[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”Lionhead Studios” publishers=”Microsoft Studios” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=””]
Since Fable 2’s release, every Fable game has had a gold generating spin off game; Fable Pub Games for Fable 2, Fable Coin Golf for Fable 3, and now Fable Heroes for Fable: The Journey. Luckily for us and unlike the main Fable titles, the spin offs seem to be getting more complex and better as each release goes. Fable Heroes, developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft Studios, is the third title released in the XBLA Next promotion. Heroes combines the RPG elements with side-scrolling beat em up in the vain of Double Dragon and Streets of Rage.
In Fable Heroes, the player plays as one of several dolls modeled after the collectibles from the mainstay Fable games. The dolls available starts out with Gareth, Hammer, Reaver, & the Fable 3 Hero, the first three being from Fable 2. Additional dolls can be bought in-game with a couple of dolls coming from Fable: The Journey being unlockable. Each doll follows a classic archetype and handles a bit differently. Ranged magic and pistol users hang back and shoot at enemies while the various melee get up in the nitty-gritty with various attack speed/damage combinations. There are even a couple of dolls that combine range and melee and do the appropriate depending on the proximity of the enemy.
The dolls come with three levels of attack; a light attack, a flourish attack, and an area of effect attack. Defensively, they can roll out of the way with a dodge move or if the skill has been acquired boot away the smaller enemies like a chicken. The area of effect attack is a callback to the old beat em ups where combining light and heavy attack would allow you to do a special move. Much like the special move in the old games, the area of effect attack will eat some of your life on each use. The light attack is the most effective with flourish being incredibly slow even with speed upgrades. The only time the player might want to use flourish is after they get an upgrade that triples the gold when it is used for kill shots on specific enemies. Players will end up spamming light attack for 90% of the game which in the end is not much different from other beat em ups but one would expect more out of an AAA studio like Lionhead.
Fable Heroes goes for the cutesy factor with dolls and pop-up storybook styled levels. Each level models itself after an area from the Fable series. Dolls battle through legendary areas like Bowerstone, Mistpeak, and Gravestone. Your dolls is always accompanied by three other dolls, no matter how you choose to play. Offline the three dolls are controlled by AI. If multiplayer is your mode of play, players take the place of AI with AI filling in the empty spots. The AI’s competency is on the level of a short bus kid. Due to this, Fable Heroes truly shines in multiplayer but might leave a bad taste in your mouth when played solo.
Players will button mash their way through the levels fighting creatures from the Fable universe like hobbes and balverines. Destruction of enemies and various destructables produces gold coins, the currency of Fable Heroes that allows you to buy skills. In multiplayer, the screen becomes a showcase of chaos as players fight enemies and each other for the coins. The players has to constantly decide if they should kill the enemy next to them or chase after some gold that landed a few feet away. Unfortunately a lot of thought wasn’t put into this system. Range characters will always get less gold than the melee characters unless they decide to spend their whole time collecting instead of killing and even then it’s a close call who gets more.
At the end of most levels, the group of dolls have a choice to make at a fork in the road. The choice usually ends up taking the players to a boss or a mini-game to end the level. Once completed, the choice is unlocked on the world map so it can be replayed without having to go through the whole level. To unlock the other choice, a replay of the level is required. After finishing a level, players are ranked by the amount of gold they received and get dice to roll with on the board game meta-game that is available after level completions. The player moves their doll around a monopoly-esque square board with each roll of a dice. Each square has a choice between 3 different upgrades to the dolls that cost gold.
Replayability is high in Fable Heroes as there are numerous dolls to unlock and upgrade. Once the campaign is cleared, a dark version of it is unlocked with different enemies and more difficulty. One level is not even unlocked until the top 100 players on the leaderboard all have over a million gold. Lionhead wants you to keep playing Fable Heroes, at least until Fable: The Journey is released. That’s because of all that gold you collect in Heroes can be transferred in some fashion to Fable: The Journey much like the other spin offs to their respective Fable title.
Fable Heroes is a step up from the previous spin-off games Fable Pub Games and Fable Coin Golf but it is still not up to the standard of a full AAA release. That being said, it is at least on the level of quality of most games in the beat em up genre in terms of content.