A new Fable game came out today, but you probably didn’t notice.
Fable Fortune, the trading card game that’s set in the Fable universe, has something of a tumultuous history. Originally beginning development at Lionhead Studios before the simultaneous closure of the studio and cancellation of their upcoming asymmetrical multiplayer game Fable Legends, Fable Fortune was miraculously able to continue development. Flaming Fowl Studios, a team made up of ex-Lionhead staff members, was able to continue development of the game with Microsoft’s permission. However, after a failed Kickstarter campaign meant to fund the game, Flaming Fowl Studios was able to acquire private funding and now – with a huge sigh of relief – Fable Fortune is finally complete.
Of course if Fable Fortune’s difficult development history is representative of anything, it’s that the Fable brand has been a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. With whispers of a new Fable game on the horizon by Playground Games, gears will inevitably begin to turn in any Fable-fan’s brain in anticipation. Here are 10 things I want to see in the possibly-non-existent Fable 4.
1A fresh start
I’m sure I’m not the first one to say this, but the Fable series could use a restart. It’s not that it’s in an unsalvageable state – Fable 3 ended things in a pretty big way and leaves a lot of possibilities of where things could go. We could be the offspring of our royal predecessors, or maybe even someone else altogether. The real point is that the Fable brand could use a face-lift.
I’d love to see Fable 4 go back to the beginning of the timeline, maybe even reintroduce the Guild of Heroes. Explain more about the state of the world and how things got started. There’s no need in going over the same story beats we’ve seen in other games so this could be a chance to go in a radically different direction. Whether Fable 4 is treated like a prequel or a franchise reboot, either way – start this new game off with a clean slate. It’ll help take the bad taste of previous missteps out of all our mouths.
2No more unfulfilled promises
If there was any series that has lost more goodwill from gamers, I’d be hard-pressed to find it. The Fable games originally gained popularity thanks to their creator Peter Molyneux’s lively explanations of what the game would be. Planting a seed as a child and returning to see it grown, that you’d have children and see them grow up. We’ve heard them all and we know that none of them came to fruition.
Obviously, game development is hard and I feel a tad sad for Molyneux. An industry legend that, over the course of a few years, was relabelled as a liar in the eyes of the gaming audience. So, maybe when it comes to marketing the next Fable game, Microsoft should try to keep things subdued on that front. Leave us with questions as to how big the game is. Have us expecting something small, so when you reveal the whole thing we’re left more impressed. Telling us things you plan to do but haven’t implemented yet will just have everyone shaking their heads in distrust. Better to just surprise everyone’s expectation with Fable 4 rather than them all down again.
3Important and rewarding combat
I love the combat of the Fable games. It’s easy, it’s fluid, and it’s fun. You can swap between smashing a guy’s head with a hammer to zapping someone else with lighting with just the press of a button, but doing so has never had much impact.
It’s been eight years since the last mainline Fable title and tastes have changed. Nobody’s wanting Fable 4 to feel like Dark Souls, but I should at least feel some peril every now and then. The joy of combat can’t just be found in the operation of it in the game. There has to be a meaning behind every swing of the sword or shot of a bow. Make us work for each victory, make every enemy feel memorable. If not, then what’s the point in playing to begin with?
4An Albion that feels real
The Fable series is lucky to have such an interesting setting in Albion. Players already are familiar with the history of Albion, stretching back hundreds of years to the first game. We’ve seen it grow and become more industrialised. At a macro level, Albion is satisfyingly robust. But once you get close, when you’re actually playing the game, there isn’t much too it.
One of Fable’s defining features is how the world responds to your actions and perceives you. Create a larger variety of people and reactions from townsfolk. Allow for more complicated consequences. Don’t just have something happen because I decided to complete a specific questline. Create systems in the world that speak to one another and react to things I do in real time that go beyond what the player expects. If Fable 4‘s Albion feels as real as the real world does, than by extension, so will everything else in the game.
5A wider variety of play
Fable is built upon a three-pronged road to success – melee, skill, and will. These three modes of combat intertwine as players decide how they want to play through the game, but we haven’t had much of an evolution to this formula since the first game in the series.
What if I want to play like a rogue, sneaking my way through town and pickpocketing unsuspecting bandits? Or maybe I want to be a charming bard who can talk his way out of any scenario? Past Fable games forced players to follow a fairly linear path without much deviation. You could always handle a fight any way you wished, but that same freedom rarely extended to the rest of the game.
6A redefined morality system
Fable is responsible for the morality system as we know it. A bar that stretches between one absolute to another, the games have always emphasised morality as a difficult choice between two options. Since then, we’ve gotten morality systems in plenty of other games that have shown how powerful it can be when you open that choice up to more than just the two options. Fable 4 should take notice, and learn from the competition.
Instead of just having the game give me horns after I eat a bunch of baby chicks or a halo after I kill a bunch of bandits, put more reasons for players to choose options in the middle. Make choices have difficult and less clear answers. It’s too easy for players when there is a clearly better option amongst the choices, like how being evil will usually lead to more powerful weapons. Once you introduce ambiguity into that dilemma, it makes that decision all the harder.
7More weapons and armour
Holy crap does Fable need more equipment. Usually only offering a handful of weapons and armour choices for players, Fable 4 needs to really lean into the “role playing” aspect of RPGs. Even if we play a specific character like we did in Fable 3, let players define who that character is however they wish. Make tiers of weapons have more variety. Make it easy for players to feel cool and powerful and silly, all at the same time. Give us haircuts that only video game characters could pull off.
8The dog should rule
Will the dog make a come back in the next Fable game? I have no clue. Should it? What kind of a monster would even ask such a question – of course!
The dog was a welcome addition to the Fable games in Fable 2. A furry canine friend who could find you hidden treasure and point you towards quest objectives. Yet, the dog never does more than that. Like in real life, dogs should feel like our best friends. While their usefulness in the game is important, we also need to see that bond first-hand. Having our dogs run around doing nice things for us isn’t going to feel all that special.
Why not make the dog optional? A dog we have to find on our own, without the game’s help, and one we have to train. Make the dog’s progression based on the player’s input. Force that bond to become tangible. Also, if it’s optional, all the weirdos who don’t want a dog can just hoof it on their own. It’s a win-win.
9A hefty endgame
Once Fable ends, that’s when it should really begin. I loved being able to raise enough money to buy Castle Fairfax and collect all the legendary weapons in past games, but it all amounted to only a few hours of playtime. Instead, I want the option to keep living the life of my hero – all the way till they die of old age.
Let me go on adventures beyond the game’s final boss. If I’m a hero, why not let me take automatically generated quests? I could hunt down rock trolls and balvarines until I grow old and retire, spending my twilight years in a mansion near Bowerstone. Or, I could buy up all the properties in Albion and rent them out for a hundred in-game years. Point is, give me something to do once the credits roll. Cause whoever wants to say goodbye to a good video game?
10A clear understanding of what Fable is about
Avo knows there isn’t much consensus on what Fable is about, as a series. I hope that, if Fable 4 is in development, that its designers aren’t beholden to what anyone else thinks Fable is. All they have to do is clearly define what Fable means for them.
If Fable 4 is a game about burnt chickens and bad Monty Python impressions, then have at it. If it’s a serious game about sword and sorcery, then by all means. But whatever Fable 4 is about, that has to be clear from the first second of the game. For a series with only three mainline titles to its name, Fable has surprisingly become many things to many people. It would be impossible to please everyone, so trying to do so would just be silly.