Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360
Release Date: May 2nd, 2012
Price: 800 MSP ($10.00 USD) Get it Here
Fable Heroes is billed as “an action-packed hack-and-slash adventure” in the tradition of the Gauntlet series of games. Priced at an attractive 800 MSP on Xbox Live Arcade, Fable Heroes is pitched towards those looking for a family friendly multiplayer experience. Can Fable Heroes live up to the large shoes left by its predecessors?
Although there are lots of familiar elements in Fable Heroes to the previous three Fable games, Fable Heroes does not actually have a story. You simply guide your puppet heroes from point A to point B through iconic areas of the Fable universe.
Fable Heroes is best described as a mash up of Mario Party and Gauntlet. The gameplay is a simplified version of Gauntlet. Four players team up together to hack and slash their way through hordes of classic Fable enemies. The game is broken up by decisions near the end of the level that will result in either a mini-game or a boss battle. Players work together to defeat enemies but will compete against each other for coins dropped by enemies, extra coins are earned by building multipliers. These multipliers are earned by killing enemies in quick succession. Once a level is complete, players are brought to a board game where players can purchase upgrades for their characters with the gold earned. This board game presentation is carried over to the level selection screen. There are three difficulty levels, family mode shares the total score amongst all team members and increases player health, normal, and challenging that lowers player health and increases enemy strength.
There are three different types of attacks that can be used. Light attacks are bound to X, Y is for heavy “Flourish” type attacks, and right trigger sets off a devastating area of effect attack in a ring around the player at the cost of one heart container. There are absolutely no combos to speak of, so feel free to button mash away. Although this decision makes the game very approachable for children, older players will find the controls too simplistic and lacking challenge.
Enemies all fall under three categories. There are small and extremely weak creatures that will rush players, medium sized creatures which will be the most common enemy faced, and the larger behemoth creatures that will soak the most damage before dying. The only difference between each level is the skins that match the level theme. Unfortunately this makes for extremely boring and repetitive game play. Play one level in Fable Heroes and you really have played the gist of the entire game.
Level design is extremely basic. Each level is practically an on rails affair with two endings to each level. One leads to a mini game while the other leads to a boss battle. I found the boss battles to be extremely bland; the only difference between each battle is the model of the boss. A boss is planted near the back of the level with a cone of space in front of it. All four characters will blast away at the boss while dodging ranged attacks. At certain points of the boss’ health, little weak creatures will pop out and the boss will disappear for a short period of time until all the small enemies are dispatched. The mini games on the other hand have a little more variation. Mini games are either a race of some sort or a survival challenge. Although the mini games are a great change of pace, it does not do a very good job of breaking up the repetitive nature of Fable Heroes. Another irritation is the Break Time sections. A large barrier will pop up and requires heroes to destroy the barrier as it spits out coins. I found this to be extremely disruptive to the flow of the game and pointless beyond the bonus coins provided. The gameplay in Fable Heroes could be vastly improved. I would have loved to seen unique boss battles and more types of mini games. The game is extremely repetitive and needs better game play mechanics to break the monotony than Break Times.
The upgrade system may possibly be the best part of Fable Heroes’ game play. The upgrade system is played on a board game similar to Monopoly. Roll a six sided dice to move your character the appropriate spaces. Each space has three possible upgrades to be purchased or is a special tile that can provide a variety of effects such as rolling again for a small fee or providing three possible upgrades randomly selected from the board. Only one upgrade can be purchased per roll if desired and all the upgrades in a ring must be purchased before players can begin purchasing more powerful upgrades from inner rings. Upgrades are purchased using gold coins that are collected in game and are exclusive to each character. You can however transfer gold amongst your characters to speed up the levelling process. The upgrade board is also one of three possible ways to unlock new playable characters in Fable Heroes, a majority of the unlockable characters are found on the upgrade board. I really liked the sense of randomness that the upgrade board provided. A fully upgraded character makes a world of difference in raking in coins in game. However, a highly upgraded character made an already easy game easier. I really appreciated the randomness the upgrade system had. It made upgrading my characters into a small mini game in itself.
Fable Heroes boasts integration with the upcoming Fable: The Journey game. Gold earned in Fable Heroes will unlock special items that can be used in Fable: The Journey. Two characters in Fable Heroes can only be unlocked with Fable: The Journey. Seeing as The Journey has not been released yet, we cannot say what sort of items will be unlocked.
The credits may be one of the best credits in a video game in recent history. The credits is a playable level that allows players to destroy the names of the team behind Fable Heroes. Many enemies are parts of the names, hopping out of the background to attack players. Although this really just another level, I thought this was an incredibly fun and innovative way to make players sit through the credits.
Unfortunately Fable Heroes is an incredibly short game. The game can easily be beaten in a single sitting. After the initial seven levels are ploughed through, Dark Albion is unlocked, allowing players to replay the game at night with ash falling and water replaced with lava. Supposedly Dark Albion is more difficult, but it seems that the difficulty lies in the fact the playable area is lit by a small beam of light.
Fable Heroes keeps within the cartoon Fable tradition and takes it a step further by turning the characters into puppets and adding well implemented board game presentation. Each of the playable characters is a major character in the Fable universe. Levels are based on familiar locations in Albion and stay true to their inspirations. The UI is well designed, managing to stay unobtrusive. However, it can be really hard to pick out your character in the heat of battle due to the busy nature of the visual effects. This problem is compounded by camera zooming out extremely far to compensate for players lagging behind the group. Though floating player tags on top of characters can help, things can quickly become chaotic and difficult to see. Fable Heroes manages to shine, providing sane high production values to the Fable Xbox Live Arcade game that can be found in the Fable series on disc.
Fable Heroes is a great game to listen to. There is an impressive amount of music to listen to that is well written and performed. The music is kept airy and fun to keep in line with the family friendly puppet theme. The sound effects are varied and spot on. Like Fable Heroes’ visuals, high quality blockbuster type audio work has found its way onto an Xbox Live Arcade game.
Fable Heroes is an unfortunate lack luster game. Although it sports a great visual style and high quality audio, it is extremely repetitive and simplistic. I am not really sure if it is a good or bad thing that the game is capped at seven short levels. Although Fable Heroes is definitely family friendly, the game won’t hold the attention of players for too long. For the diehard Fable fan who is purchasing Fable: The Journey, Fable Heroes is a no brainer. But even at 800 MSP, I struggle to recommend Fable Heroes to most gamers. Maybe when the game is on sale at 400 MSP, Fable Heroes will be more appealing.