26 Aug 2013

What I'd Love to See in a Fourth Fable Game

If you know me, you'll know that Fable is one of my two very favourite gaming franchises of all time, I might even be pressed to say it is my very favourite - just slightly ahead of Legend of Zelda (I realize fellow Zelda fans are going to kick me for that comment). Just a few days ago Lionhead Studios released a trailer for their upcoming game Fable Legends, which is meant to be a prequel in their Fable franchise. Naturally the announcement of a new game in the franchise will always be a welcome one (even if it is on the X-box One, which have been taking a lot of flack from fans since the initial reveal), especially when the announcement is for a proper game, and not just another attempt at making the kinnect 'cool'.

I do, however, have slightly mixed feelings as Legends seems to be making a lot of changes (at least that is my initial impression of the trailer below and the official statement from Lionhead about it).

From what I can tell, it seems like the core elements that made up the hero in the three main games are being split up into different characters in a party of four, also it features an option to play as the villain of the story. Now, this could be a good thing, because by separating the abilities into separate characters you could potentially really hone each craft - or you could end up accidentally switching between them all the time and losing control and have the whole thing become a really big annoyance. The aspect of getting to play the villain if you choose to is certainly a fresh idea within the franchise, but I'm not so sure I'm all that excited about the removal of the organic development towards good or evil determined by your choices. Unless the idea is that your alignment determines whether you will fight with your party or betray it (which could actually be a rather interesting thing)...

The sad part about this announcement, though, is that it doesn't look like Lionhead have any intention of making Fable 4 happen, at least not now. But, I choose to remain optimistic that one day there will be one, because I would like to see a sequel that truly gets it right. Because while the Fable games are my favourite to play doesn't mean they are perfect in any way shape or form. Each have their good elements and their bad, but I believe that if the right elements of each of the three main games were to be combined into one, we really could wind up with one really spectacular game.

So, while it's not going to be happening anytime soon, I would like to highlight what was done right in each respective Fable game and point out what I would like to see in a fourth one.

The Story

Well, naturally the story needs to be unique for each game, but I do want to point out that the first and third game had a stronger story overall. The first game's story was heavily tied up in the hero's family, which was his main motivation throughout the game. The third game focused heavily on the necessity to overthrow the hero's tyrannical ruler of a brother and then finding a balance between making life better for the people and keeping them safe from the looming threat from the beyond.

The second game's story made very little sense in general (buying a magical music box, sister killed, gathering heroes because some strange woman tells you to, destroying a spire). It was basically a lot of random elements thrown together to masquerade as a story. It more excused the gameplay rather than actually drive it. So, what I would like to see in a fourth instalment is a character-driven story, whether it is rescue, revenge or some other core element. It needs to be consistent, make overall sense, and if it involves family member, the relationship needs to be fleshed out more, either in the beginning or over the duration of the game. The sister in the second game's story was pretty much a throw-away character.


This was an element I think was perfected already in the first instalment. You had an assortment of spells that did different things, some dealt damage directly, with some you could summon helpers, whether it was phantom swords, creatures or extra arrows, there were shield magic, time manipulation, healing spells. And you had three buttons that you could deal magic with, plus ways to shift which set of spells you wanted to deal. Magic was diverse and exciting in the first game.

In the two sequels, magic mostly took the backseat to weaponry. It didn't really matter what spell you chose to put on your one magic button, because they all dealt the same amount of damage, just looked a little different. Other magical aspects (like slowing time and summoning creatures) had been replaced with special potions that you used instead. In the third game you had the ability to combine spells, but again, that pretty much did nothing special, so I didn't really see the point to that feature at all.

What I really would like to see in a fourth instalment is a complete reversal to the original magic set-up. Bring back the ability to choose between different spells, and doing more than just direct damage. Magic should feel like actual magic, not like a mere ranged weapon.


Here we have had two main set-ups. In the first two games, there were a bunch of different melee and ranged weapons, each that had different weight and caused different damage (in the second game ranged weapons were divided into those suitable for close targets and those suitable for distant targets). The developers changed this up in the third game, because they felt the players didn't really take advantage of the assortment of different weapons, because all of them wanted the one that would cause the most damage (which makes sense when you play a game that has a lot of combat in it). So instead they made a system where your weapon got better the more you used it. Now, I can both understand and appreciate their intention, but I think they kind of shot themselves in the foot with it, because who wants to change weapons sometime later in the game if it means they have to start from scratch and fight a certain amount of combats before their new weapon is as strong as the one they are already wielding.

