Prior to arriving at PAX East, I’d heard of Fable Legends, but I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to it. I’m a fan of the Fable IP, but I haven’t really been grabbed by anything to come from it since the series’ debut (on PC) back in 2005. I had no expectations for the game when we arrived at the Microsoft booth to take some footage of the free-to-play title, but once I got to the booth I just had to get my hands on it.
If you’re unfamiliar with Fable Legends, it’s the latest game to be announced following the inexplicably trendy 4v1 multiplayer format. I’m honestly not sure why these games are cropping up all of a sudden. Usually these sorts of trends occur after some game finds wild success with a new idea and everyone wants to jump on board, but so far all we’ve had is the one dud in Evolve and BioWare’s aborted Shadow Realms project. Nonetheless, Lionhead Studios is hoping to find success here with a F2P cross-platform (XBOX One and PC) co-op multiplayer RPG where you and three other players can get together and play through the game’s storyline while a fourth player assumes the ‘Villain’ role and tries to make your life a living hell in each level by spawning dudes, setting traps, and the like. The game can be played singleplayer with AI companions, too.
Our demo was fairly brief, but I was immediately smitten with the character I got to play. Evienne is essentially the Lady of the Lake, only she grew tired of waiting around for a hero to show up to receive her massive legendary sword. Instead, she’s decided to use it herself and it turns out she’s quite the adept swordswoman. Evienne is an acrobatic fighter who wields her giant two handed sword with a sense of grace that is likely to surprise you when you first pick up the controller to play her. Basic attacking is a simple button mashing affair, but the combos look great. Even though Evienne is a melee character, she can use an alternate attack to cast out a bouncing whirlwind from her blade, which came in pretty handy when fighting large bosses prone to utilizing point blank area of effect abilities. I’m not sure how progression works in the game, but I had access to a couple of abilities, including a damage buff for my sword, a dash to close in on my targets, and a giant barrier spell. There may be more abilities unlocked later, or perhaps Lionhead Studios intends to make up for the tiny skillset by having a ton of variety in characters.
In any case, playing Fable Legends felt fairly straightforward, especially after having played Shadow Realms at PAX Prime late last year. You run around with your group, slay hordes of enemies, dodge traps, fight bosses, rinse and repeat. Maybe it gets a lot tougher if there’s a guy who really knows his stuff controlling the ‘Villain’, but I honestly forgot we even had one in the game. Still, my time with the game offered simple, straightforward fun.
It’s also gorgeous. Fable’s unique art style definitely lends itself well here and the same goes for the humor. Combat animations, particularly for Evienne were superb. I recall being impressed with the way the game deals with shorter range differences in melee combat. If I found myself with a straggler hanging just a couple of feet out of range from my melee attacks, pressing attack in his direction would have Evienne throw her sword into the ground at the midpoint between us, leap over it while simultaneously ripping it back up out of the ground, and then bring the blade crashing down on the poor bastard’s head. In more practical terms, it’s the sort of mini hop that Batman does in the Arkham games to close in on targets just out of reach, only it looks way, way cooler. I didn’t get a chance to play the other characters, but if they’re all as polished and slick as Evienne was, we’re all in for a treat.
I can see tackling Fable Legends alongside some friends being an enjoyable experience, but it’s hard to say for how long. Spending 15 minutes with the title, it definitely made a good impression on me and I’m looking forward to checking it out later this year. It also helps that I was bummed that Shadow Realms was canceled after I finally got the appeal of 4v1 gameplay when playing it last year. Fable Legends could scratch that itch in ways Evolve certainly couldn’t. If you’re keen on the 4v1 trend or just a fan of the Fable series, I’d suggest keeping an eye on this one.