Fable is one of those series that, once played, you remember forever. In what seems like a final farewell to the main series, Lionhead has released Fable Heroes available exclusively on the Xbox Live Arcade. As soon as you boot it up, you can see the much more family-oriented tone of the title. One immediately noticeable effect is that the music is very “Banjo-Kazooie”-esque. There is no voice acting in this game other than grunts from characters and there are no adult images. Also, all of the playable characters are dolls/puppets, similar to the ones collected in Fable II. The game is 100% safe for families which is not what a lot of people would expect from a Fable title.
Before release, people were hoping it would be a “Fable 3 sequel” or Fable 4. The game is not an action-rpg in the same vein that the main series Fable games are. There are no world changing decisions, no real story, nothing that you would want from a main series Fable game. However, this is not a bad thing. The game may not be a Fable game in the sense of affecting the world and changing your character’s appearance based on your decisions but it serves its own purpose completely. That purpose is giving gamers, and especially Fable fans, an arcade game that is enjoyable and stands out from most other games on the market.
You start out with only 4 characters (puppets) to play as; the Hero King, Hammer, Reaver (Fable II version sadly) and Garth. Each of the characters has their own attack style and speed. Each character allows you to unlock one additional character; Lucien, Scythe, Ben Finn and Maze respectively. These characters are pretty similar to the characters that you use to unlock them but let’s be honest, a lot of people will choose characters based on their appearance anyway.
The map for the game is laid out like a game board. While playing the game, you can only go to the farthest level you have unlocked before the board ends. Once you beat that level, of course, the board expands. There are a total of 8 levels in the game, although one called The Cloud is currently locked until the community unlocks it. The levels take you on a journey through all 3 main series games in a fairly nostalgic manor for fans of the series. While this seems a little short, once you beat the game you unlock the Dark Albion board to play on which has tougher, different enemies on each level.
During play, you always have 4 characters regardless of if you are playing with multiple people or not. This ensures that you can get at least somewhat of the multiplayer experience alone. Online play works very well for the most part and lag is rarely a problem unless you are playing with people with the worst possible internet connections. Online play is definitely recommended for anyone playing this game.
As you defeat monsters in Fable Heroes, you gain coins/gold that you use to purchase upgrades for your character. You purchase upgrades by visiting the “Abilities Board” (sort of like a Monopoly board) after each level you complete. While at the board, you roll however many dice you were granted after finishing the previous level. When you land on a space you can then choose one of the three abilities on that space to buy before you roll again. You go round and round the board until you eventually obtain all 38 abilities for that character. Once you do, you can then access the inner board which contains different perk tiles (more gold, invisibility, more hearts) to land on depending on how many achievements you have in the game.
The combat is pretty basic as it works like most hack-n-slash games. This isn’t a negative though as the enjoyment is still very much there. The differences in fighting styles work well together as you generally have two ranged characters doing damage and providing back up as two melee characters beat the crap out of foes. My only real complaint with the characters is that the Magic using characters seemed to have an advantage against most characters early on. They can easily increase their multiplier which goes up each time they defeat an enemy without taking damage. With a higher multiplier most of the level, they gain much more coins/gold than other players.
Sadly, the game is not perfect. There are bugs present within the game but thankfully none of them are “Game Breaking.” One that I ran into was that when I tried to transfer gold from one character to the other, the screen went completely black and I could not do anything else. This only happened to me once, though. Another bug I ran into was that the counter that showed how close the community was to unlocking the Cloud showed a number that was just like 8 different numbers layered over each other so you couldn’t tell what the hell it said. Most of the bugs I ran into were minor and didn’t really affect the core game play.
Fable Heroes is definitely a title that deserves to at least be tried out. The basic but very fun combat mixed with the weird, innovative style of character development is interesting to say the least. The online 4 player co-op gives this game good replay value as well. Hell, I can guarantee I’ll be going back to it just to mess around and play a level or two fairly often. The title is a very enjoyable experience regardless of whether or not you are a fan of the series and is even suitable for the whole family.
- Fun, addicting gameplay
- Interesting, fresh character development system that works well
- Great Soundtrack
- Decent amount of playable characters
- There are bugs here and there
- One of two more levels would have been appreciated