Fable Heroes Hands-On Preview – Fable Fourplay, Anyone?
Written Tuesday, March 27, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
For a game that makes reference to golden showers, has a “giant cock” in it and has Hobbe Jockeys littered throughout the levels, you have to wonder who Fable Heroes’ audience is. In fact, we not only wondered that, but we asked Fable Heroes’ Lead Designer, Ted Timmins that very question when he was on hand to demo the game for the first time at Microsoft’s Spring Showcase.
“Is this a family game?” we exclaimed, “Well, it’s a Fable game,” chuckled Timmins. “When we started off we wanted to call it Fable Fourplay, because obviously the four-player element… We were told we could have got away with it if we weren’t a Fable game, so that goes to show you what people expect from a Fable game. If they bought a game called Fable Fourplay, they’d expect it to be a sex sim.”
That, they would.
Fable Heroes was one of the pleasant surprises at this year’s Spring Showcase. Yes, it’s Fable, but not as you know it. What started out as a small project on the side for Timmins and five others, eventually escalated to a full-blown Xbox Live Arcade game and we’re set to reap the rewards because of it.
The 4-player co-op, drop in/drop out, hack-and-slash title takes its inspiration from classics such as Gauntlet and Castle Crashers, and has you and three like-minded friends working through puppet stage-esque levels in some familiar Albion locations. You’ll be tasked with smashing crates, fences, decimating Hobbes, chickens, Hollow Men, Bandits, Balverines and more, all in the pursuit of gold, and heading to places such as Bowerstone, the infamous castle, Mistpeak and Aurora, and more. There’s even an interesting community unlock that will see the “cloud” level unlock when the top 100 in the leaderboards have a combined score of over 1 million.
There are 12 puppets to choose from in all, ranging from staple names from the past few games like Reaver and Garth, ranging to newer characters like Benn Finn and Gabriel – from The Journey, who has a hobby horse as a weapon. Each puppet has their own unique combat style and weapons, with some having a hammer, a pistol, a cutlass, a scythe and others utilising such abilities as fireballs and force pushes.
In terms of control mechanics, they’re fairly simplistic and straightforward, with one button for a light attack, another for a heavy attack, one to roll/dodge and another to use a special attack. Using the special attacks depletes one of your hearts though, so you'll have to use them wisely and tactically. If you die, it's no biggie, as you’ll still be able to play as a ghost who’s unable to pick up coins and to get back into the coin hoarding action instead. To do that you simply have to pick up a heart.
As you can probably tell then, coin hoarding is the name of the game, whether you’re playing competitively with everyone having their own coin pool or co-operatively, where you share a coin fund.
Fable Heroes’ levels are interlinked by a particularly vibrant board game interface and even the levelling up mechanic gets its own board game UI – Christopher Nolan would be proud. The levelling up mechanic is where you as a player will get the chance to spend your hard-earned coins and for every milestone you hit in a level, you’ll get a certain amount of rolls of the dice in the levelling up board game. Here you’ll be able to buy expression packs, get better enemy death effects, earn bonuses against certain foes, upgrade your weapons, upgrade your skills like your flourish range, buy new puppets and much more.
It’s not just about hack-and-slashing familiar Fable foes or destroying objects and collecting coins though, as there’s plenty of other distractions along the way, like good & evil chests, which can grant a random team member either a negative or positive effect, whether it’s something useful like super speed or something that can seriously hamper your game like reversing someone’s controls. More interestingly, you can even activate a game of lightning bolt tag, which zaps the random person selected for coins, but can be easily passed on to a fellow chum. Watching a game of tag start out of nothing in the middle of a level not only breaks up the pace but can often end in a short burst of hilarity.
There’s also an homage to Street Fighter’s bonus stages, huge bosses and mini-games – like avoid-the-exploding-chicken mini-game – that all make up part of the Fable Heroes experience. Even better, complete the game once – and play the “credit level” which Timmins was remaining tight-lipped about – and you can switch from “Light Albion” to “Dark Albion” which will offer more of a challenge, with each level getting a makeover for your second run through.
If that’s not enough and you were looking to pick up Fable: The Journey as well, you can earn gold in Fable Heroes which you can carry across and similarly, you can unlock puppets for Fable Heroes in Fable: The Journey.
Whether on the couch or over Xbox Live, Fable Heroes is set to combine the addictive and simple 4-player gameplay of Castle Crashers, with the cutesy characters and visuals of LittleBigPlanet with all the Fable charm. It’s a formula you can’t really go wrong with. That, and it’s only 800 Microsoft Points. Ladies and gents, Fable Heroes is shaping up to be what we call a steal. It’s a hell of a lot more appealing than Fable: The Journey, that’s for sure.
Fable Heroes is coming to the Xbox Live Arcade on May 2nd for 800 Microsoft Points.