As the tales of fables are retold throughout the years, we often get to see new, striking visions of familiar stories for a new generation. Coming off the last three Fable titles on the previous generation, Fable Legends is the debut of the series on the current generation, and with its latest title both Microsoft and Lionhead Studios both prove that they have a new story to tell.
The previous Fable titles took on more of the typical RPG route, albeit with a heavy emphasis on storytelling and moral choices (and kicking chickens). With Fable Legends, Lionhead Studios’ latest entry in the series instead takes on a more streamlined approach to the RPG with a more heavily action-focused title, but with the spin of co-op gameplay and a devious Villain Mode that makes the proceedings fun, frenetic, and full of strategy.
Mixing a combination of action-RPG-styled combat with a dose of Left 4 Dead, Fable Legends pits a group of four players in varying classes against oncoming waves of enemies, traps, spells, and other dangers. Players are divided into two teams, with four players taking the roles of the “Heroes” with unique ability sets: classes included within the team vary with offensive, defensive, long-range, and spellcasting character types.
The classes in Fable Legend are fairly standard RPG archetypes (tank, archer, spellcaster, attacker), but work well within the context of the gameplay: characters like Inga act as the team’s tank with defensive abilities and shields, while Leech can drain magic from enemies and use it for a host of offensive spells and attacks.
Individually, each character has their own set of moves and attacks that can benefit the whole team, giving the game a significant focus on team play and strategy for traversing through levels. Flying solo often leads to a (very) swift death, so the game’s emphasis on staying together is both heavily encouraged and provides plenty of advantages.
On the other side of the gameplay is the “Villain” player, who elaborately sets the stage for chaos, strategy, and just a little bit of trolling. Given about 60 seconds of “set-up time” during each section of a level, the Villain lays out a selection of traps, spells, and enemy characters throughout a stage that will then have to be dealt with by the Hero characters. Whether it’s spawning a sudden wooden blockade or lying down damage-dealing fireballs, the Villain’s strategies come more into how to effectively combo the different hazards and obstacles together to deal the most damage at once, or how to target individual players and eliminate them one-by-one.
In the brief demo shown at E3 2014 (overall showing one co-op stage for about 15-20 minutes), Fable Legends already shows some great promise with its heavy focus on team gameplay and strategy. The combat and spell variety is simple, but in the case of Legends, it works well to the team dynamic, and especially against the arsenal that the Villain holds against the Hero characters. Aside from some misgivings with long hit animations that often made rebounding from attacks a struggle, Fable Legends’ story shows that when working together in its co-op gameplay, it truly is either all for one, or one for all.