Fable seems to be a series you either love, despite its flaws, or hate because of them. Fable Heroes certainly doesn’t break that mold.
Fable Heroes when announced was a confusing prospect and it seemed to many, including myself, that it would continue the destruction of the series that started when Fable Journey was announced. In fact my words were a little harsh on the matter, as Fable is a beloved franchise to me. I’m one of it’s biggest fans and most stalwart defenders and Albion is one of my favorite places to visit in video games. So seeing some cutesy hack n slash felt like a slap in the face and I decided to dislike it before I ever played it.
Luckily I got the chance to review the title, and have been pleasantly surprised. Looking at most of the reviews on the web you would think the game was utter rubbish, but I disagree. Now I’m not sure I would call Fable Heroes a masterpiece, but it does nail the prospect of hanging with some buddies and slashing up some baddies. Most impressive is the absolute love for the series that’s poured into this title. Really, it’s almost like a love letter to the Fable series and one that I’ve read over and over again in the past few days.
Those of you looking for a story, move along, as there’s nothing more to see here. There’s no narrative compelling you through the game, no ultimate baddy to slay and save the day. Instead you’ll play as puppets of the heroes and villains from the Fable universe. At first this style was shocking, but if you’ve played Fable you’ll know in most you can collect dolls; dolls that look like an ultra cute version of the inhabitants of Albion. You’ll hack and slash your way through the relatively short experience using a combo of light and heavy attacks while occasionally tossing out a area of effect attack. Each puppet has its own animations and abilities though generally there are three types as there are in the main games; gun, magic and melee.
I did notice some difference though in the characters, for instance Jack of Blades is incredibly fast while Scythe has a long reach. Playing each puppet and mixing it up will help you to find your favorite and then power him up throughout the game. Each stage is an area within one of the main games and will give you whimsical nostalgia (or gut wrenching hate) in playing through them. Every level splits into two towards the end that will lead to you conquering a boss or competing in a mini game. In addition to the extra paths that add longevity once you beat the relatively short main quest you can then play through the Dark Worlds.
To mix up the brawler gameplay, you’ll often stumble across chests that will give you different power ups. For instance, one might make you a giant hero while the other might just make you look like a Hobbe. Good and evil have always been a integral part of Fable and they show up here also, albeit in a diminished capacity. Sometimes you’ll come across two chests, one good and one evil. Opening good will randomly choose a player to get a positive reward while evil will often bestow a negative one. Evil is always more fun it seems as in a group you can tag other people and pass along your terrible luck.
While the framework of the game certainly is a hack n slash, it’s the post-stage leveling-up that I feel is the real draw to Fable Heroes. At the end of each stage you’ll be rewarded for how many coins you collected (which are gained by killing baddies and opening chests) and those rewards will give you a certain number of dice rolls. Leveling your puppets will take place on a large board game where you’ll roll a number of dice (how many you roll is determined by how much gold was collected in the previous level) and land on a space. Each space does different things, some will let you buy a new puppet while others will increase your attack power. Spending gold on these spaces will quickly find you leveling you’re favorite character. Also it might be worth it to note that gold earned in this game can be transferred to the upcoming Fable Journey (if any of us actually play it).
The board game is really what has addicted me to the game as unlocking characters and leveling them up in different ways is something I greatly enjoy. Another big draw is the ability to play four-player local multiplayer and online with up to three friends. Like any game of this type playing together is much better then playing alone and will greatly increase your enjoyment. However you’ll never be running solo as even if you play alone 3 AI will fill in your other partners. Overall they don’t really get in the way and really don’t soak up that many coins so they are never something that bothers you.
Like most game s, Fable Heroes has its ups and downs. The graphics, sound and overall charm of the experience are through the roof as is the aesthetic that has been chosen. Everything feels like a diorama cut out played on a wooden table, and it just provides a lot of character to the game. Leveling is addictive and dropping in and out of multiplayer is mostly flawless. That being said there are some flaws and some of them can get a little glaring. The game, like any brawler, can become tedious at times when you play in longer stretches. In the online portion I did run into the occasional lag; usually to hilarious results. Most times it’s not a problem, but when it is, it can be detrimental to the experience. Occasionally there was money you couldn’t pick up or hit detection would seem off, but overall it didn’t happen enough to become a huge detractor of quality.
The bottom line though is that your love for Albion will directly effect your enjoyment of the game. Like I stated previously, I’m a Fable fan, so playing as characters (even puppets) that I thought were awesome during the previous iterations is great and seeing all the nods to the Fable series was icing on the cake. However if you detest Fable and can’t stand Albion’s inhabitants I really don’t see much point in you downloading the game. Sure it’s an addictive, fun, mostly mindless brawler that is easy to pick up, but what sets it apart is Albion’s character and charm as well as the love of the developers for the series. If you can’t stand Fable then you might be better off saving your Microsoft points. If you’re a fan of Albion then I suggest you give it a go, you’ll probably enjoy it as much as I did.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this title was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes. If you have any questions about this game the reviewer will be able to answer them in the comment section.