Trying to explain why I’m NOT playing Fable Anniversary is quite difficult. I loved the original Fable on the original Xbox 13 years ago. The world of Albion is one of the most interesting, fun and Bandit-infested role-playing game landscapes ever devised. The RPG mechanics of being good or evil, donning better and more effective amour, customising your character with new haircuts and tattoos, augmenting weapons and one of my favourite all-time things to do in an RPG – fishing – are all present and correct. So just like 13 years ago I bought the new Fable Anniversary on launch day, popped it in my Xbox 360, instantly drifted away to THAT music, couldn’t wait for it to install, then knuckled down for a mammoth 3 weeks of blasting through the storyline, chasing chickens, 100% Achievement score and finally getting around to finishing off The Lost Chapters content which I didn’t do last time.
But after a couple of hours it hit me. An HD makeover, a couple of nice new menu screens and all the Smartglass integration in the world isn’t going to change the actual experience of smashing barrels, decapitating bandits with well-placed arrows and chatting up the local barmaids. It’s the same game. The same quests and sidequests. The same bloody sparrows shitting all over the Academy rooftops. The same fishing spots. The same antiquated and fiddly battle system from over a decade ago. Even the same jokes. I’ve done all this before and there’s a reason I stopped doing it, it’s just my rose-tinted glasses forgot to remind me and were overridden by my yearning to revisit forgotten haunts.
The reason I stopped playing it last time was because I was spent. I ploughed hundreds of hours into my couple of playthroughs of the main questline, one as a good character, one as evil. Fable Anniversary is quite literally more of the same. It still has haunts I want to revisit. It still has one-liners and silly stories I want to hear again. It still has mini-games I enjoy. But I know this time around that it’s going to take me a lot of gameplay to get there, gameplay that I’ve already done. And I remember how annoying Balverines were because they had the ability to hop around like fleas in a flea mosh-pit overdosed on flea ecstasy and flea energy drinks.
I’ve currently lost my will to get that far and past those Balverines to get to the good stuff. For now anyway. Fable Anniversary is on my ‘to get to’ pile, which probably means it’ll find it’s way to my pile of shame in no time. However, if you’ve never played Fable before I can’t recommend Fable: Anniversary highly enough. It’s what made Lionhead and it’s quintessentially British. It’s one of those games you have to play before you die. It’s a unique world packed with its own lore, fantastic characters, and a great storyline. It’s just a shame that I’ve already played it.
So what I’ve actually been playing is Clash of Clans on Android (one of my staple games) and the wonderful Toukiden: The Age of Demons demo (think Monster Hunter but made for the PS Vita not the PSP) which is so good I’ve already slapped down £29.99 for it on the PSN Store and as I write I’m preloading the full version.
The lesson that I’ve learned is that whenever someone tells you that an old game is good, replace the ‘is’ with ‘was’. We have new games for a reason. However incremental it may seem at times (hello FIFA), new games are better. Their gameplay is up to date. Their mechanics have been refined. Their soundtracks are awesome. The modern art of storytelling is better than ever before. Their bugs are more complicated, such is the nature of the industry, and they’ve learned from past mistakes (unless Peter Molyneux is involved, then they just get more hyped than ever).
Fable was good. Fable: Anniversary is better – graphically by a huge margin – but it’s still Fable. I’m just not sure if that’s a good thing.
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: RPG Action/Adventure