Fable Heroes Review

Fable Heroes is a mediocre four-player brawler that's only partly redeemed by its fabled license.

by

As a cartoonish brawler centered on four-person hijinks, Fable Heroes resembles the chaotically entertaining Castle Crashers. Unfortunately, Fable Heroes never comes close to reaching the highs of that downloadable juggernaut, and even in its best moments it feels like it's three steps behind gameplay developments that have kept the genre alive. While it's not without its fun moments, Fable Heroes is a mere novelty that never establishes itself as a worthy offshoot of the traditional Fable adventures.

Fable Heroes looks even more cartoony than earlier Fable games.

A whimsical artistic style carries over from the original Fable games to this downloadable spinoff, although instead of hacking and slashing with the familiar heroes who look like refugees from a Disney flick, you race through each level with three friends or non-player characters as rag dolls modeled after Fable favorites. They're cute, but their chirpy voice emotes lack the personality of character voices in the original games. Elsewhere, you might be amused by balverines and hobbes that look cuddly enough to put in a baby's crib, but it's hard to escape the impression that this would be little more than a generic brawler it you stripped it of its cel-shaded imagery from Albion.

Still, that simplicity might have worked for Fable Heroes had it remained with the visuals, but it also extends to the combat. There's some variation among the available characters in that each one has a ranged or melee specialization--some, such as the unlockable Sir Walter, have both--but a lack of combos ensures that combat itself never grows much more complex than unleashing charged attacks or rolling out of harm's way.

Beyond that, characters can unleash devastating special attacks, but only at the expense of one of the five hearts that make up your health bar. Lose all of them, and you die, but that simply means that your resulting ghost loses the ability to pick up coins while fighting until you come back to life by finding another heart along the path. Until then, you're as powerful as you were before you died aside from the absence of your special attack. That power extends even to the boss fights (which unfailingly feature a hulking monstrosity that jumps around and periodically spawns minions), with the upshot that there's technically no way to lose to them.

Who cares about cooperation? There's gold in dem crates!

Indeed, it's easy to get the impression that Fable Heroes isn't really about beating enemies, but rather about collecting coins. Coins fall like Louisiana rain in Fable Heroes, whether from the enemies themselves or from the crates you find littered throughout this raggedy vision of Albion. Smash enough enemies, and you get a multiplier bonus to pick up yet more coins, or you could simply beat them out of stationary targets that pop up during "break times" like the cars in Street Fighter II's bonus levels.

The lightweight death mechanic only intensifies the mad dash for coins. Since dying has almost no effect on your rag doll's performance in combat, sneaky players can keep all the coins for themselves by nabbing the hearts before their ghostly friends can get to them. What's more, the bland level design only gets interesting in the playable credits that allow you to fight against the names of the developers. Otherwise, each level plays much like the others, culminating in a choice of fighting the level's boss or playing minigames featuring options such as quick-time event boat races or chicken-kicking contests. In the end, the choice always comes down to deciding which one will net you the most coins.

All the gold in Albion can't help you if the dice don't like you.

The coins themselves come into play in a board game at the end of each level, in which each of the four players tosses dice for the chance of landing on a space that grants them one of 39 specific damage bonuses or cosmetic treats such as unlockable characters. This board game is entirely based on chance, though, which means you could end up spending your hard-won coins on nothing more than new skins for your weapon instead of a damage boost aimed at the hobbes lurking in most levels.

The randomness also makes unlocking an inner ring of the board with even better upgrades all but impossible. Early on, you even lose your rolls if you happen to land on spaces pertaining to boosts for zones you haven't visited yet. And don't expect to gain some new skills; Fable Heroes' board game only grants improvements to your existing abilities. The result is that Fable Heroes feels much the same at the end as it did at the beginning, with the only important changes affecting how much damage you deal or take.

But there's no mistaking that Fable Heroes has a certain charm, and there's enough depth for a one-shot party game with four friends or for parents seeking quality time with kids in the Family mode. Each level features power-ups that provide everything from useful speed buffs to balloons you can hold while dealing death, and the good or evil choices from Fable proper make a cameo in the form of chests that might shower coins on a random player or send lightning bolts at another, giving other players a chance to scramble for the victim's coins. There's even some pleasure in exploring bowdlerized locales such as Bowerstone, which reaches a pitch once you beat the game and unlock the "dark" map of Albion. Here, the deserts of Aurora become shady timberlands, and the bucolic Millfields and distant Bowerstone burn during an invasion.

Fortune and glory, kid!

If that twisted vision of Albion sounds at all enticing, it will take you only two or so hours to reach it. Fable Heroes is a short game even by the standards of most downloadable titles; its length is prolonged only by Dark Albion and the endless replays needed to get all the abilities on the board game. Thrifty-minded players might enjoy an option to send accumulated gold to their character in the upcoming Fable: The Journey, but coins drop so easily in Fable Heroes that you'll likely have enough to hire someone else to take your journey after one playthrough.

