Fable Anniversary Re-Review

Fable Anniversary

It’s hard to think that ten years ago, now, I was taking my first trip to Albion – a curious land that would devour hours of my time and earn my devout allegiance.  Fable has never been known for a lengthy main campaign, but the games have always offered a substantial amount of side content and secrets that encourage players to invest more than the 10 or so hours it would take to just beat the game.  The franchise has been the victim of its own over-hyping, but nonetheless it’s a franchise I hold near and dear to my heart and I’m thrilled that I now have the opportunity to replay the first game, my personal favorite, fully remade.

Fable is an interesting beast.  As a friend of mine has described the games, “It’s very British.”  It’s a cheeky game with some great hit-or-miss humour but all wrapped in a charming package with a great story.  The storytelling in Fable has never been high art or anything of that sort, but the games always have a well-crafted, non-linear plot, something I appreciate.  The Fable universe has been keeping me entertained and intrigued for ten years now, and I’m pleased to say that the re-release more than does the premiere installment justice.

Fable Ann Compare 1I’ve really grown to appreciate how Microsoft handles their remakes.  While you see a ton of “HD” re-releases from the last console generation hitting the market from several other publishers, those games suffer from a severe case of “uprezzing.”  Little more is done with those titles than giving players new high-resolution textures and widescreen support to stare at – the visuals are still relatively unchanged from the initial game release.  Now new character models, no new particle effects, no new lighting, no new audio… it’s the same game but just a bit (and I mean a bit) shinier.

Microsoft Studios, on the other hand, completely remakes the game visually.  The original game content and experience is untouched (aside from maybe some new controller options) while the game’s visuals are rebuilt with maybe a healthy helping of new audio to go along with it (with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary being a prime example of new audio really lending to the rebuilt experience).  It’s not just a high resolution copy of an already made game, it’s a complete visual reimagining of a world we’re already familiar with.  Perfect Dark and Halo really demonstrated that Microsoft was dedicated to nurturing its properties and giving fans more than just a recycled product.  Fable does the same.

While the gameplay may not hold up as well next to its more modern counterparts, the experience that I loved ten years ago is still there.  The belching, the farting, the questing… it’s still the classic Fable experience that so consumed much of my mid-to-late teen years and every moment I spend in the game is accompanied by a nostalgic high.  I love Fable and this is the game that always comes to mind when I think of revisiting Albion… I’m almost ashamed that it’s been so long since I’ve worked my way through the first game (which, I’ll admit, I haven’t played through since Fable II was released).  I’m not, though.  Playing through Fable Anniversary, in spite of the many, many times I’ve played through the first game, is, amidst the nostalgia, almost a new experience again since it has been so long.  It feels fresh, yet familiar and not just because of the visual update.

The visuals, though, are great.  It’s really nice to see that such a great amount of care went into rebuilding the world of Albion.  It is, however, hindered by the aged and clunky animations of the 2004 game hiding underneath.  While some things feel revamped and fluid, there are those awkward moments where characters will freeze and whip around robotically.  It’s jarring and takes from the experience ever so slightly – but as a whole, the game looks great and the love that went into recreating Albion is apparent in every screen.

Fable Ann Compare 2

I know I may be biased and looking at the game through rose-tinted glasses or whatever, but Fable Anniversary feels great.  Playing the game brings me some kind of gaming bliss and the new visuals should set a new standard for HD remakes – something I also said about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.  I feel like the folks working under the Microsoft Studios banner aren’t given enough credit for the work they do on their HD remakes – though that’s a topic for another time, I suppose.

Fable Anniversary is an old game dressed in new game clothing.  It’s as fun as it was ten years ago, but looks substantially better.  Giving loyal Xbox fans achievements to earn is another plus.  Fable is a piece of gaming history and this Anniversary re-release does it justice, it would be hard, even when not considering my bias, to not recommend this game… it’s just too much fun and the budget price makes it even more enticing.

