Monday, May 7, 2012

Fable Heroes Review - From Hero to Zero

Score : 5.25 / 10
Fable Heroes
Xbox Live Arcade
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: May 2nd, 2012

  • Gold can carry over to upcoming Fable: Legends
  • Simple controls make it easy to pick up
  • Monopoly inspired leveling system offers an interesting way to level up
  • Everything that makes Fable great is absent
  • Repetitive nature of the combat loses appeal quickly
  • Enemy and friendly AI are incredibly stupid
  • Very short lived with only 6 real stages
Fable Heroes isn't the first venture by Lionhead Studios to craft an Xbox Live Arcade title. The previous Fable Pub Games brought early access to a few mini-games that were genuinely entertaining, while also netting you gold to carry over for Fable II. Fable Heroes tries the same thing, but instead of a simple minigame, it is a full fledged 2D side scrolling beat em up. The result is a game that takes everything that made Fable so great, and tosses it to the wind for an uninspired, bland adventure.

There Once Were Some Dolls...

Despite an established lore that is three games in, Fable Heroes has no real story. There is no dialogue or cinematic cutscenes to introduce anything of importance. You simply pick from one of four default Heroes and drop into a 2D world. You essentially take of tour of iconic cities or areas from the Fable universe, hacking your way through waves of enemies with no real purpose. Fans of Fable will be quick to recognize the hero doll inspired characters and themes from the previous games mixed into this title, but there is little reason behind all the adorable bloodshed.

Visually the overall detail of character models and environments falls short, but the toy influenced ambiance works well for the game. Cartoonish figures explode into coins and Hobbes with Santa hats blatantly charge toward your swings. The generally childlike style melds with the upbeat soundtrack, giving off a Saturday morning cartoon feel. Oddly absent is the renown villager humor that makes Fable so entertaining, and I found myself yearning for the classic one-liners of a garden gnome.

Button Basher

Fable: Heroes is simple to pick up and even simpler to master. Like all classic side scrollers, you navigate a map from stage to stage, making your through waves of mobs to your goal. There is one button for a regular attack, one for a flurry or charged attack for increased damage, and one area attack at the expense of a sliver off your health. Depending on your character your base attacks could be ranged or melee distance, as magic users and pistols are best utilized at a distance. If you've ever even glanced at a side scrolling beat em up, you will quickly get the hang of things.

Enemies range from the notorious Hobbes, to Balverines, and even Hollowmen...but each one acts exactly like its predecessor. A wave will spawn, charge toward you, die, and then spawn again. There is no real tactical approach besides gauging how much health you have available for an area attack, as dodging completely nullifies any damage that can come your way. After leveling up and bringing a few friends along, even on the hardest difficulty Fable: Heroes is laughably easy. Especially since death only results in your ghost still being able to attack, but unable to pick up coins.

In each level you collect large sums of currency which add up to dice rolls. These are carried over to "leveling" your character. You roll the dice, which can land on a square that pertains to either combat, specific enemy types, or a rate on how much currency you gain from killing monsters. You can purchase one ability per turn and have the potential to teleport around to different squares or save your turn for later. It's an interesting way to level up, but can be irritating when you are missing one move but cannot land on the desired space.

Choose Wisely?

Fable was all about choice, and Fable: Heroes somehow manages to utilize it in the worst manner possible. Near the end of each stage you are given a choice to travel one of two paths. One will always lead to a boss fight...which is basically a good 4 minutes of you hitting, dodging, and hitting again. The bosses do not ever change pattern, as they always telegraph their moves, spawn minions, and smash around periodically.

The other option is always a minigame, and even these prove bland and uninspiring. Most involve either mashing a button continuously or running around in an arena trying not to die...which turns out to be easier than it sounds. I never thought I would actually miss the job minigames from Fable III, but I would much rather have a pint pouring contest than suffer through kicking chickens into a goal.

The other big element of Fable was morality, which again proves pointless. You will find chests marked with a good or evil sign that can have a positive or negative effect on a random team member that wears off after a minute. That satisfaction of crafting a hero as a noble warrior or heartless vigilante are all but gone in this game.

Tag Team, Back Again

The friendly AI in the game border somewhere between completely idiotic and blatant jerks as they run gleefully into a boss's attack or steal all the health and gold they can find while you fend off the never ending hordes. If you are going in solo, expect to carry most of your team to the finish line, even if they are maxed out in leveling.

Needless to say, Fable: Heroes is a better experience with three fellow human counterparts, and luckily the game does offer drop in/drop out local multiplayer in addition to an Xbox Live option. Though the hosted sessions can be fairly laggy depending on the game, you'll be glad to have someone competent at your side. Unfortunately the human competition also means less coins and dice rolls to level up your AI team.


There is a harder difficulty, stage medals with leaderboards, and "Dark Albion" feature that makes the few levels offered a bit more challenging, but it's not enough to save Fable: Heroes. The boring gameplay and uninspiring level design makes the game tolerable at best for even the most diehard of Fable fans. If anything I found myself wanting to play Fable III so I could remember what fun I actually had with the franchise. A few years ago this could have been a decent spinoff but compared to the other games out there...these are the lamest heroes ever.

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