FABLE LEGENDS Xbox One : A Game Of Unequal Halves, Preview

Since its dawn a decade ago in 2004, fable has managed to carve a unique niche within the gaming community. It's irresistibly British flair, ceaseless sense of irony and healthy coating of camp have helped it stand out fluorescently against an what is otherwise brawny, angry, steroid-pumped microsoft line-up.

so powerful is fable’s personality among first-party Xbox games that its legion of adoring fans have come to expect nothing less than a continual stream of content that matches precisely their view of what the series is. of course, this creates a bit of a problem when developer lionhead tries to do something new with the IP just look at the response to Fable: The Journey as an example, some fans reacting with the confused rage of a bear shaved in its sleep. They felt violated, taken advantage of and probably cold.

Fable Legends faces the very same problem. This might look and sound like the fable we know, but it sure doesn't play like it. An asymmetrical four versus one multiplayer experience is probably what the suited executives are calling it; a dungeon crawler with a bit of a twist is our definition. Based on what we’ve played of things so far, though, one side is clearly superior to the other.

Playing as the one, the villain, is where Legends is at its best. With action playing out from a top down perspective your job is to command monsters, raise and lower gates and place traps in an attempt to prevent the four annoyingly wholesome heroes from completing their quest. Thanks to sensible mapping of actions to the Xbox one controller's face buttons you’re able to react quickly and easily to the movements of the enemy, concentrating on your own tactics rather than wrestling with what is essentially a console based real time strategy.

With no morality bar judging you playing as the bad guy in a series as sickly sweet as this is a liberating experience. It’s eye-opening enough to make you want to return to the ‘real’ fable games and act like a jerk just to see the reaction from Albion’s braindead denizens.

flip the coin over, however, and playing solo suddenly becomes the worst of the available tactics.  If you ever find yourself alone and lost in the environment as a hero then you’re not going to live much longer. Remember, the villain is always watching, like a hawk from the clouds, and a lone rabbit makes for an easy meal.

Additional importance is added to teamwork thanks to a class system that assigns each hero with a very specific set of skills. Rook, equipped with a crossbow, is great for taking out beasts at long range, but in close quarters he’s all but useless. As a result Inga, a warrior with a sword and shield, should always be on hand to support and protect him.

Then there’s Winter, a wizard packing a freeze spell that stops enemies in their tracks. her damage dealing attacks are so poor, though, that the spell wears off before you can kill them. Winter is great for crowd control, then, but she needs assistance in actually finishing the job which is where the sword wielding Sterling would prove a useful ally.

Fable has never been a franchise celebrated for the quality of its combat and that much seems to remain true here. One of the reasons playing as the villain provides the better experience is because the fighting offered by the heroes just isn't very fun. It’s all incredibly basic, with each character given only a handful of moves and an awkward slide that doubles as an attack dodge.

What we’ve played does work, the problem is that there's just not very much to get stuck into and it's difficult to see where the long term value of playing as a hero is going to come from. More heroes than the four revealed are going to be making their way into the final game, so maybe the mixing and matching of different squads will help satisfy some of the depth requirement.

A multiplayer beta is planned to start in autumn, so hopefully Microsoft is holding back on what it has shown up to this point in order to give us some nice surprises a few months from now. Whatever the case, though, Legends will die a quick death if its two sides are not equally enjoyable. Choosing to be good or bad is a key Fable component, after all. And as it stands, it’s only worth being bad.

Hands On
There’s certainly an interesting core concept here, but some more work is needed to make sure that Legend’s two distinct halves form a satisfying whole. If playing as the villain remains the superior option upon release then the online servers might well struggle to find enough heroes to pair you against. Trying to do two very different things within a single game is always risky, and Legends stands as a stark reminder of how difficult the approach is to get right.

Playing as the villain is great
Very ambitious idea
Trademark Fable aesthetic

Playing as a hero is less great
Core combat lacks depth
Morality mechanics removed

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