Fable Heroes marks the third entry in the Arcade NEXT promotion for the Xbox Live Arcade. If you saw my previous two reviews, I was underwhelmed by Trials Evolution and practically depressed by Bloodforge. So far, Microsoft hasn’t exactly delivered what I would consider a next level gaming experience for there latest promo. Fortunately, Fable Heroes has enough going for it that I won’t be jumping off of a bridge just yet.
For fans of the Fable trilogy, Fable Heroes is a departure from what you’ve become accustomed to. Long gone is the mature humor, the clever narration, and ample cleavage. In place of these staples of the series, developer Lionhead Studios has focused on fun gameplay, four-player teamwork, and a classic board game design aesthetic. For the most part this directional shift makes for a good game.
Fable Heroesis designed for an audience of kids and fans of simple bash ‘em up gameplay. The transition into the family-friendly genre might be a strange one for most series, but the use of whim in previous Fable games lends itself to being a perfect universe for kids to play in, too. The action is entertaining enough for the casual adult and visceral enough for little kids to get their jollies by proxy.
The gameplay at the core of Fable Heroes involves a group of four puppet characters fighting small groups of enemies as they travel through familiar Albion settings. The action moves generally from left to right as the puppets use their various weapons to dispatch their foes. Power-ups are strewn about and enemies will drop endless piles of gold coins. The action is fast-paced, the gameplay is simple, and the core dynamic of the game is collecting coins. There are so many coins to be collected in Fable Heroes that I couldn’t help but be reminded of stud collecting in LEGO games.
The positive difference between the abundance of coins in Heroes and the studs in the LEGO games is Fable Heroes is enjoyable even if you can’t collect every coin. Players won’t be locked out of levels because they are missing coins the way the LEGO games punish players disinterested in collecting every stud imaginable. Plus, with four teammates vying for the cash being dropped, collecting every coin on a level wouldn’t be humanly possible!
While there are many benefits to the simplicity of Fable Heroes’ gameplay, one shortcoming I found was the length of the campaign. I rocked through the main levels of the game in under three hours. Although there are incentives to playing the game multiple times through, there’s not enough true variety to make this an experience that benefits from repetition. Perhaps at a party or with a house of multiple kids this might be interesting. Unfortunately, I think there will be quite a few gamers that cry foul with how short this game is.
You see, one of the other issues with Fable Heroes is the complete lack of a story. Had there been an intriguing story to tell, maybe the game could have gotten away with just three hours of gameplay. Too bad that’s not the case.
Nevertheless, short play through aside, I recommend this game for fans of the Fable series, side-scrollers, and households with gaming kids. It was more enjoyable to me than most LEGO games and I think it’ll be a blast for families that game together. For the rest of you, try the demo and let that help you decide whether the repetitive nature of this game is worth your ducats. If not, then maybe save up for Minecraft, coming soon!
CraveOnline received 1 advanced copy of Fable Heroes for the Xbox 360 from Microsoft. We received the code on April 26, 2012. Before starting our review, we played about 100% of the main storyline.