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Offering customizable characters and a free-roaming world that the Player can sculpt to their liking, the Fable series has been one of the reasons to choose the Xbox over the other two consoles for both this and the previous generation. But now the original designer is gone! The next two games in the franchise are barely recognizable when compared to the previous three! What’s going to happen to this beloved series?
Peter Molyneux recently left Lionhead studios to create a new game company, but he had already confirmed the existence of Fable IV. Not much is known about it (Or if the claim was just some of Molyneux’s trademark hype). Whatever Fable IV might be, it’s definitely not going to be either of the two Fable games slated to release in the near future.
Coming this May is Fable Heroes, a game whose visual design and gameplay bear virtually no resemblance to any other product in the franchise. Completely avoiding the more realistic graphics of Fable III, Heroes uses cartoony puppet-like characters and has players participating in four-player co-op hack ‘n’ slash gameplay. There also appear to be board games and other sorts of minigames as well.
The one Fable game that Heroes most resembles is the XBLA downloadable title Fable II Pub Games, another product that many Fable fans considered a drastic deviation from what they expected, or wanted.
One of the features that Lionhead has touted in Fable Heroes is the ability to unlock items in another upcoming Fable spin-off, Fable The Journey. A clear case of shameless cross promotion, and another game that takes the franchise in a new direction. It’s not only a first-person-shooter, but it’s a Kinect game too! In the E3 demo last year, Fable fans were shocked to see the change in perspective and gameplay. Gone were the action RPG and world exploration aspects of the series. In The Journey they’re replaced with “On-rails” movement, and motion-based spellcasting. True, the locations and enemies looked like they could be Fable’s traditional setting of Albion, but this is clearly a new game running on a different engine.
Peter Molyneux had worked on The Journey before his departure, but that is not the case with Fable Heroes, and The Journey is still a ways off. While these games might make the Fable series more appealing to younger gamers and help draw in casual gamers from the Kinect crowd, they certainly don’t seem to be aimed at long-time fans. Given these drastic changes to the games and the studio developing them, fans of the series are most likely in for some big disappointments beyond these two games.
The future of Fable is starting to look a lot like the franchise will become a generic setting for Xbox games with the prefix “Fable” slapped onto fantasy titles and other genres. Heroes and The Journey could very well be the first in a long string of cash-in games that will tarnish the value of this intellectual property. Gamers would be advised to stay away from any Fable game that doesn’t have a roman numeral at the end, and hope that this doesn’t lead to Fable Kart Racing.