E3 2014: Playing the Villain in Fable Legends Is a Griefer's Dream

Life of crime.

Four-player co-op is all the rage at this year's E3, but like Turtle Rock's Evolve, Lionhead's upcoming Fable Legends is letting you take on the role of the villain as well as the hero. I'll confess that I'm not the biggest Fable fan out there, but its Villain mode is a very different beast to the traditional Fable fare. That's not to say its regular third-person combat isn't enjoyable. Indeed, playing as the ranged character Rook, I had some fun taking on monsters with his ranged arrow attacks, and blowing them up with his explosive bolt ability while trying to co-ordinate with my co-op chums.

But it was Villain mode that I found most compelling. I grew up with top-down Bullfrog games like Dungeon Keeper and Populous, and perhaps it's because there's more than a hint of those classic franchises when playing the villain that I found it so impressive. As the villain, you're given a top-down view of the map and equipped with a bunch of different units that you can send in to take down the heroes. Before each quest begins you're given a set amount of time to set up the map by placing different units and traps around it. The amount of time you're given varies from quest to quest, but in the demo I played, there was just a mere 60 seconds to get things set up.

Naturally, this meant most of the units were left in their default positions. Lionhead told me that those playing as the villain in single-player mode setting up the perfect attack can save those layouts for use in multiplayer, which is a useful addition if you'd rather take your time setting things up. Once the quest begins, the heroes storm into the play area, and from there you can start sending units in to attack. I was worried that the control system might be a little finicky given that few real-time strategy games have made the transition to console in the right way, but Fable Legends has made a few concessions for the controller.

Your four unit classes are assigned directly to the face buttons, so rather than highlight a unit to move it, you just select where you want it to go and hit the relevant button. With unit types automatically grouped together, you do lose some fine control, meaning you can only move individual classes, not units within a class. However, the system's ease of use more than makes up for it; because you can select and move units so easily, it makes for some fast-paced combat. As the heroes moved in, I could easily send in a group of my melee class to surround them, while laying some suppressing fire from afar with my archers.

Holding down the right trigger launched special attacks, which needed to be charged between each use. For the melee units this meant going into a rage, dealing double damage, while the archers launched smoke bombs to confuse the team. Having been on the receiving end of those smoke bombs earlier, I can certainly vouch for just how confusing those smoke bombs made things. Another unit I had was able to launch mortars, which--when combined with the smoke bombs--did some seriously impressive damage to the heroes.

Unfortunately, launching the mortars and arrows gave away my ranged units' positions, making it easier for the heroes to find them and take them down. You're given units in waves, with each wave giving you additional units, ramping up the difficulty for the heroes. Given the tactical advantage you have playing as the villain, your units have much less health than the heroes, making them relatively easy to take down once found. The key to victory was trying to separate the heroes from one another, weakening their attacking strength. Gates scattered around the map could be activated at will, letting me separate the group and concentrate my efforts on a lone hero.

With a range of smoke bombs, arrows, mortars, and the invisibility ability of one of my units, it wasn't long before I'd taken down two of the four heroes. Amusingly, this meant the remaining pair spent much of their time trying to revive them, which made them an easy target for the mortar as they stood around their fallen comrades. While they did eventually decide to stop trying to revive their teammates and come find my units, they were far too weak to take on the next wave. A few more well-placed attacks later and victory was mine.

I might well have tapped into my evil side with Fable Legends. If griefing a bunch of strangers at a demo booth was this satisfying, I can't wait to find out what it's like to do it with a group of friends. This is also the first time that I've been tempted to give the Fable series a go again, something I haven't really done properly since Fable II; I do wonder whether playing against the AI is going to be anywhere near as compelling as playing against a human player, though. But for now, this is the most impressed I've been with a Fable game in ages, and I'll certainly be hitting up Xbox Live when the multiplayer beta launches on the Xbox One this holiday.

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Mark Walton

Mark is a senior staff writer based out of the UK, the home of heavy metal and superior chocolate.
Fable Legends

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33 comments
nomadie
nomadie

Just go play Dungeonland? Game is tons more fun any way.

maximo
maximo

I thought this was supposed to be a mmorpg. Am i wrong?

grin89
grin89

was really expecting boos at the end of the video, a fable 4 or a prequal to fable wouldve been a better choice.

OHGFawx
OHGFawx

This is a pass for me right now, but we'll see what happens as development continues.

