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Published June 26, 2013

Just before E3, Guilford based Games Company Lionhead Studios made some waves. They announced that a full HD remake of the original Fable called Fable Anniversary is coming to Xbox 360 in time for the holidays. Fans of the long term franchise were delighted by the announcement, including myself.

The Fable franchise is the mainstay staple of Lionhead Studios, and personally, as a fan of the franchise, I have seen it take a lot of criticism over the years, not least for the most recent entries into the series – Fable: The Journey, which was a Kinect exclusive on the rails journey through Albion.

Whilst Fable has never really been seen as a serious RPG franchise for most gamers, it has a relatively dedicated base of fans who enjoy the series for its Monty Python-esque British humour (Accentuated, of course, by casting John Cleese in a main voice role in Fable III playing the Hero or Heroine’s faithful butler Jasper) and the colourful and fun world of Albion, in which the games are set.

Could this mean that Lionhead and indeed Microsoft are taking the future of the franchise seriously? I and its fans can but only hope that is true. The series has always shown glimmers and sparks of promise as a serious RPG franchise, and there are, of course, things that I think could be done to address this. Here are five things that I think would help make the Fable franchise into a serious RPG series contender.

I) A Larger Gaming World

fable World trees acorn

The land of Albion has always felt a little bit small, especially with the loading times of previous titles in the series. Visually, Fable III had a beautiful world. The factories in Bowerstone spewing out smog into the sky, the slightly Dickensian style townhouses and streets of Bowerstone Industrial, the snowy peaks of Mist Peak. It was all really well crafted, but I can’t help but feel that there is so much potential to make it larger and even more open world and streaming. If the Xbox 360 can handle the huge open world of Skyrim, I am quite sure that Lionhead, with newer technologies and Unreal Engine 4, can create a much larger and more open world for the player to explore.

II) Combat

Fable Combat Troll Wood Fight

The combat of the series has always been a bone of contention to people, having been simplified with each game. There have been some neat touches, like morphing weapons and dual spell casting, combining the spells to create a more powerful punch to your enemies, however it is very simplistic and not much of a challenge. Making the combat more of a challenge and far more intricate, and feeling like you are in some real peril would certainly peak interest in gamers.

III) The Antagonist

Jack of Blades Fable HD Trailer

For a lot of fans, the Antagonists of the games have always been one of the biggest problems. The Antagonist of the first game, Jack of Blades, is clearly a fan favourite. There was a real sense of danger with Jack, and a proper battle with him at the end of the game. In Fable II and Fable III there was a distinct lack of a real Antagonist. In II we had Lucien Fairfax, and whilst being a sympathetic bad guy, there was no real huge threat or battle at the end, and in Fable III there was your brother, Logan (Who, as it turned out was manipulated into being a tyrant) and a being known as The Creeper, who just crept in halfway through the game, to pop up at the end with no real build up or character development. Having a proper antagonist would help the gamer feel more attached to the overall experience, and placing a proper, nasty, menacing threat over Albion would really add to the story of Fable IV and indeed future titles. Also, we have a well developed and morally ambiguous character called Reaver (Voiced by the ever delightful Stephen Fry) who seems to go to waste in the titles. Perhaps try utilising him as a real threat to Albion?

IV) The Death System

Fable 2 Zombie Graveyard

In Fable and Fable: The Lost Chapters, they had a proper death system, and in Fable II they took that out of it, to replace it with a system whereby if you get knocked out, there is no real punishment barring losing a few XP points. To me, this felt like a cheap way of making the game easier, as did a lot of the fans of the original. Please Lionhead, pop a proper death system back in, so as we feel like there is actually some danger to the game, and actual punishment for losing to your enemies.

V) NPC Interaction

Fable 3 Character Interaction NPC Town Folk

Interaction with the NPC’s of the world has always been a hugely important part of the franchise. Having people like you and be on your side is an important function of the games, to help the player feel more emotionally involved. However, in Fable III, they took out the wheel system of emotions and actions that you could use to make people love or hate you, and replaced it with a really simple, and in my eyes, bad interaction system of shaking and holding hands, and random gestures that you really had no control over. If you want your players to feel emotionally attached to people in the world, to their spouses that they marry, and indeed to the children that they have in game, they need to expand upon the wheel menu from Fable II, and add more personalised emotive moves to interact with people. You can’t feel attached to someone with a simple handshake or by dancing with the, it takes a lot more than that for people to emotionally invest in your characters. So please, vastly improve upon this from Fable III. And those are things that I think would help make the Fable franchise into a more heavyweight contender in the RPG world. I am sure there are more, but to me these seem the most urgent things to address to genuinely involve the players back into the land of Albion.

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  1. Responder Responder

    I thought this was pretty accurate. Bravo!

  2. Darkest Bird Darkest Bird

    I can dig all that! Personally, I’d like to see an overhaul of the loot system and treasure chests, which by the third game had become rather pointless and worthless. I’d love to see a proper loot drop system from defeated enemies with some rare items and equipment from treasure chests – you know stuff I can kit my character out in and show off in co-op etc.

  3. Rockura Rockura

    What about the glitchiness?

  4. Crimson Rider Crimson Rider

    Well said man.

    I know I could be saying this to Lionhead Studios but according to your statement about the the NPC interaction. I will disagree and point out that Lionhead should revert back to their expression system from the first Fable where you, the character, can give people a simple and quick expression such as the tap dance or vulgar thrust expression then walk away as you please. As a fan to the original Fable( and The Lost Chapters), it would not be much of a drag compared to clicking an NPC to interact, then press and hold to make a whole expression. But the the one that is good from II and III is that you get to see the NPC’s emotions toward you ( such as they love or hate you). I do miss punching NPCs who disliked me in which you can’t in II and III.

    Another thing you could suggest is that Lionhead should also turn back to the follow expression system, its not that great to have only one person to follow you and hold their hand the same time, only if you’re taking an NPC out on a date. It was pretty awesome to get a band of followers, such as bandits to join you on a journey and fight off Balverines or guards if you were raiding a town.

    One last comment, in your comment on #2. Combat, I do miss Fable:TLC’s Magic system, it was more awesome to have a variety of Will power moves.

  5. SycoMantis91 SycoMantis91

    These are all things that could be much better about the games. I always thought I shouldn’t be able to run 5 minutes and be from the end of one town to the end of the next in Fable III. And there is so much untapped potential. They’ve shown they can make beautiful landscapes, memorable characters, and fluid combat systems, but have done little with these elements. Though a console port of Black & White 2 would make up for it…

  6. acronach acronach

    Agreed with all of these. I didn’t really mind as much that 2 and 3 had a lack of an antagonist, but I did like that they made it less of a hassle to buy property and become a landlord in 3. I hope that they continue this in 4.

  7. Stuie299 Stuie299

    IMO you missed the number one thing that needs to be fixed. For me the best part of Fable is the game world/presentation. All of the little touches they put in are great. That said the main story arch is always lacking. They do a great job with individual quests but I would love to see them do a longer and more detailed main story arch.

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