Fable Heroes Review
Microsoft Xbox 360
As dated as brawlers appear to be these days there is surely still a place for them in our hearts, bashing baddies over the head repeatedly can still be fun if it’s executed well - especially as we now have ‘cheaper than retail’ digital download services such as XBLA, PSN or even Steam (they do love an offer on Steam). Take Xbox Live Arcade for example, this platform has seen some fantastic titles over the last two to three years and you really cannot fault the amount of entertainment such titles can give the user for half the price of a trip to see the latest Michael Bay slo-mo fest in stupid and pointless 3D.
There is a place in a crowded marketplace for a game of this kind with a price point of 800 msp providing it doesn’t have poorly executed ideas and dull repetitive combat. Sadly Fable Heroes, whilst charming initially and housing a few lovely little ideas, fails to keep you interested and quickly becomes a fairly joyless grind.
Fable Heroes is a four player brawler in the vein of Final Fight seeing the player take control of an adorable little Fable puppet - “aww isn’t he cute”. They are indeed cute and at times a little odd, their charm matched only by their sheer oddness - partly due to the graphical style but mostly due to the animations seen throughout the game.
As you begin your ‘epic’ quest (it’s far from epic) you begin by choosing one of the four available puppet types, which are a mixture of classic RPG classes - tank, ranged, magic ranged and another tank are at your disposal from the off, choose your character and push forth to the map.
The game is made up of a series of locations, these all being suitably Fable’esque with nasty beasties inside hell-bent on your demise. Graphically, aside from the oddness of the puppets themselves, the game does really well - it’s a little different which is no bad thing but the locations are simple and very well drawn. It all feels very deliberate when keeping to the more quirky side of the Fable franchise and for the most part is very nicely pulled off. Rich colours fill the screen for the most part and the array of enemies you will face, whilst generic in combat are all wacky in their own little way. Whether you are trying to smack the head of an enemy or you are desperately trying to kick a mini version of that same enemy at another point in the game, it’s mixed up very nicely in places - sadly and we will come back to this, it’s very very repetitive.
Briefly touching upon the audio within the game, it is easily described as classic Fable, twee doesn’t really stress enough just how chirpy this game is. It has a Costume Quest feel to it throughout and at every attempt tries to be just that little bit more cutesy. It completely works, if you like that sort of thing. If you don’t it will probably make you want to play on mute when attempting to complete the same level one more time, to get enough gold to roll the dice again and then if you get the power up you badly need you may be able to do the SAME level again for the fourteenth time to get one simple achievement...in short, it gets annoying.
The combat is plain and simple button mashing, with maybe the odd dodge roll thrown in for good measure if things get a little bit feisty...which they won’t as the game is very easy on the normal difficulty, with full completion (not full achievements, wait we are are coming to it) taking maybe two to three hours, four if you stroll. This is not helped by the floaty controls and the fixed camera which in the more open bonkers crowd scenes is so far away you can barely see where your character is on the screen and the only way to know if you are hurt is by the pad rumbling.
There are some great ideas within Fable Heroes, some of which will more than likely divide opinion but credit to the team for trying something different. The upgrade system for instance takes the form of a Monopoly type board with some space for additional tiles to be added if you complete certain achievements. Loot really is the only core driver in the game, collecting coin is second only to hitting X in Fable Heroes for core gameplay - mash X, collect loot and that is pretty much it. At the end of each level the amount of coin collected awards you dice rolls on the board game - roll the dice within the board game and your little puppet moves from square to square and wherever he lands you see set upgrades which you can buy. A very neat little idea, at first. You see this does not allow you to upgrade your character in the way in which you’d like to and seeing as you can only roll on the board after completing a level, should you be someone who likes the odd achievement you may find yourself playing levels over and over and over to earn dice throws, which in turn give you the off chance of getting the power up you want or need.
Even the joy of obtaining a new skill after enduring the upgrade system after playing a level again is marred by the fact it’s very difficult to tell if your character has been upgraded. Aside from adding obvious special effects to your attacks, damage boosts and so on are so difficult to gauge. Sort of makes you wonder why you bothered after a while.
The mashing of the X button really isn’t helped by mid level smash up points where you are forced to beat money out of something for an age before you can progress and the bosses themselves, especially on first playthrough, are hit sponges. There is only so much that poor X button can take in one sitting.
The adventure can be tackled offline seeing either local players join you on the same console or AI characters, or online via the simple yet effective Xbox live party session. As with any and every game tackling it is better with friends, sadly finding people willing to pour hours into Fable Heroes is probably going to end up being a bit of a struggle.
Fable Heroes is charming with a few really good ideas but ultimately ends up being just another dull button basher with very little longevity. The Fable world is charming and there are direct links here to the upcoming Kinect game, there is just not enough gaming goodness to make you want to keep playing it. Achievement lovers, if you commit be prepared to play the same levels over and over and over and over...