 

Fable Anniversary: 4 out of 5

Microsoft now wholly owns Gears of War

Crimson Omen

Gears of War is a big franchise – one that’s managed to stay exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox platforms for 8 years due to a close partnership with Epic Games.  Each game in the franchise was published by Microsoft, but the intellectual property still remained in the possession of Epic – meaning that Epic, after fulfilling their agreement with Microsoft, could have potentially brought the franchise to Sony’s platforms.  This has now changed as Microsoft is now the IP owner of the Gears of War franchise – a win for Microsoft who, since the release of the Kinect, has been struggling to boost their library of exclusive titles.

As an avid gamer, I would like to see Microsoft pursue more new franchises, but a Gears game on my Xbox one is mighty tempting.  On the other side, while I have yet to play Judgment, I felt that the third game was a solid conclusion to the franchise.  As much as I love playing Gears of War, I do feel like sometimes it’s okay to let a franchise end – especially when the end pretty well concludes the story.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 trailer is live

The second season of Telltale’s award winning The Walking Dead is coming to consoles, PC, and mobile soon and to drum up some excitement for what is sure to be a heavily emotional experience, they’ve released this brief teaser.  The first season was easily some of the finest adventure gaming I’ve ever experienced with some incredibly heavy moments (the season finale was just brutal), so I’m really looking forward to what this next season has to offer.

Ascend: Hand of Kul in open beta today

While the game has been in closed beta for some time now, there had never been any specifics as to when Ascend would see a full release. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that time had come. Available now as an “open beta,” Ascend: Hand of Kul is essentially fully available to gamers on Xbox 360 courtesy of Signal Studios and Microsoft Studios. While billed as an open beta, gamers have access to the entire world and story of Ascend as well as the game’s achievements. I just suspect we’ll be seeing more fine tuning and updates than a standard game release for a while. Stay tuned for a full review.

Feast your eyes on the new The Evil Within trailer

Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami is bringing a new vision of survival horror to consoles and Windows PC next year.  From the trailer below, it looks like it’s shaping up nicely.  In a disgusting and terrifying sort of niceness.

Diablo III console edition impressions

diablo-3

I can’t really label this a review since I haven’t completed the game yet and don’t really have a fully formulated opinion of it.  But, I have spent several hours with the console release (specifically the Xbox 360 version) of Diablo III and have some thoughts I’d like to put down on digital paper.  The game is over a year old on PCs now and so it doesn’t really warrant a review in that sense.  It’s Diablo – the king of dungeon crawlers.  It’s awesome.  Yada yada.  But how does it play on consoles?

Pretty great, actually.  Honestly, for several years now I’ve been favoring console dungeon crawlers over their PC counterparts.  There’s not always a whole lot of ports, but since the days of the Dreamcast, I’ve been doing most of my killing and looting with a controller in hand.  This isn’t to spark a PC vs. Consoles debate, this is just my preference (and you’d damn well better respect my preference).  PC gamers tend to have a bit of apprehension when it comes to ports of their beloved mouse and keyboard exclusives.  Sometimes they’re right to be worried (typically, real-time strategy games (RTS) don’t translate well to console controls), but sometimes their apprehension is unfounded.  Thankfully that’s the case with Diablo III.

diablo-3-demon-hunter-02Personally, I wasn’t worried about the transition.  I had enjoyed Torchlight immensely in its console release (and sincerely hope that its sequel gets some new life on consoles) and knew that Bilzzard was more than capable of delivering a high-quality port.  They did, too.

I think the biggest selling point for me on the console version is the couch co-op.  I can be old school at times and so I’d much rather be playing a game with my friends in the same room as me than as disembodied voices over the internet.  It’s a much more enjoyable experience.  That being said, killing, questing, and looting is so much more rewarding to me when I can sit back on the couch and maybe throw back a couple of drinks with my pals while making clever or not-so-clever quips.  It’s great to have that social interaction mixed in with my favorite hobby.  It also helps that the translation to consoles didn’t affect the fun factor of Diablo.