Trickymaster
Trickymaster

I played Fable II. This doesn't look or feel anything like it.

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

dungeon land is that you? and pre set characters lame. 

nomadie
nomadie

@Jestersmiles That is what I thought when I saw it a badly made Dungeonland knock off.

shinrae5
shinrae5

I will definitely buy this game, as it looks like a very fun and creative fable related experience that has solid third person combat and co op play.

That aside, I really, really, really want a polished fable 4 made. This is probably the last side project I will give an honest look at (and am glad it looks like fun, even if not a pure fable experience)

dualblades
dualblades

So now instead of taking a character and making him your own and unique to you you're stuck choosing one of 4 pre-set characters? I was excited when this game was first announced, but that excitement's been dropped back considerably 

bourne714
bourne714

As a fan of Fable, I for one am excited to see how this turns out.

Vexov
Vexov

Was this really Fable?, didn't seem like it. If i want 4v1 i will go play Evolve.

Zombies101
Zombies101

@Vexov Yes because god forbids more than one developer utilizing 4v1 multiplayer

TheExxorcist
TheExxorcist

I'm an Avid Sony guy... And man enough to admit... I've always liked Fable, No PS game even come close to it... it should almost be it's own Genre...

Gotta Give it to Lionhead Studios...

That being said, I am Very stolked for the PS Line-up ...

This may be the the game to drive me to buy an Xone... Also depending on the next installment of Gears and Quantum Break. .. Sunset Overdrive looks cheesy to me honestly...

FLEEBS
FLEEBS

I'm not a fan of Fable, but I have played Fable II. All I'm saying is I don't think this is the kind of game Fable fans want.

suppaphly42
suppaphly42

@FLEEBS  i agree this is a load of bollix this is a steaming pile i was a huge fable fan at least for the first 2 and then they f****ed it right in the a$$ THE SERIES had so much potential but M$ and its infinite wisdom said no online and MP is the way to go can they have just one solid SP game is that too much to ask for is it. 

Foppe
Foppe

Best part of the game.

Deano
Deano

There is going to be some type of single player element to this game, they appear to be just showing the co-op multil player at the moment.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

Don't think of it as griefing; you are challenging the worth of wannabe heroes. :)

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

Who cares about combat in Fable?  The best parts of the old Fable games was making money to start a family (or multiple families), buying up homes, shops and other businesses, raising or lowering rent, upgrading the properties to make even more money, and making yourself rich.  That's what I loved so much about Fable.

If the new installments of Fable don't have these aspects then why even call them "Fable"?  It should just be called "random fantasy co-op hack & slash adventure # 826" or something like that.

Boo!!

Dilandau88
Dilandau88

So is there a single player too? Who cares about multi

Aleperez75
Aleperez75

I do, for example, and many other. You should do a scientific survey and you would be surprised that most people are different than you.

suppaphly42
suppaphly42

@Aleperez75  well he got 5 likes and you got no likes so that is at least 5 who don't care about a MP fable game

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

So is hacking somebody's game in Watch Dogs, just to cap them from the other end of the street with the devastator.

northArrow
northArrow

Using the phrase: "griefer's dream" in your title probably makes this feature sound worse than it really is.

That being said, I used to like the Fable series, but this looks horrible. I'll pass. Does every damn game coming out really need 4 player co-op/MP? Jesus, some of us still like single player games

Carpetfluff
Carpetfluff

I have to say that watching the presentation yesterday, any urge I had to play this went right out the window. It's not a Fable game in anything but name and quirky chit-chat now. It's Gauntlet mixed with Dungeon Keeper (and even that as concept sound more exciting than what I actually watched). Pretty though. 

Llama345
Llama345

Seems pretty cool. I'm worried about difficulty, how 'easy' the villain is to play (and master), leveling system, size of maps, and loot at the end. @rennanvale said gamepad= perfect villain I agree. The controller is always so slow for strategy games.  

rennanvale
rennanvale

Gamepad = Perfect Villain Gameplay


jrcast84
jrcast84

I hope they have this 4 or 2 on 1 gameplay in Quantum Break, that would so awesome to set traps up.

Tech9
Tech9

@freedomzealot It's not Fable 4, it's a spin-off game.  Regardless of the name, it looks and sounds fun to play a Dungeon Keeper against other human players.  Not sure what you are looking at...  

ghost140
ghost140

Looks good but lets hope the game will actually be challenging unlike the previous games.