The Fable series has an interesting history. Loaded with all kinds of promises and grandiose ideas, Peter Molyneux first introduced the world to Project Ego back in 2001. From there series has gone on to spawn various sequels and spin-offs while selling millions of copies and garnering it’s fair share of critical acclaim. It’s also harnessed a lot of criticism, mostly due to the lack of fulfillment of most of the aforementioned grandiose promises.
However, Fable Heroes came in with the idea of something different for the Fable Series. Instead of an action RPG, it’s a Sidescrolling 2.5D Hack And Slash. So for those of you who are Fable fans, and those of you who are Fable haters, how does the game stack up? Read on to find out.
Audio & Visual
The biggest deviation from the Fable series is in terms of the visual style of the game. In Fable Heroes, you play as puppets of well known characters from the Fable franchise like Jack of Blades or Garth. Most of which you have to unlock. The whole world is heavily stylized in cartoon form. It’s a lot like playing through the world map of Fable 3. However, it keeps well with classic Fable style, as all of the locations are taken from the main series. Each place is distinctly recognizable, and the color palette with its bright colors is very evocative of previous games. If you’re a fan of Fable’s fairy tale visual stylings, you won’t be disappointed here.
The sound doesn’t disappoint either. The Fable series has always had an amazing score and this entry is on par with the rest. True, it’s not as varied as other games in the series, but the game is nowhere near as large as those. Even so, it still carries the whimsical fairy tale feeling that is a staple of the Fable games. I could personally see myself listening to the soundtrack outside of the game.
Fable Heroes is no slouch in the gameplay department either. It’s a 4 player 2.5D Hack And Slash Sidescroller. Meaning you’re on a mostly fixed path, but you can move in 3D within that path. Your fighting style is going to vary dependent on the puppet you choose. Each one has one type of weapon, correlating to the three types available in the main series. Meaning you’ll either be melee, ranged, or magic. The combat is fairly standard with strong and weak attacks as well a dodge roll move.
A lack of block and jump do feel somewhat odd when you first get into combat. However, the dodge roll substitutes well for both and you eventually get used to it. You also have an area attack you can use at the expense of one bar of health, but I have yet to run into a situation where I felt the trade-off was necessary or worth it. The health is system is the average heart type, with 5 hearts, and enemies and boxes dropping hearts you can use to refill your life.
That said, the loot system is rather interesting in this game. Loot almost entirely consists of gold. The gold is in turn used to buy upgrades. But we’ll get to that in a second. There are also certain chests which contain possible power ups or power downs for your character. There are things like shrinking your character, or making hum huge. Slowing down time, or giving you super speed. Other chests are marked good and evil, in classic Fable style – If you choose a good one, someone or all of your team benefits. If you choose evil someone gets a negative effect, but it may be you, or it may be someone else who loses to your benefit. There’s even some chest with a special surprise I won’t spoil here, based on one of the more enjoyable and silly characters of the main series.
This looting system is designed for a game that is mostly co-op. I say mostly because, despite you working with allies and friends to beat levels, you are also all competing with each other. This is because things like loot and power-ups drop everywhere, and its first come first serve. This means everyone is in a frantic dash to kill as many enemies and grab the loot as fast as possible. This will likely prove frustrating for some people, but the craziness that usually ensues is usually such that everyone gets a piece of the pie.
The game has both local and online co-op play, which is a rarity these days. It also allows bots if you want to play solo, and in a rare treat, the bots have really competent and semi-realistic AI. However, the game really does stress competition as well…. So even the bots will try to steal your loot whenever possible. Even the levels work to provoke competition, with each level having two paths, one of which usually leads to a boss fight, and the other that leads to some sort of competition where the goal is to have all your teammates die before you.
So what’s all this geared towards? Why shiny baubles of course! Better known as upgrades. The upgrade system is an interesting one, since it works somewhat like Monopoly. At the end of each round, you all go to a board game screen where you roll some dice. How many dice you get to roll is dependent on how much gold you made in the level, or sometimes you can find extra dice in boxes in the level. Each roll determines where you land on the board and each spot on the board correlates to 3 unlockable upgrades. They vary from combat upgrades like damage and speed, to more aesthetics ones like funny or fancy kills and unlocking new dolls for use. Once on there, you use the actual gold collected to buy the upgrades you want.
However, you may not want to waste all of your gold. Fable Heroes does something much like other tie in games for the Fable series. It has a gold tie in with their upcoming title, Fable: The Journey. That’s right, when Fable: The Journey releases, you will be able to transfer gold from Heroes to the Kinect title. Given how notoriously easy it is to get rich in Fable games, it’s nice, but not a huge feature.
The levels themselves are very nicely designed each based on an area in the previous games. There is not much in the way of exploration beyond trying the alternate paths at the end of each level. Although each level does have its unique secrets, most are easy enough to find. They also have unique sets of enemies, most of which are variations on staples of the series, and many which are humorous twists on said staples. One fun thing though is how they handle the end credits of the game. They are in fact a playable level, and quite possibly, the best level in the game. More developers could learn from this. Also, after beating the game, the world resets to Dark Mode – A darker version of the world which is slightly more difficult and even features new enemies, adding to the replay value.
So, all in all Fable Heroes is a lot like it’s predecessors. It’s not for everyone. It’s a solid title with a classic and fun gameplay mechanic. However, it’s got it’s own unique twist that not everyone may love. Competing with friends online an offline can make the game a huge blast or an exercise in frustration depending on how competitive you are. If you are the competitive type and want a game to play with friends though, you probably won’t find a better hack and slash than Fable Heroes.