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Fable

Review: Fable Anniversary

Feb 03 // Chris Carter
Fable Anniversary (Xbox 360)Developer: Lionhead StudiosPublisher: Microsoft StudiosReleased: February 4, 2014MSRP: $39.99 By and large this is the exact same Fable you played back in 2004 with a new coat of paint. The voicework and dialog are the same, the story is the exact same, and gameplay-wise, it's pretty much identical barring a control scheme update. Although the music is said to be remastered I couldn't really discern any major differences between the original score -- which is perhaps a testament to how superb it was the first time around. Visually the game has received an upgrade inline with the later games in the series. It's an odd juxtaposition, as many of the Fable cast members looked right at home with their original freakishly big heads and cartoony designs -- so it took some getting used to with the newer, more realistic Anniversary models. It was especially weird adapting to the early-game manchild teen hero character design, which looks half real and half cartoon. Whereas in the original you'd be able to laugh something like that off, some of the models can feel a bit strange in Anniversary. In essence, I'm a bit torn on the updated sheen. On one hand I really like the updated models for serious characters like Maze and the Guildmaster, who were more or less always meant to be more "real" looking. Other goofy characters like random townsfolk and traders look a bit more off, but not in a way that ruins the experience. Weapons and spell effects in particular are a massive improvement, however, as are the beautiful landscapes which feel completely new due to the Anniversary update. [embed]269734:52422:0[/embed] But all that glitters isn't gold, as there are some framerate issues (mostly in areas with lots of enemies) and noticeable pop-in during cutscenes, which is a shame. Then there's the odd decision to rip one element directly from the original, which doesn't quite fit when everything else around it feels new. Specifically, the narrated "stained glass" interludes that often move the story along are also in the same style as the original Xbox game, which looks noticeably old and jarring. The story is still the same, which has its ups and downs, as well as its mix of memorable and forgettable characters. However, the original Fable succeeds where others in the series have failed, in its ability to deliver a cohesive, easy-to-follow tale that doesn't ever get ahead of itself. There's a clear big bad villain, an obvious motivation, and a relatively simple goal to achieve -- thus earning the moniker of "fable" quite appropriately. The Fable games later added the ability to play as male or female, but the first title is strictly from a male perspective -- which hasn't changed in Anniversary. Thankfully, the controls have been updated to allow for Fable 2/3 mechanics, which are mainly centered around dedicated attack buttons for magic, ranged, and melee attacks. The original had a scheme that revolved around manually switching weapon types out which is a bit cumbersome, but if you prefer that method it is there as a "legacy" control option. Everything is relatively easy to perform, as a simple button press will instantly queue up the appropriate attack. Having said that, a few of the same faults have crept up in Anniversary, most notably the occasionally broken lock-on system. By holding the left trigger your hero will lock on to the closest enemy, allowing you to quickly tap it to change targets. The problem is, not only is this system inaccurate (d-pad switching would be preferable), but it also goes haywire from time to time, locking on a random piece of scenery and causing you to outright miss with ranged attacks. Beyond those issues though combat is relatively straightforward and fun, allowing you a degree of freedom with tons of spells, close-combat options, and bow attacks. Your hero can also block and roll as well as employ just about every type of spell you desire, allowing you to play the way you want to play, since it's feasible to beat the game with any combination of the three combat disciplines. The game is still incredibly easy though, as you can carry over 50 health potions, 100 pieces of health-restoring food (with no time limitations on use), and nine "resurrection phials" that let you instantly revive yourself. It's an odd design choice that still creeps its way into the Anniversary edition, as there is never really any sense of danger or tension when you can just pop one of your hundreds of healing options, with a backup system should you fail to press a button. While the core tenets of the experience are identical, there are a few noticeable differences with the update which lead to mixed results. The menus have been updated, but they're big and clunky with a number of pointless tabs, so it's hard to locate anything in particular. Thankfully, you can now save anywhere, and there are a ton of added auto-saves and checkpoints, so you'll hardly ever lose any progress at any time. SmartGlass functionality has also been added, which lets you view the world map and backstories on various characters. It's not essential, but it's a nice little touch. In terms of content, worry not, as the Lost Chapters expansion is fully intact in Anniversary, which adds a few more hours of (fun) quests as well as a new town, items, and a new ending. I'm especially a fan of Lost Chapters as it's relatively to the point, and delivers constant action with moral quandaries that don't feel ham-fisted or forced. You'll also get to earn Achievements for the first time ever in the original Fable, which have some rather clever naming conventions (one is titled "Definitely Not On Rails") and requirements (most of them have multiple unlock options).Fable Anniversary may not blow you away, but it's still a good action game that everyone should experience at some point or another, and I'd consider it vastly superior to Fable 2 and 3. If you've never played a Fable game before this is a great place to start, but at full price, it's hard to wholly recommend over picking up the original Xbox Lost Chapters edition on the cheap.
Fable Anniversary review photo
Still chasin' them chickens
Fable and I have a history together. Ever since I learned of its existence in an official Xbox Magazine under the codename "Project Ego," I was enthralled by the promises of Peter Molyneux. Back then, he basically could ...

