There are two types of people who play Fable Heroes.
The first values his team, taking a more moralistic approach to gameplay. If you’re low on health, this guy will leave the spare hearts they find for you when you’re in your hour of need. This guy is a real hero!
The second is a complete jackass who only moves if it’s going to benefit them in some way. This guy will leave the other three players to die so that they can’t collect more gold coins and if a heart appears on the map, this guy will push past everyone and risk death to ensure his team-mates can’t come back to life and steal his coin.
I’ll let you decide which category I fall into.
At first glance Fable Heroes appears to be a mindless hack ‘n’ slash, which at times it is, but underneath the button-bashing exterior, there are some clever and surprisingly unique ideas on display – ideas that, once you’ve given the game some love, will reward with a certain charm that only Lionhead Studios can deliver.
Off the bat you’re met with the familiar sounds of Albion, albeit the sounds as if they were played by a Monty Python cover-band. Then comes the fun of slicing and dicing your way through enemies in this whistle-stop tour of the Fable universe.
It would be easy to complain that the combat becomes repetitive, and I know some people will slate Fable Heroes for this. In reality though, the combat is vastly varied.
You start off with four iconic characters, Reaver, The Hero (from Fable 3), Hammer and Garth. Each comes with their own style of play. Reaver uses guns, The Hero uses his trusty sword for medium damage at high speed, Garth uses magic – slowly at first, until he becomes the go to guy in later levels – and Hammer is slow, but powerful.
This may all sound very standard but once you’ve gotten the basics down, you can move onto experimenting with other characters. Once hacking becomes dull, switch out to Garth and shoot off fireballs. Then once you’re bored of magic (like that’s possible!), perhaps unlock some of the hidden characters and see what they have to offer.
Anyone who’s seen a video or some form of Fable Heroes propaganda will have seen that Jack of Blades is a playable character – as a huge fan of the original Fable, this makes me very happy indeed and just in case anyone’s wondering, my go-to guy will always be Jack of Blades. Not just because he has a sword and a fireball, but because he’s a great boss. I for one am glad to see him make a Fable-based return, even if it is as a doll.
Leveling up is something we’re all now familiar with. Kill things, get experience points, spend said points in virtual shop, blah, blah, blah. Fable Heroes offers something completely different to how every single game ever made handles leveling. In place of walls of text, players gains dice based on how many coins they collect, and at the end of every level, are transported to a board game where a roll of the dice lands them on a square containing several power ups for you to spend you well stolen money on. For Garth is could be buying a second gauntlet, for Jack it could be a new hover animation or a bigger sword. Whoever you play as, you’re going to be spending some time on the board unlocking everything.
If you do decide to go down the RPG-obsessive route of unlocking everything, there’s a nice reward waiting in the form of an avatar award. Normally I’d hear avatar award, grab a pitchfork and get to hunting; but as a freebie, and something to reward those of us who want to play this game to death, it’s a welcome change instead of the usual over the head pricing for avatar rubbish.
Sadly if you want the item to go with the award you’ve got to pay for it. Which is a scummy way to make money, but then again this is Microsoft Game Studios we’re talking about. Something for free is better than nothing.
Black hair dye, anyone?
The main game consists of a handful of levels and upon completion, a dark world. This new world is a slightly harder and, well, darker version of what you’ve just completed, with tougher enemies and high coin drops. Despite sounding like a cop out, it’s not. The levels are big enough and varied enough to keep you entertained, even if you are just playing a harder, darker version of the original.
There’s slightly more to it than just darkness, but I won’t spoil the surprise.
I know there will be the naysayers that think this isn’t really a Fable title because of its Arcade standing. Let me be the first to say, this is a completely authentic Fable game. From the way the Hero performs the trademark shin-kick to the way balverines do the slash, slash, fly-up dance, everything here reminds you that this is a Fable game and everything you’re doing is related to the Fable franchise.
Fable Heroes is at its best when played with friends, or enemies in my case. There’s something quite satisfying about shafting people to prove your dominance over LIVE that makes gaming excitingly competitive. Some of my most enjoyable memories come from co-op. My eldest son and I decided to give it a whirl prior to writing this review. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: never ever play against your kids. Despite their age, they will own and destroy you, until you make the decision to play dirty. Then, instead of a relaxing Sunday afternoon gaming session you’re left with laughter, shouting, pushing, shoving and health stealing. All of which leads to an enjoyable and chaotic family-friendly gaming experience.
When I first saw that Lionhead was making a LittleBigPlanet/ Golden Axe hybrid, I instantly wanted to loathe the conceived abomination with every fiber of my being. As it turns out, mixing the two was a genius idea, and probably one that only Lionhead could pull off so elegantly.
Make no mistake, this is a gorgeous hack ‘n’ slash for the Castle Crashers generation and one that holds gameplay above all else. Fable Heroes exemplifies the creativity and imagination of Lionhead Studios. Sure, some of you will moan that it’s not long enough, and others will groan that it isn’t varied enough. I won’t, because for 800msp, you won’t find a better and more fun filled way to spend the next few weeks. If you’re after an authentic Fable experience that’s inexpensive and a joy to play over LIVE, or with the family, then you’re in for a treat.