My first trip to Albion was my favorite. Though the series continues to evolve, none of the later installments have the magic of the original Fable and its mixture of action, fantasy, and storybook sensibilities. Fable Anniversary is a faithful recreation of the things that made the first entry special, giving old and new players the opportunity to experience the adventure with some modern touches.
Fable Anniversary includes the original game, as well as The Lost Chapters expansion that released a year later. Fable casts the player as a hero in a fantasy world, though the term "hero" doesn't necessarily mean you're noble; heroes in the Fable universe try to build renown through good or bad deeds. Using a combination of magic, swordplay, and archery, you complete quests and build a reputation. Your persona might be built upon benevolent acts, like defending those in need. Alternately, it might be built on evil acts, like stealing and exploiting the weak. Regardless of the path you choose, the story chronicles your hero's rise to prominence and – in The Lost Chapters missions following the original game – the events after your legend is secure.
In this HD version, all of the content has received a significant visual upgrade, with graphics and lighting effects closer to the Xbox 360-native sequels. No one will mistake Fable Anniversary for a cutting-edge title, but the artistic improvements help recreate a version of Albion that lives up to your memories rather than the reality of the Xbox original. You also get some Smartglass features, a retooled interface that makes menu navigation less of a pain, as well as an optional new control scheme that makes combat and exploration better.
All of the tweaks are nice, but they don't fundamentally alter Fable's core; the quests, dialogue, and items haven't changed (apart from some downloadable weapons and item you can get for an additional fee). That faithfulness is great for purists, but it doesn't inspire much excitement. After the novelty of the new graphics wears off, this feels exactly the way it did 10 years ago; It has no surprises or anything that breathes new life into the gameplay. I still enjoyed retracing my steps through the journey, but the lack of any content additions deflated some of my enthusiasm along the way.
I can't fault Fable Anniversary too much for sticking to its roots, but I certainly expected it to perform better on the 360. I couldn't fully appreciate the new visuals and animations thanks to technical problems that hinder the game in motion. A choppy framerate, fluttering textures, long loads, and occasional crashes plague your hero's exploits, which is both surprising and disappointing for an HD remake. These issues aren't constant or severe enough to ruin the experience, but they throw enough wrenches in the works to make a difference.
Even with its imperfections, Fable Anniversary is still the best available way to replay this classic. The development team has clear dedication to the source material. How that affection failed to transfer to the technical performance is a mystery, but Fable is still a great game, and Albion definitely looks better in this edition. As long as you don't expect anything more from Fable Anniversary, you won't be disappointed.
Fable Anniversary is a faithful recreation that lets old and new players experience the adventure with some modern touches.