However, I do like the aspect of 'upgrading' your weapon through combat. So my proposal is to marry those two concepts with one another. Let there be different weapons that can be upgraded through your use of them, but give them different starting values and/or acceleration rates, which will even out the differences. And I would also like the concept of augmentation to make a return, but preferably with more of an effect than what they had in the original game. The only time the augmentation really counted in the original game was when you were fighting the white balverine and only a weapon with silver augmentation could actually kill it. Having a more clever set-up with augmentations being especially helpful or sometimes even downright necessary to take down an enemy would assure a more diverse use of weaponry within the game, which is what the developers really are after.


Having covered both magic and weapons, I really should give the actual combat a nod as well. In the original game combat consisted of choices. You could choose not to equip a weapon and go hand to hand, there was even a specific side quest that was all about fist fighting. You could choose to equip a melee weapon and do close combat, you could choose to equip a ranged weapon, or you could choose to use one of the spells you had acquired.

Hand to hand combat was eliminated in the two sequels, which I feel is a shame, because it allowed players to challenge themselves if they wanted to, and considering how incredibly easy especially the third game got, I think that is a crying shame. I would really like the option of hand to hand combat to come back in a fourth instalment.


I've already said it, but I think the third game was just insultingly easy. The insulting part being the fact that you couldn't even die in the game. Instead you would faint and then wake up, completely able to continue combat right then and there. That made you unable to fail anything, which made any effort you put into the game seem more or less pointless. In the original game you had to start a quest from the start if you died in the duration of it. This was something that could be circumvented through the use of resurrection potions (of which you could carry a total of nine at any time, and you could carry a great number of food and health potions as well which would help you heal in the middle of battle). I think this was a much better solution than removing death completely from a game.

Another alternative would be to actually develop the game with an adjustable difficulty setting, allowing fans of varying skills to be able to enjoy the same game without issues like this one. Maybe let the beginner version of the game eliminate dying altogether, let the easy to medium settings include death, but include health and resurrection potions, and then maybe have the hard to expert settings either set a cap on how many health and/or resurrection potions they could carry or maybe even eliminate them in total. This would make for a much more interesting game where players could challenge themselves as they got better.


Speaking of challenging yourself, something I really miss from the original game is the concept of boasting. I thought it was brilliant for a hero to stand in front of a crowd after taking on a quest from the guild and then boast on how they were going to do it. It added challenges to a quest, and frankly made the business of going on quests much more interesting.

In the original game you could boast about so many different things, be it going through a quest without killing, or protecting people from harm, refraining from using weaponry or damaging magic, refrain from using any kind of armour (including clothes), refrain from using food or potions to heal yourself... the possibilities were near endless. It challenged you, earned you rewards if you managed to comply with your boast, lost you money if you failed to do so. I really don't understand why they took it out in the following games.

Gender, Sexuality and Family

This is something I feel has been expanded upon and improved as the games have been developed. The focus on the character's sexuality I feel has been done right from the very first game, by allowing the character to marry a man as well as a woman (although you only had one potential male love interest in a town, while you had several female ones), and since you technically could have a spouse in each of the game's main towns, there was also the option to be bisexual.

From the second game on, you also had the choice to play as a female character if you wanted. And amusingly enough, as the game also introduced the concept of family, it also had the option of engaging in both protected and unprotected sex (it did have the inclusion of sexually transmitted  diseases, but it didn't really have any effect on the character, only the stats). If you married a character of the opposite sex, you could start a family, the child even got older once you had gone off to the spire and come back.

In the third game your character also had the option of adopting from the orphanage, which allowed same sex relationships to have children as well, which only made the family aspect more available regardless of your gameplay choices. I think a fourth instalment should just continue on the same track as its predecessors, keep the progress they have made, and if they have any other good ideas, just add them to what they have.

Wealth, Jobs and Property

In the original game, the concept of wealth and property was rather limited. Initially you could only own one house (the specifically chosen marital home) in each of the towns, and none of the businesses. There were also no real money-making opportunities to be had except earning money from quests, trading and such.

To gain wealth in the original game, you had to take advantage of the trading loophole, which entailed gathering a large sum of items, preferably jewels, then buy and sell them to the same trader over and over again until you had the sum of money that you needed (basically if the trader had a lot of an item in stock, they would sell it to you at a discount, if they had none of it in stock, they would generally pay you above the item's actual value). This option was discontinued in the sequels for understandable reasons

If you wanted to own more houses or businesses in the original game, you either had to marry the owner of a house or business, then buy it once it got vacant - or you had to kill the owner, then buy it once it got vacant. However, there was not really much profit in owning houses and businesses in the original game.

The second game improved on a lot of this by firstly introducing jobs players could take (and develop their skills and earnings the more they worked), and also a lot of options in terms of owning houses and businesses, and rent them out. You could also choose to set prices and rent according to whether you wanted it to be cheap, average or expensive. And unlike in the original game where you had to go to the individual houses to collect the (meagre) rent, it would instead tick in like clockwork.

