A Puppet’s Trip Through Albion – Fable Heroes Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

Grab your weapon of choice, Fable fans, as the spin-off title, Fable Heroes, is now available for your chicken-kicking pleasure.  Is this downloadable arcade title truly worthy of its own praise, or does it fall into the shadows of the heroes before it?  Let’s take a journey through Albion to find out!

In Fable Heroes, you take control of a puppet version of a previous Fable character to battle across a mini-Albion pop-up stage.  Playable characters include main protagonists like Reaver and Jack of Blades, but also secondary or heroes only mentioned like Maze and Scythe.  Up to four players can head into the fray together, or you can play solo with three AI partners.  There is no real story to be found, but this gives the beat-‘em-up gameplay some extra room to shine.

Speaking of which, gameplay in Heroes is like a twisted love child between a Fable Monopoly board game and Castle Crashers.  Players start on the world map, which is laid out in tiles, starting at character selection.  As gamers progress through levels, the next one will unlock along the path until reaching the playable credits (the developers’ names float in place  and can be shot or hit with magic!).  Each level is modeled after a location from the Fable universe, such as Bowerstone and Aurora, giving the arcade title a very authentic feeling.

Gameplay is fairly simple.  You have three attacks at your disposal: light, flourish, and special.  Light attacks are quick but weak, flourishes are slow but heavy, and specials are powerful area-of-effect attacks that use up one of your five life hearts, so they may end up killing you if you’re not too careful.  While on the topic of death, if you lose all of your hearts you’ll come back as a ghost.  In this spectral form you may still attack and defeat enemies, but you can’t use your special skill nor can you gain any gold (which plays an important part in leveling up).  To help avoid an untimely demise players are able to dodge in the form of a tuck-n’-roll, which (if used properly) will keep your puppet safe and your pockets full of gold.

Throughout a level you’ll also find chests containing power-ups.  These can include either positive augments (e.g. invisibility, free gold, or super speed) or diminishing effects (such as tiny size or a hidden enemy) this makes opening any chest a gamble for players.  Keeping in the Fable style, some chests are labeled good and evil, presenting the player with a choice: do you send a helpful buff or a painful crutch randomly amongst the team?  The choice is yours…

That’s not the only choice you’ll have either.  Near the end of each level, which until that point was fairly linear, you’ll come to a fork in the road.  At the end of one path is a boss battle, the other a mini-game.  Bosses are modeled after one you’ve fought in other Fable titles, while mini-games offer some fun events (such as running from exploding chickens or racing down rapids in sailboats) aimed to cool you down from your hobbe-stomping adventure.

No matter which path you pick, at the level’s finale you’re given dice based on how much gold you earned that session, both of which are used to level up.  From here, you’re brought to a square game board, where you use the dice to move, and spend your gold on new abilities.  These skills can come in many forms such as: attack speed or damage, earning more gold, new characters, or changing a puppet’s aesthetics (like expressions or different weapons).  After buying every ability on the outer board, you’ll have access to the inner board (whose tiles you unlock by earning achievements) where you’ll be able to purchase special skills.

Should you finish the game, yet find you want more, fear not as there is a Dark Albion mode!  Here you will replay through all of the levels, but in a creepier, purple-hued setting.  The look isn’t all that’s changed, as new and more difficult enemies roam this corrupted version of Albion, presenting a new challenge for battle hardened players and serving to extend the title’s life by a considerable amount.

Although Heroes is a very fun game to play, it unfortunately suffers in terms of depth.  While there may be three different attacks offered, players will find themselves simply mashing their light attack the majority of the time.  This is especially true for ranged players during boss battles, as they will find themselves standing still and spamming a single button at the enemy.  While this simplicity is typical for the genre, it hardly makes for gripping gameplay and can become dull very quickly – especially if you’re set on only one character.

Visually, the game is a splendor to look at.  Graphics are presented in a cel-shaded pop-up-book fashion, giving the impression of playing puppet master in a storybook show or play.  Each and every character (be it friend or foe) has been constructed around people or creatures (such as hobbes and hollowmen) present in other Fable titles, giving them a fantastically authentic vibe while keeping within the ‘toys and puppets’ theme.  Add in the lack of texture pop and graphic anomalies and you have one arcade game that is very easy on the eyes.

Everything is golden on the audio end as well.  The score keeps a very minimalist tone, treating you to small ensembles of strings, mallets (like xylophones), and flutes – all in a very upbeat tempo with that light “English swing” to it that simply screams Fable.  On top of that we have your usual sound effects like grunts from characters, explosion from fireballs, gunshots, and the like.  This title is as much a treat for your ears as it is your eyes.

In addition to the entertaining gameplay and well-rounded visuals and audio, Fable fans get an extra incentive: Heroes will interact with Fable: The Journey when it releases, much like how Pub Games played off of Fable II.  You will be able to unlock new characters and transfer gold between titles (which is sure to help those down on their luck) so there is a reason for you to keep Heroes on your hard drive, even after you’ve done all there is to do.

At the end of this fairy tale, Fable Heroes comes out as our hero-of-the-day.  With fun (though simple) gameplay, wonderful visual themes, and a soundtrack to add a smile to your face, this is an arcade title that is sure to win your heart.  Whether you play alone or with a full party, this is one title Fable fans will want to put their hands on.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to replay I, II, and III again!

Final Score: 4.75 / 5.0 and a healthy clucking chicken… Hey, stop kicking him!

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

May 4, 2012 - 8:00 am