Saturday, 5 May 2012

Review: Fable Heroes

Lionhead Studios released their last Fable title, Fable III back in 2010, so fans of the series have had to deal with almost a two year absence since then. Step forward Fable Heroes, an Xbox Live Arcade game which has been drafted in to fill the gap between Fable III and Fable: The Journey. But how does it compare to this somewhat flawed, but incredibly fun and light-hearted series? 

Well, first of all, it's quite a departure from the gameplay in the main series. Swapping the RPG quest completing for a basic but undeniably charming looking hack n' slash may disappoint some fans wishing for another round of saving Albion, but to those looking for a simple and fun co-op button basher-look no further.

First off, let's look at the game's design. Arguably one of the strongest aspects of this arcade title,  players will be guided through a vibrant, cartoon-like world based on some of the most familiar locations in Fable. You'll be facing off against hollow men in a cemetery, battling hobbes in a cave, or hacking your way through beetles in Bowerstone for starters. Players will get the choice to play as one of the heroes from the series, which have all been given a cute, almost "Little Big Planet" puppet makeover. Both the puppets and the landscapes are vibrant and colourful, and compliment each other well.
As for the gameplay, it's fun to hack your way through hordes of Fable minions with a friend or two, whilst you greedily grab as many coins as possible from these deceased bad guys. However, some of you may not enjoy how repetitive the gameplay actually is. Each level is set up exactly the same-cross the starting line, hack and slash your way through varying waves of enemies, collect coins and generate a number of power ups from the multitude of chests littered across the level. Once you make it to the finish line, a quick tally up of coins will show who is the victor. 

Now the game is definitely much more enjoyable with real players, rather than the NPC companions. I played it with one other friend, whilst the NPC's filled the two other spots. Whilst they did a good job at keeping down the level of enemies, they are not incredibly useful when it comes to sharing out items. For example, when dying for me was imminent, these NPC characters wouldn't consider me...they'd rush for the heart before I even get a chance to use it myself. The same applies for coins. Damn you, you greedy item loving puppets.
As well as immersing players into familiar Fable landscapes with the usual crop of enemies, Lionhead have also remembered to include perhaps the key aspect of the series: the importance of choice. Whilst it's not exactly a big part of the gameplay here (in's hardly present), it's nice to actually see them acknowledge fans love of choosing the good or evil route. In Fable Heroes, some chests are marked with a halo or devil sign, where players can choose to have a good event happen to them or other players (a shower of coins or a power-up for example), or choose for a random player to gain a misfortune (eg, being pursued for a space of time by a lightning zapping cloud). Whilst it's fun to see your friend get punished for a little while, there's always a chance that you'll be bestowed with it instead, which can be a little frustrating. However, it's up to you to take that gamble!

Now once a level has been completed, you're whisked away to a board game set up (reminiscent of Mario Party in a way), where you will get the chance to roll the dice and unlock some customisation for your puppet. These can range from changing their expressions, to upgrading their attacks for example, whilst there is also the opportunity to unlock some other familiar faces if you are lucky enough to land on that tile. Many of the tiles on the board will not be unlocked until you complete a certain world, so this section does feel a little slow when you have landed on nothing but locked spaces. 
Overall, Fable Heroes is a enjoyable little game, but don't go into it expecting it to be another Fable title, as it really isn't. It's a basic hack and slash game with cute, enjoyable aesthetics which, thankfully, hark back to the essence of the previous titles. Yes, it can get rather repetitive, but playing this with a friend stops you noticing this, as it soon becomes a competitive battle for the most amount of coins rather than a samey fight. My major criticism is that Fable Heroes seems to be an incredibly short game, so hopefully Lionhead Studios will release a few more levels as DLC soon enough. As some of the characters are only unlocked when players have a Fable: The Journey save present on their consoles, I'm betting that DLC containing locations from this Kinect title at some point after it's release.

Fable fans will enjoy playing as heroes from the previous games, and will probably enjoy battling against Fable's enemies once more, but some may be disappointed by the lack of challenge, repetitiveness and departure from the quest based RPG game that the Fable series always has been. However, the games short and sweet, and serves as a great time waster. Personally, I was happy playing as a cute looking Reaver (one of the best characters in Fable history, in my opinion), and loved the no-brainer game play. Give it a go!

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  1. Awesome review!

    I was cautious when I first heard this game was coming out because I loved Fable I+II but III left a bad taste in my mouth

    but reading that it's a hack and slash has peaked my interests. I've always been a huge fan of hack and slash games and the addition of fable characters and the good/evil choices gives it an interesting twist

    I'm gonna buy it!

    Is Reaver still voiced by Stephen Fry?

    1. Thank you!

      Yeah it's a lot of fun. Simple, quite repetitive but fun to play with friends.

      As for Stephen Fry returning...sadly no. The puppets are mute, apart from the odd yelp or so very occasionally.

  2. Excellent review. I've been on the fence on this one for awhile - I like the Fable games in general, but this looks maybe just a bit too repetitive for my liking. Maybe I'll sit it out until it inevitably becomes a Microsoft discounted title in 3-6 months since I am in the middle of a pretty large gaming backlog atm anyway. :)


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