The Return of Fable? Rumors and Speculation
Lionhead Studios, once a pioneering titan of Microsoft, sadly fell off the gaming scene in 2016. The studio was best known for reinventing the typical action-RPG with their well-crafted Fable Series. Many gamers have dreamed of the day that the franchise returns to bring the franchise to better heights. This dream never saw the light of day as Fable Legends, a free-to-play 4v1-style multiplayer game, was cancelled. Along with that, the company fell. Fans of this beloved franchise thought this was the end of Fable; however, recent rumors have since changed that withering despair into a hopeful outlook on the future.
Contending as the developers for the newest entry in the Fable series is Playground Games, the creators of the successful Forza Horizon series. Though an open-world action RPG is much different from a Forza game, great potential is found hidden within its design. Similarities could be woven between the two as the Fable series has always excelled at bringing us into its world through the fantastical environments and magnificent structures. These points are admired in the Forza Horizon series. If these rumors bear true, Playground Games has a tremendous feat ahead of them to revivify this lost series that once sat at the top of the Xbox.
What Defined the Fable series?
First and foremost is that the world that one explores tells a story by just gazing upon it, a stunning fantasyscape featuring many unique locales and rustic homesteads. True, most of the Fable games didn’t redefine storytelling, though they did offer an underlying and secretive history of the Heroes Guild, sporting a very intriguing and mysterious mythos. The world of Albion was truly a magical place; there is potential within every depth of the previously designed areas. A mixture of true fantasy and the industrial movement offered a truly unique world to explore.
The most recognizable trait from the series has to be its comedic approach to the entirety of the adventure. It is a perfect blend of silliness and really illuminates the play experience and help humanize the world. Occasionally, it would teeter on the edge of dark humor, nevertheless it failed to put a smile on the individual playing. Comedy such as this is a hard thing to replicate and will probably the most challenging task with a new title.
Last but certainly not least is that fairy-tale inspired soundtrack that truly sets the tone and atmosphere of every location throughout the adventure. This paired along with the amazing world design to captivate the player and make a loveable, explorative experience. Every Fable game has catchy and recognizable melodies, that always further amplified the experience. Sound design is a critical component of the Fable experience, that overlooking it would lead to disaster.
What could be improved?
The first game mechanic to come to mind is the defining, yet limiting morality mechanic. Peter Molyneux, one of the game developers for the Fable franchise, always talked of a grand vision for the morality system along with many other ambitious ideals that failed to see the light of day. The morality system in previous titles was a stark perspective of good and evil, with many choices made falling between one or the other. That being said, it has been a long while since a Fable game was created and the current age offers a lot of technical support to aspiring titles. This could improve the AI present within the game and further solidify a sprawling, deep morality system.
Though the combat has always been enjoyable in the Fable titles, there seemed to be a downgrade from game to game. All shared the same basic progression with skills being obtained through the three categories that make a hero: Strength, Skill and Will. The amount of choice, however was lost with each iteration. Fable offered the most diverse skill system boasting powerful magic spells to enhancing support skills. Fable 2 focused on offering the player a grand choice of weapons along with a small list of skills to access.
The last entry in the title, Fable 3 got rid of the skill choice progression all together and substituted it with a pseudo-dreamworld unlocking system. Instead of conjuring fire from one’s fist, the player wore special gloves containing magical spells that could combine with another. There was still a vast array of weapons however it felt more of a downgrade than perhaps intentional. As such, the newest entry would greatly benefit to a redesign of the entire progression levels and combat system to make the gameplay a lot more engaging than before.
The last request I have is that the co-op functionality returns and becomes better than ever. In Fable 2 the second player, who was just a customized henchmen, really felt like the third wheel of the first player and the story. Fable 3 greatly improved with the second player being their custom hero from their save file, however he was deemed non existent as far as the story presumed in the first player’s journey. I would like a real resonance of the heroes who join the first in the world, to make them not their shadow but another hero all together. The cooperative experience was my most enjoyable, yet the most frustrating, presented within the Fable games. A fantastical experience through an amazing world with one’s friends is a truly exciting and engaging experience.
The possibility of a new Fable game really excites all us fans as this Microsoft-leading title dispersed in flames until its inevitable fall. If the rumors shine true, the title is within the capable hands of Playground Games. Touching on what defined the series such as the breathtaking world presented, the soundtrack that absorbed one within the world and that charming sense of humor. Playing to a franchises strengths will further earn the respect of the returning fan-base. Briefly, we touched upon what could be further implemented or redesigned entirely such as improvements of the morality system, a combat redesign and a co-op experience that feels more complete. Touching on the previous faults is to ensure a greater title in the end. The last thing to be said is that I truly hope these rumors become true as another Fable title will truly make me re-experience why I fell into the first all over again.