Fable Anniversary Could’ve Revived the Series
The release of a new generation of consoles is always an exciting thing. With a new generation comes stronger hardware, new console exclusives, and for me, most importantly, the hope that new life gets breathed into your favorite video game franchises. And the franchise that I’d most like to see come back from the dead in the ninth generation is the Fable franchise.
For those of you who weren’t around during the heydays of Fable, you probably don’t know much about the infamous video game designer Peter Molyneux. Molyneux is notorious for promising a lot more than he actually delivers. Think of him as kind of like the video game industry version of SpongeBob and Patrick when they were selling chocolate door-to-door. And Fable is Molyneux’s Magnum Opus of broken promises.
Among the things that Molyneux claimed players would be able to do in Fable, include having the ability to have children, the ability to die of old age after which your children continue their father’s journey, and having a fully open world to explore. And of course, that acorn.
In Fable, you can’t have children at all, let alone ones that become playable heroes after you die, and you cannot so much as walk across a body of ankle-deep water in the Hero’s Guild, hardly an open-world affair. And no, you can’t plant an acorn, carve your name into a budding oak tree, and come back years later to see your tree and name still there.
Despite the disappointment that came from promises unkept and other issues the game had, Fable was fun. The graphics were pleasantly cartoony, the voice acting and dialogue were largely goofy and filled with self-aware fourth wall breaks, and the game had a well-appreciated British tone. Right down to the Union Jack undergarments that your playable character wears.
Combo stringing with melee weapons was fun, especially those meaty, life-ending, flourishes. Popping off a bandit’s head with a well-placed free aim headshot was always fun, and there was enough variety to the Will abilities to keep magic fresh. All in all, I really enjoyed Fable as a kid, and it was one of my favorite original Xbox games.
Fable: Sith Lord Simulator
After the original Fable, the series went into a progressively worsening decline. Fable 2 was a good game, but it was two steps forward, three steps back. Fable 3, we don’t like to talk about it. And those were just the main games in the series. There were also the spinoffs Fable Heroes and Fable: The Journey, brought to you in part by the people behind the Walking Dead TV show, the recent Terminator movies, and everyone else who doesn’t know when to let a series rest. It seemed like the Fable series was destined to drown like David Dunn in a puddle of embarrassing mediocrity instead of going out with a bang. Then came the announcement of Fable: Anniversary in 2014.
I was absolutely stoked when I heard about Fable Anniversary. Bought it day one on Steam. For me, this was Lionhead Studios’ chance to rise to prominence once again. The world of Albion has so much potential, and if Fable Anniversary was a hit, it could give the studio the boost it needed to get a green light for a Fable 4. And the Gaming Gods know we could use more Western RPGs.
I booted up Fable: Anniversary, anticipating the Guildmaster telling me that my health was low for the first time in nearly a decade and…
Was thoroughly disappointed that Fable: Anniversary is largely the same game as the original Fable.
In my opinion, when it comes to remakes, remasters, or re-releases, Yakuza: Kiwami is the gold standard that every game should follow. Kiwami fixes issues that were present in the original Yakuza and is a significantly better game in nearly every way. A Yakuza: Kiwami style rerelease, Fable: Anniversary is not.
The graphics were vastly improved and do look great, but even by 2014 standards, are nothing particularly impressive. The overworld map and interfaces are also a lot better, but other than that, it’s basically the same game. Fable: Anniversary still has all the core problems of the original. Like the fact that despite being told the world of Albion is full of Heroes, it feels devoid of them. Or the melee combat, which, while fun in 2004, can get repetitive and is a tad archaic in 2014. Or the relationship mechanics which are shallower than the main female antagonist in a Korean drama.
The graphics have been significantly improved, but graphics aren’t one of Fable’s primary issues.
And no, gamers of culture, you still can’t marry any of the prostitutes at the Darkwood Bordello. Because apparently, Lionhead Studios thinks prostitutes aren’t deserving of love and marriage. Just black screens with awkward sex noises. Forgive me Lady Sophia.
Did I have a good time with Fable: Anniversary? Yes. But that’s mainly because of my fondness for the original game. 10 years is a long time, and a lot of new-gen gamers don’t know or care about Fable. So, they aren’t going to be making any nostalgia-induced purchases, and what’s available here isn’t bad, but also not a must-play gaming experience. In short, for most gamers today, Fable: Anniversary is a skippable affair. That’s not the kind of game that can revitalize a series.
Lionhead Studios closed shop back in 2016, and the last game related to the Fable series was a forgettable free-to-play digital card game called Fable Fortune, which was released in early 2018 by Flaming Fowl Studios and Mediatonic.
I recently played through Fable: Anniversary again to refresh my memory of the game, and part of me hated doing it. It just served as a reminder of how great it could have been. A game that could give life to a dying franchise and give it hope for a new entry on the next generation of consoles. Instead, Fable: Anniversary feels like a very low-effort re-release designed solely to make money off the remnants of the original fan base and nothing more.
Fable series, your health is low! Do you have any potions, or food?