Why is the frame rate still terrible?
A fair question to throw at Fable: Anniversary is 'Why?'.Visual upgrade aside - and it's not that great - players could always just get hold of the original or even The Lost Chapters, an expansion that bundled in a crap-load more content.
While there are plenty of retorts one could muster up, the smartest may come in the form of the frame rate. It may not have been that noticeable at the time, but Fable stuttered like someone buffering a video on a 56k modem - trying to play it now would be nigh-on impossible. It's bizarre, then, that Fable: Anniversary's steadiness isn't that... steady.
It's certainly not unplayable, and we must be nice and add the caveat that this isn't finished code we're toying with. But honestly - if that's not locked come February, something has gone seriously awry.
Why does it take forever to get going?
Probably due to when it was released, Fable takes an age to get into its stride. 10 years ago I remember lovingly embracing the journey from young boy to fearless adult warrior, but in 2014 it felt incredibly painful. Nothing more than a horrendously dull tutorial, it's a matter of patience more than skill. The Guildmaster continually walks all over the place before slowly teaching you the basics of combat. It's as if he thinks he's trying to teach a monkey.
Now, if you've never played Fable before this is a necessary evil. Knowledge is power, and all that. However, if this is your excuse for a nostalgia trip, or you just fancy going through it once more, why are you forced to do it? Why hasn't a handy 'Hey, you may have played this before. Fancy skipping the worst part of the game?' prompt been included with the upgrade?
There's literally no reason for that not to exist.
Combat is really… janky
I never remember having a problem with Fable's combat when I originally played it in the mid-2000s. In fact, my fond memories fuelled my appreciation and excitement for the Anniversary edition. Either I've changed or my memories have lied to me, though, as combat is nowhere near the smooth joy I remember.
Dedicating each attack to a single button makes sense - your melee, ranged and magic are easy to both locate and instigate - but there's no flow to it whatsoever. Locking on to and then shuffling around an enemy is finickity at best, but then it's just a case of smashing the hell out of the buttons. You can, of course, be more meticulous, but Fable always feels like it's pushing you in another direction. Peter's fantasy was always to have streamlined and easy to understand combat - so your mum could play, or something - and there's more than a hint of that. It just hasn't aged that well.
It does look nice, but…
Well… it quickly loses its charm. When you first get plonked down in Albion the visual sheen on offer is certainly enough to make your eyes flutter. Fable has such a unique and cartoony style that seeing it in HD is really rather lovely. In motion, though, a large part of this appeal fades.
It's easy to forget the strides video games have made in the looks department, and it's hard not to be that guy and pick up on the odd fuzzy texture here and there. It doesn't take anything away from what's been achieved - this is Fable as it would look on the Xbox 360 - but the initial wave of loveliness isn't as long-lived as some may have hoped.
Be good. Or be bad
Slightly wonky combat aside, there's little point taking potshots at Fable because of how it plays. It's a game from 2004, so saying it doesn't do what 'Insert far newer game here' does is ridiculous. They're from completely different eras, and what this managed to do at the time was very successful in its own right. If it weren't for Fable, many other titles may not even exist.
That said, the passage of time has made the mechanics that were there from the start look old. The good/evil system in Fable is without doubt a tick in the plus column, but it does get a little tiresome - the choices are so black and white. Obviously they build and become more important to the narrative as the game ploughs on, but the very first one you come across is still indicative of the series as a whole.
A local man asks you to watch over his crates as he goes to the bathroom. You agree, but while he's away the most annoying child in the world™ tries to goad you into destroying these worthless boxes instead. So… do you beat the crap out of them or not? Hmm...
Was a straight up remake the best idea?
I'm more than aware that trying to inject ideas from Fable 2 and 3 into the mix would turn Anniversary into a completely different game, but after playing the two sequels it does make the original in the series quite tough to go back to.
As is the case with all franchises, Lionhead developed and evolved many concepts as they went along, and while the third may've missed more than it hit, Fable 2 was exquisite. It took everything that had made its older brother a success, made it better, and then added a ton of extras on top. Admittedly the amount of work required to adapt a game never suited for such ideas is no doubt difficult, but there's still an argument to be had that it would've made things far more interesting than just a standard remake.
Of course, those who want nothing more than a blast from the past hit will be in a wonderful place.
The Britishness is nice
Although it's probably lost on many - especially if you don't live on British shores - having a game that apes the likes of Monty Python is a nice change from the usual nonsense that gets thrown in our direction. It occasionally enters quite dark territory, too, so if fart gags aren't your thing there's certainly a more sinister side in Fable's arsenal.
That was the case back in 2004, though, and doesn't have anything to do with the fact everything is now presented in HD. So do with that information what you will...