Lionhead Studios is returning to Albion with Fable Legends, but the experience will not resemble what Fable fans have come to expect from the franchise. This is thanks to the new multiplayer focused campaign, and the fact that the ominous villain role will be played by a human. Fable Legends is essentially the fantasy version of Evolve, but instead of taking control of a fearsome monster, the villain will have to manage each mission in a top down view in which he/she will have to employ defensive tactics using a modified Tower Defense style setup. On the other hand four humans, or a mix of human players and AI controlled ones, must fight through the defensive measures that the villain has set for them in a third person hack ‘n slash manner. Each human has a particular skill set with melee and ranged combat defining their overall fighting style, so team work must be employed to guarantee success against the God-like villain.
While at E3 I got to play a campaign mission in Fable Legends as Inga, who is one of the heroes to choose from. Inga specializes in melee combat, so she came equipped with a massive shield and blade. Her special moves are focused on attack and defense, so her charged attack allows her to brutally zip forward using her shield as a battering ram, while her special attack would create a defensive barrier for the heroes to use as protection during a mortar barrage or other attacks. Her male counterpart is Sterling, who is the other melee-centric hero that players can choose from. Rook and Winter round out the shown heroes at E3, and their combat style is rooted in range attacks.
To begin a mission in Fable Legends the party leader must choose to do one in the town of Brightlodge, which is the game’s hub world. The Lionhead team dumped us right into a mission, so we didn’t get to experience much of Brightlodge, but from the explanation it sounds like this city will be full of life like the other hub worlds that have been featured in the Fable franchise. It also sounds like you’ll be able to kick and chase chickens, so those of you that want to keep your reputation as a chicken chaser will be able to do so.
The mission we embarked on took place in a vibrant looking map that appeared to be a part of some magical forest. The environment was lush with foliage and waterfalls, and the character models all showcased the usual Fable charm. Their visual designs are a more cartoony looking version of humans, so they all appear to have an animated flavor versus a game like Skyrim that goes for a more true-to-life appeal. Overall the visuals were tip top, and I didn’t notice any frame rate issues or screen tears, which is impressive because the action can get frenetic courtesy of the human controlled villain.
At the start of the mission it took us a bit to get used to the controls, which are very similar to the previous Fable games. Once we knew the type of attacks and defenses available to use we set out in search of some baddies to fight. Fable Legends doesn’t have an objective marker on screen, but you can click down on the thumbstick to get a trail marker to appear. As heroes our main mission was to survive the onslaught of evilness that the human controlled villain sent our way. The villain can see a top down version of the map, and can strategically place enemy units, mini-bosses, or raise and lower gates to try and separate the group. The use of these gates to form holding pens for the heroes proved to be a great tactic for the villain, because it prevents the party from using their unique skills in tandem, which can produce devastating group attacks that tear through bad guys like a hot knife through butter. Whenever these gates would come into play the melee focused characters such as Inga (my character) would have to come in and save the day by breaking down the gate with her vicious sword attacks to free the trapped heroes.
In addition to the gates we as heroes also had to face down waves of enemy units that ranged from pure cannon fodder to formidable mini-bosses such as a huge lumbering ogre with deadly farts. The smaller units can be tackled alone as long as your fellow heroes are close enough to heal you if you happen to fall in battle, but the larger units definitely need to be taken on as a group because they’re quite resilient. It should be noted that players can be revived in Fable Legends, but upon revival the hero will have less health moving forward, so dying isn’t a practice you want to get involved in too often.
The hero gameplay is very rooted in the hack ‘n slash style, especially if you’re playing as one of the melee characters, but there is a bit of strategy thanks to the individual powers of each hero. Whenever we would get split through the use of gates I could drop down my character’s shield barrier to give weaker characters a reprieve. Winter, one of the ranged characters, can use her ice powers to coat another hero in a sheet of ice giving them more deadly attacks to use. It was very clear that working as a team is key to success, and I did find the cooperative aspect of Fable Legends to work quite well. Luckily I was on a team of heroes that did work well together, so we were able to take down the other media member who was playing as the villain. To win we essentially had to survive the villain’s forces, which netted use both loot and XP to use. Since the demo was short we didn’t get to play with character powers, but you can buff them out in the full game.
Fable Legends is definitely a unique experience for the franchise, but it could be a polarizing experience thanks to the focus on multiplayer and the use of a human controlled villain. The game still feels like Fable, it’s just not the exploratory experience that you’ve come to know in the previous titles. Lionhead did say that there is an overarching story to play through, but the mission structure didn’t seem like it would play well into a cohesive narrative. Since details on the story haven’t been released I really can’t comment on that aspect of the game, but I can tell you that Legends’ gameplay is solid and didn’t concern me with wonky controls or poor visual design. The fact that the game takes place during the hero boom should allow you to experience a whole new Albion, so if you’re interested in Fable Legends you should register for the multiplayer beta to get your first look at the game this August.
At this time a release window hasn’t been given, but there’s a chance the game will ship in 2015. Fable Legends is also an Xbox One exclusive at this time.
If you have any questions in particular please use the comment section below and I’ll do my best to get back to you with an answer if I have one.
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