the first time, fans of the Fable will be able to play the game they love with no limits placed on the aural experience. Multi channel surround sound and uncompressed audio are now a part of the Fable experience.

The integration of the 'Lost Chapters' expansion to the original game is a plus as there was a lot of great content included in that expansion. Rather than stop there, however, Lionhead has made the decision to add, via dlc, brand new content to what, at its core, is a ten year old experience. As great as the other enhancements made to the game for this remake are, it's this that I find to be the most exciting, and this is coming from someone who purchases very little dlc as a rule. The mind reels at the possibilities for expansion via dlc, especially being such a huge fan of the first game. New enemies, bosses, expanded environments, new quests and plot lines, combat enhancements, new magical abilities; they are limited only by budget and imagination so I hope they really go for it (and keep the pricing fair). Who knows.....perhaps they could even add a co-operative component to the game via dlc. One can dream, right?

Smartglass is being integrated into the experience, adding the ability to view a map, compare the graphics of any area you are in to those of the original game, take screenshots of any on screen action and attain information pertaining to chest locations, demon doors, etc as well as other general tips and secrets (this aspect of the Smartglass integration is optional so don't worry about unwanted spoilers ruining your experience). Not enough to sell the game on its own, I imagine, but a bonus nonetheless.

The control scheme for Fable 1 may now seem archaic to some, and so, in recognizing this, Lionhead has added the control scheme from Fable 2 and 3 so that the game can be played in a more comfortable, modern way. In addition to this, the original save system, as some of you may recall, was split into so called Hero saves and World saves, something that a subset of the people who played the original game found cumbersome and less than intuitive. Well, Lionhead was listening because there is now a single save and it can be employed manually at any point in the game. The last bit of convenience worth mentioning is the updated user interface, which now features a simplified/more intuitive menu system and more information and user control when it comes to things like inventory and attaining/equipping/reading about items found in chests around the world of Albion. These changes should all combine to make Fable Anniversary fit in with the modern crop of games, eschewing the perhaps more antiquated quirks of the original.

Achievements, an Xbox 360 staple, are of course a part of Fable Anniversary, including some with optional paths to completion, the less arduous of them carrying negative in game consequences such as being taunted by townsfolk or being given unflattering nicknames. This addition of choice and consequences is a first for the Xbox 360 achievement system and it should serve to add an interesting dynamic to the game as well as fitting right in with the overarching themes of the original Fable, of which choice and consequences were a central component.

If you like what you have read, don't forget that Fable Anniversary will be available for purchase this Tuesday, February 4th for $39. 99. Perhaps one day I'll even see you online in a co-operative romp through the now re-imagined, more functional and prettier world of Albion.

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