Lionhead's new creation might be the most accessible game in a series already known for its accessibility, but in its desire to distance itself from the fart jokes and bawdy flings of the numbered games, it manages to lose much of its identity--an identity that always sustained the series even in its weakest hours. Even the series' fabled assertions of "innovation" find no home here, and while it might be fashionable to smirk at Peter Molyneux's overambitious use of the term, the great tragedy of Fable Heroes is that it doesn't even try.

The Good
Fun competition for coins with four players present
"Dark Albion" offers a humorous topsy-turvy vision of Albion
Clever nods to previous Fable games
The Bad
Uninspired, simplistic combat
Boring level design
Upgrades too reliant on chance
5.5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

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Leif Johnson (pronounced "Layf") is a freelance writer whose works have appeared on GameSpot, IGN, PC Gamer, Official Xbox Magazine, GameTrailers, and a host of other publications. He still considers GameSpot a "home" of sorts, though, as he got his foot in the door through GameSpot's blogging platform. He lives on a ranch north of Goliad, Texas..

Discussion

20 comments
xboxarcadeguy12
xboxarcadeguy12

this game is a lot of fun. it could and should have been better.

rigzzsy
rigzzsy

i liked it, 5.5 seems a bit low but i'll agree it could have been better, it's essentially a way to make a lot of gold for f:tj - which i'm also getting (set to be a millionaire in no time) if you're expecting another castle crashers though then stay well away

RankJunkie
RankJunkie

They should have called it something else rather than Fables.  I think it would have been rated better overall and it would not destroy the franchise name.

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

I purchased the full game as well, and honestly don't think a lot of the universal dissatisfaction for it is totally warranted. The game isn't without it's faults obviously, but for ten bucks it's a very cute and charming nod to Fable franchise and has a heck of a lot of personality crammed into it.

BillyColeman
BillyColeman

i got the game and jeez ppl need to stop wineing its a good game i mean for 10$ you get a game that gots 30 achievements gameplay is something 360 fans need as it beats playing a damn shooter so for me i like it

TrueGB
TrueGB

Someone at Lionhead has obviously noticed G rated movies tend to make a lot of money and they're trying to capture that "magic". Now I'm starting to think Molyneux wasn't breaking promises and lying, he was just doing what he was told.

Goj1ra
Goj1ra

Fable 2 ranks among my top ten loved games.When Fable 3 came out I expected a better game than 2.Insteat I got a stripped down version of Fable 2.The story was just ,"ok".My two favorite spells were turned into potions.There were almost no clothing to find or weapons to buy.The only way you could find different items was by multiplayer,but I didn't have X-box Live back then.Now this Fable Heroes comes out and there is no way I am trusting Lionhead studio again.The art style exceeds my limit of cuteness and it is way to simplistic.It seems like Lionhead Studios is favoring acessability over making a unique game with great story,look,personality,and gameplay.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

A shame. They could have made it like Castle Crashers.

5529319
5529319

At first, I thought "Fable? OMG, that's so cool!!". Then, I thought "Naah, it can't be... it looks... so different...". Next, I saw the Lionhead Studio, and thought "Naah, still can't be, probably just a coincidence..." and then I read the first paragraph and was like "WTF? So it IS Fable... Naah, not going to get it, Fable 3 was enough of a disappointment (not that it's a bad game, just a disappointment) as it is..."

rbjr73
rbjr73

I'll feel like I';ve been justt stood up by my 1 night stand...lol...is it that bad

Mr_Bodywave
Mr_Bodywave

@maximo I agree. I think Fable2 was great. I think it was the best of the 3.

rlv217
rlv217

I am glad XBLA games we can try before we buy.

maximo
maximo

I jsut cant understand why they didn't expand on F2. F3 could have been so much more and whilst I enjoyed it, was nowhere as good as F2. I want F2 +. I know it will never happen and its a huge shame because the Fable universe is beautiful. I will still be getting this, even if its only for some remote feelings of nostalgia.

Michael0134567
Michael0134567

Well I won't be buying this,and I loved the previous Fables.

Heartagram_03
Heartagram_03

Seriously M$... just reboot the series with new developers.

y3ivan
y3ivan

Fable franchise is pretty much dead after Fable 3. I never expected a rip-off title to appear

Telekenesis123
Telekenesis123

Man Microsoft sure decided to run the Fable franchise through the mud ...then do it some more. Good work guys, good work. Bunch of brilliant people you have working there.

Fable Heroes More Info

First Release on May 02, 2012
  • Xbox 360
Fable Heroes is an action-packed, hack-and-slash adventure built for Xbox Live Arcade.
6.5
Average User RatingOut of 37 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Lionhead Studios
Published by:
Microsoft Game Studios
Genres:
Action
Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Everyone 10+
All Platforms
Fantasy Violence