On the cobbled streets on Bowerstone, a hero emerges. This hero could be strong, gallant and true, or they could be cruel, cynical and fart for laughs. That decision is all yours, for that is the magic of Fable.
Fable III released almost 10 years ago, and since then, fans have been crying out for a new instalment. But with developer Lionhead shuttering in 2016, hope of a Fable IV seemed lost. That was until news started trickling in that perhaps the Microsoft-owned IP was going to make a return after all.
And indeed it’s true: during last night’s Xbox Games Showcase, Microsoft closed out the show with a teaser announcing that a new Fable game – curiously titled just Fable – is in development. And it’s being developed by Playground Games, the studio up to now we associate with with the Forza Horizon series.
The trailer gave very little away; all we saw was a fairy getting eaten by a particularly plump toad, before the ‘Fable’ logo filled the screen. But at least it’s confirmation that we’ll be returning to the land of Albion before long. Of course – that’s got us speculating about what we want from this next instalment. Just what do we want the new Fable game to look like?
Ever since Lionhead disappeared in 2012 there has been little suggest of a fourth installment, until recently. There has been a trickling of news from various sources suggesting that the Microsoft owned IP could be back. Several of developers under Microsoft’s umbrella have been associated with the property and there have even been several leaks on Reddit that suggests that this may be more than just idle gossip. So what would we want this new installment to look like?
Rather British indeed!
One of the best things about the Fable series is that it felt more like a gander through a Monty Python sketch than it did a classic role-playing fantasy land. It felt more like Pratchett’s Discworld than it did Neverwinter or Baldur’s Gate. There was a silliness and cynicism that echoed through the world of Albion, brilliantly stated by a cast of well-known British voices.
Stephen Fry and Zoë Wanamaker were so crucial to the feel of Fable III and III that a fourth game would be amiss without them. But people like Joe Thomas or Richard Ayoade would make great additions to the line-up, too; their signature styles of humour would feel right at home in the Fable universe.
A decent final act
Most of us loved Fable III – right up until the final act. For the majority of the game you have been exploring the industrial revolution in Albion as an exiled prince, ruining lives and exploiting the real estate market. Then you got to the final act and boom: shadow monsters. Oh, and all of your decisions so far have mattered little compared to the ones you make right at the end.
Fable‘s story needs better pacing, and a closing act – if indeed it has a closing act at all – that makes sense to the rest of the story. There needs to be a constant and more personable threat; something we want to overcome for our own reasons, regardless of our alignment.
As great as Fable III was, it was hugely flawed in the fact that the decisions you made had little to no consequence by the end. We’d love to see the next Fable game give more weight to the decisions you make. Particularly, the small acts you take part in should have a bigger impact to the overall outcome of the game. If, for example, you raise the rent of a town you should see more beggars and depravity. How you act should change the world at large, not just how a quest ends for you.
We loved the introduction of man’s best friend in Fable II. How could we not – dogs are wonderful creatures. But what type of dog doesn’t matter. They’re all equally brilliant and superior. Husky, poodle, labrador or bulldog; we love them all. However, we weren’t so keen on how our dogs changed in Fable II depending on our morality. Just let us choose our dog, and have them be a good boy or girl throughout.
It shouldn’t be just dogs that get a whole new range of options; the main hero should too. As the Fable series progressed, there became less and less choice in weapon types, magic spells, and clothes available to wear. This slashing of options was the sacrifice made for more ambitious gameplay and set pieces.
It was a justifiable sacrifice, admittedly, but we’d love to see those choices brought back. We want to be able to customise our hero in whatever wild and wacky outfits we want. And hairstyles. We demand more hairstyles.
More depravity… if you want
In the first three Fable games, you could be a good person. You could use your skills for humanity and work towards the common good of all. Well, or so we’ve been told. We never tried, because in Fable, you could also be evil in the most cruel, stupid and hilarious of ways. You could get revenge for a ghostly bride from a cheating husband by making that man fall in love with you, getting engaged before handing him a note that essentially says “haha, you thought I loved you, idiot!”
Give us the option to ruin people’s livelihoods, destroy their possessions and break their hearts in the most elaborate of ways and we will be gleefully happy.
Make money matter
You could spend a lot of time in previous Fable games buying up people’s houses and raking in a lot of money from your holdings. But that money didn’t really go anywhere past buying some fancy clothes and being able to change the layout of a house or two. With the option of being a tycoon a staple of Fable games, it would be great to see better and more meaningful ways to spend your money.
But more than that, the status of your wealth should be a game mechanic of its own. The way people react to you and the dynamics of ownership could play well into a Fable game. Certain aspects of quests could change due to you owning specific buildings or hoarding an amount of wealth. Why would a peasant ask you to kill a bandit leader if he thinks you are worse?
Return of Heroes
One thing that’s been lost since the first Fable game is the presence of other heroes; others who possess magic and skill beyond those of the average person. In the first game, there was a whole guild full of heroes ready to compete with you for fame and fortune, but they died out, bar a special few in the following games.
If other heroes were brought back, the protagonist’s power wouldn’t feel as strong as it once did. Other forces could battle you for dominance. Not just physical dominance in battle, but for dominance of fame and fortune. This would give us real reason to sink hours into making the people love or fear you – after all, you don’t want the townfolk to feel more strongly about a hero that isn’t you, right?