Prior to the release of Fable II, Carbonated Games (under the supervision of Lionhead Studios) released Fable II Pub Games, an Xbox Live Arcade title that was made up of three pub game-styled minigames. While the game didn’t contain much in the way of depth, players were able to accumulate gold, offering them a head start in the Fable II retail release. With Fable: The Journey releasing in September, Lionhead Studios have chosen to go down a similar route with another Xbox Live Arcade release in the form of Fable Heroes.
Fable Heroes is a hack-and-slash that works similarly to Castle Crashers. Players take control of puppets as they hack-and-slash their way through enemies and objects. As well as battling their foe, the players also collect gold coins to purchase new abilities.
At the end of each level, players are taken to the “Abilities Board” where players roll the die to move around the board and purchase new abilities for their puppets. The abilities include new ways to defeat enemies, increasing a puppet’s damage and increasing the amount of gold they earn. It’s a clever system that has been very well implemented, though it often means players are left impatiently waiting for the puppet to land on a specific square.
Bonus rolls of the die can be obtained through treasure chests planted throughout the game’s levels. The remainder of the game’s collectibles mostly consists of power-ups, such as “Giant Hero,” “Tiny Hero” and bonus cash – all of which are self-explanatory.
The puppets, also known as Heroes, include Reaver and Hammer amongst a whole range of familiar faces. Nevertheless, the only real difference between the puppets is whether they have a long-distance or close range weapon.
Enemies such as Hollow Men, Balverines, Jack ‘O Lanterns and Hobbes also make an appearance. However, there’s not much variety in the enemies, as each of them can be defeated within a hit or two with the exception of bosses.
Bosses in Fable Heroes all follow the same formula: repeatedly hack away the enemy until it retreats, eliminate its minions and repeat until it’s deceased. A little variation wouldn’t have gone amiss here.
As well as boss fights, the game also offers mini-games. These mostly consist of pressing the correct corresponding button, although the kicking chickens into the goals provides a great alternative. While the mini-games aren’t much of a challenge in single player, they add to the competitiveness of the title’s multiplayer.
Multiplayer, both locally and over Xbox Live, is where the game truly comes alive, as players work both cooperatively and competitively against each other. The cooperative element involves working together to defeat the enemies and complete levels, while the competitive element consists of collecting more gold than your opponents. Whereas players with all the upgraded abilities have a significant advantage over newer players, it’s still great fun to play.
Once players have completed the game (and played through the credits), they unlock “Dark Albion,” which is identical to “Light Albion” but just a bit darker. At times, it feels too dark, as players are more than likely to resort to turning up the brightness on their televisions. While it may not sound like a worthwhile experience, it’s worth completing the game in dark mode to unlock additional achievements.
Fable Heroes is the second Xbox Live Arcade title to contain 400 GamerScore directly from launch (with the first being Trials Evolution). The game contains a total of thirty achievements with rewards for completing the games on offer, as well as some more humorous ones, like hitting an enemy with its own head and killing a Hobbe while disguised as a Hobbe.
Quite disappointingly, the game will take approximately two hours to complete. While players are likely to play through some of the levels again to earn more gold and upgrade more abilities, the 800 Microsoft Points price tag seems a little steep for the short play time on offer.
Graphically, Fable Heroes manages to capture the components of Fable we know and love and provides a bright and colourful feel which suits the game well, as evident with the title’s characters and environments. As for the audio, the music is quite upbeat and (similarly to the graphics) fits with the game’s style.
Overall, Fable Heroes is a mediocre title that is lacking in depth. While the game is fairly enjoyable, it’s certainly short-lived and, at 800 Microsoft Points, there’s not a lot on offer. Needless to say, this will definitely whet Fable players’ appetites until Fable: The Journey’s release in September.