Visionary game developer Peter Molyneux has a reputation for promising big, glitzy gameplay features that don't quite make it into the final product. Though Molyneux (who was behind the original Fable) had nothing to do with Lionhead's Fable Legends, I couldn't help but ruminate over that reputation as I settled into the playable demo at PAX East 2015.
Knock on wood, but this one seems like it might deliver on its promises.
While Fable Legends is still set in the established Fable universe—meaning it's chock full of lush soft-focus greenery, charmingly animated characters, and subtle use of depth-of-field effects—it's otherwise an entirely different gameplay experience from the core series. In Fable Legends, the focus is split between heroic teamwork and villainous second-screen tomfoolery.
Much like 2K's new title Evolve, Fable Legends pits four human heroes against a single human villain. Heroes a drawn from various classes like Mage, Sniper, Healer, and Brawler (or "Punch Guy" as I like to call him). Each class brings various strengths and weaknesses to the battlefield—other than the distinctly Fable-y flavor of the characters, this is nothing new.
Where Fable Legends gets interesting is in the role of the villain. Rather than an over-the-shoulder style view, the Villain player takes a top-down, bird's eye perspective on the battlefield, effectively controlling the action. The villain can set traps, send in henchmen, and see all the players—and how much health they have left—at a glance.
The best part about this setup is that the villain can get a jump on battlefield elements with an enhanced and highly accurate control screen. Using any tablet that can access the Xbox One SmartGlass app, villains can delegate their actions to the second screen. You can even play while you watch TV through the Xbox One's HDMI in port.
Like many future Xbox One games, Fable Legends will also take advantage of Microsoft's new Windows 10 initiative, which allows for multiplayer compatibility between any number of Windows 10 devices—Xbox Ones, PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Best of all, the game will be free-to-play when it arrives later this year.
If there's one dubious aspect to the game, it's that Lionhead has promised a 5–10 year lifespan. To achieve that kind of longevity the studio will almost definitely need to rely on micro-transactions and/or aggressively priced DLC.
Hopefully, the studio isn't promising anything it can't deliver.