It would be insulting to say that there’s not much to the game on PC, but in playing games like Diablo it has a missing sense of control.  With playing the game with a controller in hand, I feel much more like I’m playing a game.  My character moves where I’m leading him and reacts to my every move – I’m not just telling him what to do and he follows my commands; I’m given a much greater sense of control.  That is what I like about playing Diablo III on my console.  Does the console version have its drawbacks?  Sure.  It’s not perfect, but it offers to me as a gamer more of what I’m looking for in a game than the PC version does.

The biggest disappointment I have with Diablo III is less of something the game did wrong and more of a hugely missed opportunity.  Couch co-op is great.  I love sitting with my pals and playing this game on the same screen.  However, sharing the screen during inventory management sessions sucks.  Only one player at a time can view his or her inventory or have any interactions with merchants.  This breaks the flow of the game and results in several sessions of checking facebook or playing games on your phone while you wait for your pals to finish up their shopping, crafting, and customizing.  This is something that could have been easily remedied with SmartGlass.  Let’s say that you’ve got 3 friends over and you’re all looking to score some epic loot.  Well, while Johnny McSlowshopper is browsing the shops, you can connect with SmartGlass and interact with a shop keep or examine and manage your inventory on your phone while the television is occupied with someone else’s menu.  This would have been a great solution in keeping the game moving at all times rather than making every trip to town a 20+ minute ordeal because you have to take turns managing your inventory.  With that said, it’s a relatively minor complaint.  It’s not a broken gameplay mechanic or a fatal flaw in the game, it’s just a painfully missed opportunity.

Diablo_III_Character_Classes

Diablo III on the console is a blast.  It’s pretty much everything you can expect from a Diablo game while giving you a little bit more joy with couch co-op.  It’s a welcome addition to my gaming library and I’m sure I’m going to sink many, many hours into its loot-filled world.

 

Diablo III is currently available on PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.  A PS4 release is planned and in development.

Fable Anniversary pushed to February 2014

Fable fans waiting for the HD remake of what is arguably the best game in the series are going to have to wait a little bit longer. Lionhead by way of Ted Timmins has stated that the studio needs a bit more time to provide the best Fable experience for fans. He even hinted at some “top secret announcements” for the game. So, it’s entirely possible that Lionhead is working on some new content for the decade old action RPG.

The Wolf Among Us trailer

Telltale’s upcoming adventure series The Wolf Among Us, based on DC Comic’s Fables series, has its debut trailer.  The developer is most recently known for its fantastic interpretation of The Walking Dead and before that reviving the Sam & Max and Monkey Island properties.  The Wolf Among Us will be available on PC, Mac, Xbox 360, and PS3 in quarter three of this year.

Rambo: The Video Game Trailer

It really doesn’t look like much, but, hey, it could surprise us all and be surprisingly fun.  It could also be a major turd, which is much more likely, but you won’t know unless you try it when it comes out this fall.  And now, the first gameplay trailer for Rambo: The Video Game.

Microsoft may make Games with Gold permanent

XboxLive

Currently, Microsoft’s Games with Gold promotion is only set to run through the rest of this year.  However, according to Major Nelson, that is subject to change depending on audience reaction.  Given that people like free things, even when there might be some disappointment there, I’m sure it will be a resounding success throughout the gaming community.

Microsoft first announced its Games with Gold promotion at this year’s E3 by promising gamers with an Xbox Live Gold subscription two free games every month throughout the remainder of the year.  The first two games to be announced were Assassin’s Creed II and Halo 3.  There was some expressions of disappointment with the two free games, given that they’re already several years old and most anybody that wants to play them already has them (and, c’mon, pretty much everybody has a copy of Halo 3 by now), but they’re free.

The major benefit of this promotion, besides the two free games thing, is that the games will be yours to keep.  Unlike Sony’s free games for PSN+ subscribers, games made available for free on Games with Gold will not expire even if you cancel your Gold subscription.  While I’d certainly like to see something newer than what Microsoft has shown so far (or at least something I haven’t played yet), I’m not going to complain about free games–even if I already own those games, it doesn’t hurt to have a digital copy… especially if it’s free.

Defense Grid is the first free Game with Gold and will remain free through July 15.

Source:  VG247