Fable spins off into a brand new offshoot with the release of Fable Heroes, a game that attempts to take the familiar characters and settings of the popular Lionhead trilogy, into an all new direction, swopping flesh and blood for felt and buttons.
But can the latest Fable game stand on its own two feet, or does it fall victim to its ambitions and struggle to create an identity for itself?
With the idea of cutesy puppet characters set up, Fable Heroes has players traversing levels pulled from pervious games, as one of several now animated characters, such as the familiar hero, Reaver or Hammer, to give some examples.
Characters are melee or long-range combatants, set up on linear levels that pit them against familiar foes, such as hobbes and balverines. The idea is, is that Fable Heroes gives players a a selection of gameplay ideas, such as an action game, or some light RPG elements, or even some similar board game action taken from the Mario Party games.
The downside however, is that Fable Heroes can’t really decide on one solid theme, and is miserably underwhelming in its attempt to ape more successful games. Despite the whimsical design approach and eye-popping, cel-shaded visuals, Fable Heroes is a game that just can’t find an identity for itself,a problem that creeps into the very gameplay.
Characters are clumsy and slow to control, with combat being relegated to light and heavy attacks, although spamming the light attack works equally well, throwing out the need for players to be tactical, while the evasive dodge move works occasionally.
Add to that, a persistent camera system that makes combat a chore, especially when you’re swatting your sword at open air instead of a balverine, and you’ve got a game that is no fun to play, at all, something that is crucial, when making a decent attempt at a four-player action title.
Sure, a game with simple gameplay ideas and a fast pace of action might be appealing, but Fable Heroes feels so unsatisfying in its approach, as well as clumsy in its extremely repetitive approach.
Inspired the lands of Albion, the game environments are nicely detailed, and would be at home in the core games, while forks in the journey ahead leads players to either mini-games or boss battles. You’ll soon find out that your trigger-happy tour is over within two-three hours in Fable Heroes, including both the regular game and it’s darkened approach to the same levels, although this might actually be a small mercy.
Treasure chests are also scattered around levels, which when opened, bestow status affects on characters, from growing into a giant puppet, or gaining a movement boost, in order to help with the coin-collecting frenzy that the game induces.
But the whole game feels incredibly limited, even though it strives to be a more open-ended game, resulting in a title that feels like more of an on-rails adventure than a side-scrolling quest with numerous approaches to combat.
Level scores are based on the amount of coins collected, which in turn can be used to purchase puppet upgrades, provided that you roll a dice well enough to land on that specific upgrade option, in the board game section, between levels.
It’s a pointless area of the game that penalises gamers for not being lucky or having odds in their favour, further detracting from the end result. Even worse, buying an upgrade has an effect on gameplay that is marginal at best, and usually adds no real benefit to the quests ahead.
It’s also primarily at a four-player multiplayer crowd, but truth be told, it’s going to be hard to find three other people who willingly want to play this game.
Even a mentally challenged monkey could play this game. Walk to the
left right and keeping tapping the light attack button. Nothing too complex.
Design and Presentation: 6/10
While the cutesy visuals certainly do pop, helping to bring the sackboy-inspired puppets to life, the over-bearing playbox sound effects will wear thin soon afterwards, resulting in a game that is better played with those sound effects on mute.
It’s an experience that is over before you know it, and your friends would sooner punch you than pick up a controller than join you for some sloppy gameplay, multiplayer be damned.
While previous Fable games have yet to live up to the promises that their marketing department has spun for them, they’ve still been some decent fun to play at least. Fable Heroes has none of that however, as well as a complete lack of charm, excitement or innovation.
And knowing Lionhead Studios, they’re capable of content that is much better than this.
[Reviewed on X-Box 360]
Fable Heroes was reviewed by Darryn Bonthuys