The third game continued this trend, but also introduced the concept of upkeep on the houses you were renting out, which I felt was so and so. On one hand there's the realism that things happen and repairs are necessary and it'll cost, but at the same time it was tedious to go to the map just so you could repair the houses you owned on a regular basis. I think a fourth instalment really should figure out some other kind of solution here. I get the realism aspect of it, but a game is supposed to be fun, not feel like a long list of chores. If they want to incorporate the aspect of destruction and disrepair, it should be made into more interesting gameplay than going through a map and clicking on houses to fix.

Also, I think the jobs in the third game got a bit too much like guitar hero (pressing the right coloured button at the right time). I'm not saying the second game necessarily had the right idea either, but it felt more connected to the actual job you were doing (like holding in a button to fill up a beer to the right amount, or hitting the little green dot correctly so you would manage to chop the wood or strike the anvil correctly). The fourth instalment should focus more on the second game's job implementation than the third game.

Social Interaction

The original game had a lot of options in terms of social interaction. You had plenty of expressions you could use. The lazy player had suggestions made available to them quick and easy, but you also had the option to go into the menu and choose any expression you wanted. The second game played around a bit with the menu (making it more of a cloud than a list), but also required you to put more effort into them (holding down the button to specific point), and also makes it possible to make less impressive versions of them or downright fail them. Also, the social reactions to your expressions were individual. Some would respond positively, others negatively, depending on their individual preferences.

I feel the third game streamlined this a bit too much, and also took away the randomness of the interaction. You got the option to compliment, insult, give money or do something funny. What you could do would be random, but there was no way to actually choose specifically what you wanted to do outside those four main options. At the same time, not all of the third game's treatment of social interaction was negative.

They introduced the concept of hand holding, allowing you to more directly get characters to come with you to other places, which I feel was much better than the follow and wait expressions in the original game. Also, the one on one interactions in the third game allowed you to more directly engage with the other character, among them, but not limited to playing, tickling, embracing, dancing, and kissing. I just feel it was unnecessary to eliminate more broad socializing for the sake of the one on one. I think the fourth instalment should have both, with a more broad selected options for the group socializing (like the cloud treatment in the second game), and more of a situational-based one on one.

Appearances and Customisation

Fable has always allowed you to play around with your characters appearance through clothes, hairstyles, facial hair and tattoos. Food would contribute to the size of your character. In the original game your actions also directly affected your character's looks, as your alignment changed.

In the second game they added the option of make-up, also any battle losses would give your character scars. One aspect added to this game that I really didn't appreciate was how the use of magic left physical markings on your character (you started glowing in the dark). Dyes were introduced, giving you the option to customise your hair and clothing, but had not much noticeable effect and the options were severely limited. Also, while it was possible in the original game to counter the effects of fatty foods increasing your size with exercise, this seemed not to be possible in the second game, at least my character never slimmed down after she got fat.

The third game was the one I feel really did customisation the best. Not only were dyes much better implemented, but you could choose very specifically the exact hue to dye parts of your hair (main colour and highlights) or clothing (main colour and trim). Scars were still something that could happen (but frankly, I don't mind that), but thankfully they had removed the glow-in-the-dark effect that magic use in the previous instalment had.

Frankly, I think the only thing missing from making customisation ultimate, is customising the character's individual features when you start a game (which already is a common feature in games today, and since Fable is all about choices, it really should follow that specific trend).

The Demon Doors

I love visiting the Demon Doors in Fable, but I feel they were at their best in the original game. Their challenges were less straightforward, and some of them required a bit more thinking. Also I think the doors were more humorously done in the original game, like the brilliant moment after you have eaten yourself fat to meet the door's required weight expectation; 'People say inside every fat person is a thin person trying to get out, but I say outside every thin person is a fat one trying to get in'.

Game saving

As much as I appreciate the convenience of the autosave, I think it should be left as optional, and not a mandatory feature. Also I believe the autosave should cover logical spots, like entering a new location, starting and/or finishing a quest (whether it's main- or side-quest). A game should not automatically save when you exit the game. Because there can be many different reasons as to why a player might choose to abruptly end their gameplay. Something could have gone wrong (one time all my enemies froze up, which made them very easy to kill, but once I reached the end of the quest, it wouldn't trigger the end scene and I had to start over, another time I got trapped floating in mid-air underneath the game surface and I couldn't get out of it), they might want to be able to replay a specific sequence over and over again because they especially love it, or some other reason.

I think the original game had the best system regarding saving. You had natural save points at the start and finish of quests or specific story moments, but if you wanted to save outside of that, you had the option of a world save which would save that specific point in your gameplay, or hero save (which was saving mid-quest), which would let you keep your character progress, but you would have to start the beginning of the quest. Also it allowed you to save to different save files, meaning you could continue playing a game and still be able to go back and replay a favourite section without affecting your game as a whole.

No comments:

Post a Comment