Gamescom 2013: Fable Legends First Impressions Preview - Is This Really The "Ultimate Fable"?
Written Friday, September 06, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
For months, the rumour of a Fable MMO have been washing across the internet. The once single-player game seemed destined to be heading that way, if a number of job listings were to be believed, but at Gamescom 2013, Fable Legends was unveiled and according to Lionhead, that isn't the case.
"Fable Legends isn't an MMO," says John Needham, Lionhead Studio Boss, "It's an online game that combines the classic Fable gameplay that we love with the online capabilities and graphical power of the Xbox One. This is truly a next-generation RPG."
According to Creative Director, David Eckelberry, the studio - who now has over 400 years of combined Fable development experience under its belt - wanted to create the "ultimate Fable." "We want to make a Fable that is the best playing, best looking experience you've ever had in the world of Albion," enthuses Eckelberry, "With its characters, its quests, its stories, it's a rich, lush world that we want to return you to."
Fable Legends takes place long before the first Fable and well before the creation of the Heroes Guild, in a time they're calling the Age of Heroes. It's a time where you're the hero, a time of magic and fairytales. Sure, it's going to be a pretty world, but it's one full of darkness, danger, and monsters galore.
The game code that Lionhead was showing off, according to the team, was pre alpha, and in their words, "incredibly early days" - three words that usually mean that the game is some way off and is subject to change. Even at this early stage though, the game looks gorgeous, with its trademark vibrant Fable greens and its picturesque woodland settings with swaying grass and trees distracting the eye, while butterflies and birds flutter around without a care in the world.
The hands-off gameplay demo revolved around a group of heroes, who were on their way to a place called the Moon On A Stick, a stoney crescent moon shaped artefact that grants wishes. In the distance sits a large city called Brightlodge, which is described as a classic Fable city; that is a hub for players to interact with NPCs, make fun of them, play mini-games, kick chickens and experience some of the more comedic stories. It's a place where heroes will go and have their own little experiences in between the heavier quests.
The demo, which was largely combat focused, was designed to show one thing: the game's new co-operative and multiplayer focus. "We're going to embrace multiplayer in a way that is immersive and comprehensive," Eckelberry tells us, as a group of heroes wade into a group of Red Caps - mythological beasts from English folklore who are described as malevolent goblins who dye their hats in their victim's blood.
Players will adopt the role of various heroes: the Hero of Strength who is tough, brave, uses shield bash on numerous occasions and has a West Country accent; the Hero of Will who wields the power of magic; and the Hero of Skill, who dazzles their opponents with archery and grace. There are more Heroes, according to Lionhead, details of which will be explained at a later date.
In the short combat demo, classic Fable combat ensued, with rolls, sword combos, force pushes and what not, but rather more interesting was the way the Heroes combined their abilities, whether it was the mage freezing the monster in place for the Hero of Strength to demolish or the way the mage set fire to the Hero of Skill's arrows. It looked like a new level of combat that suited the whole co-operative vibe perfectly.
At its core though, Lionhead is keen to emphasise that Legends is a classic Fable experience. You'll be levelling up, collecting XP orbs, customising abilities, looting treasure chests, collecting items, and so on. This is a Fable game, after all.
Fable Legends is designed to be a 'play how you want to' kind of game. If you want to play alone with three AI sidekicks, you can. If you want to play with three other buddies and create a foursome, you can do that too. In fact, you can do any combination, whether it's two players and two AI, three players and one AI, and so on.
That's not it though; there's a twist! Players can also take on the role of the villain, essentially choosing how the combat arenas shape up, deciding on where and how the enemies spawn, where the traps are placed, and so on. Controlled either via a controller or via SmartGlass, players can take on their friend's 4-strong team, take on a team of AI opponents, or like the Heroes, can take on whatever combination of the two they so wish. We see this in action briefly, as Lionhead switches sides for its demonstration, as the Heroes approach the Moon On A Stick and the villain has placed a huge Ogre in a cave to impede their progress.
Quite how this new mechanic will shape up is still a bit of an unknown and poses more questions than it answers, like, will this mean the gameplay is now made up of small arenas such as we saw in the Gamescom demo? Will it mean that there's less of an emphasis on quirky quests now it's co-operative? Or does it mean that Fable Legends is essentially a 4-player co-operative Fable extravaganza? It's a wait and see kind of moment if ever there was one and that's all we can do. Until then though we'll be kicking chickens in our back garden in anticipation. Just don't tell the RSPCA.
Fable Legends is coming to the Xbox One at an unspecified time, although beta-testing is due to kick off sometime in 2014.