Fable photo
Fable

Fable Anniversary goes gold, pre-order bonuses announced


Sweet home Albion
Jan 10
// Abel Girmay
With just under a month until release, Fable Anniversary has gone gold and soon we will be able to remember what a proper Fable game feels like. Spare me your single-button combat silliness. As is par for the course, pre-orde...
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Fable Anniversary dated: February 4, 2014


Launch day content planned
Dec 12
// Dale North
Lionhead has announced that Fable Anniversary will launch on Xbox 360 on February 4, 2014 in North America, February 6 in Asia, and February 7 in Europe.  Get all the Fable your mind can take, now with HD 1080p graphics,...
Fable photo
Fable

A look at how Fable Anniversary updates its interface


Yup, that's a HUD, all right.
Nov 14
// Conrad Zimmerman
Progress continues to be made on Fable Anniversary, an HD remake of the original Fable game for Xbox 360 which will bring the entire series to the console. A recent post on Lionhead's developer blog from User Interface Artist...
Lionhead's new project photo
Lionhead's new project

Lionhead is working on an unannounced project


Please let it be Black & White 3
Nov 06
// Joshua Derocher
A former employee for Lionhead, Franck Laurin, has a job on his Linkedin profile listed as "Senior animator- Fable Legends and Un-announced project. at Lionhead Studios". Lionhead is the studio behind ...
CHICKEN CHASER! photo
CHICKEN CHASER!

Fable Anniversary delayed until February 2014


You'll have to wait a bit to chase them chickens
Sep 13
// Chris Carter
It appears as if Fable Anniversary won't be hitting your disc tray until February 2014, as the game has been pushed back a bit. No reason has been given for the delay, but my guess is it's to avoid the saturated holiday push ...
Fable dev online focused photo
Fable dev online focused

Every game from Fable dev will be 'online focused'


Is this a foible or are they able to do it right?
Aug 29
// Steven Hansen
At gamescom, Dale brought us a preview of Xbox One exclusive Fable Legends, which eschews pets and sidekicks for full, four player cooperative play. You can also apparently play as the game's villain, setting traps and contro...

Fable Legends: a first look at Lionhead's Xbox One title

Aug 20 // Dale North
Lionhead says that they're looking to make the ultimate Fable game. Albion's folklore and legends have been embraced for this game to fill out its world. And we got a quick look at it. We saw a beautiful forest filled with butterflies, bloomy lighting, and lush greenery -- visuals they say were made possible with the power of Xbox One and Unreal Engine 4.  A gameplay demo took place in a mission called The Moon on a Stick -- a fairytale legend about an artifact of the same name. The legend says that so many children wished on this this stick that wishes eventually started coming true. The player's goal is retrieve this artifact. Four hero characters were shown off during play. The first of the four Hero types was a brave and "dashing" swordsman that spouts off silly one-liners. The second, a Heroine of Strength, sported shiny armor, a huge shield, and a sharp sword. Heroes of will are magicians. Heroes of skill use archery and crossbows. All four fight in what looks to be classic Fable gameplay. The idea behind Fable Legends is that all four can combine to work together, with each providing a unique power to add to the mix. Lionhead says that they passed on pets and sidekicks, going for true cooperative play time time around. And it's up to you on how you play. Single player with three AI players? Fine. Two real and two AI? Works. Or, optimally, four live players. Any mix works.  We saw a short bit of four-player play in action. A Hero of Will spilled an ice spell over an edge to help a another player take out a mob down below. Heroes traveled together, but they're free to act on their own, using the terrain to their strength.   Villians are also playable in Fable Legends. As a villain, you control every minion and trap. You place them both before battle, and then spawn them when ready. With Smartglass you can control where, how, and when your hordes attack. You can use Smartglass to get a top-down view that you can command with your fingertips.  We witnessed a short battle where four heroes were up against a boss. The villain player controlled not only the ogre boss, but also other enemies, traps, and weapons.  Our first look at Fable Legends was a very short one, but Lionhead promises more soon. For now, I like the sound (and look) of a cooperative online adventure. 
Fable Legends first look photo
Four-player co-op, or play as the villain
At Microsoft's pre-gamescom Xbox One press event, we got our first look at Lionhead's newest for the console. Announced this morning, Fable Legends is not an MMO, though it is an online game. Lionhead calls it a true next-generation RPG. 

Fable photo
Fable

Here's the winning fan-made Fable Anniversary Achievement


It's pretty straightforward
Jul 19
// Jordan Devore
Earlier this month, Lionhead Studios put the call out for fans to design their own Achievement to be integrated in Fable Anniversary. The results are in, and the winning entry "Are you not entertained!?" will require players ...
Fable photo
Fable

Design an Achievement for Fable Anniversary


You have a lot of faith in us, Lionhead
Jul 09
// Jordan Devore
Lionhead Studios is taking the crowdsourcing approach to coming up with the last Achievement for Fable Anniversary. Now through July 14, you can submit ideas on the company's forums. "We'll be handing the creative baton to ou...
Free Xbox Live games photo
Two free games per month, on the 1st and 16th of each month
Microsoft answered the call of PlayStation Plus recently with their own "free games" program, offering two free games per month for Xbox Live Gold owners. Of course, the program is going to need a lot of work, as PS+ competit...

Fable Anniversary photo
Fable Anniversary

Fable: The Lost Chapters is getting remade on Xbox 360


Full HD treatment akin to Halo Anniversary
Jun 04
// Abel Girmay
Pretty big news for original Xbox fans has come today. Fable: The Lost Chapters will be getting the HD remake treatment this fall with Fable Anniversary. The original announcement comes by way of Lionhead's Tim Timmins and th...
Fable photo
Fable

Nice timing! Lionhead brings out new Fable forums


E3 is next week, in case you forgot
Jun 03
// Jordan Devore
Are you ready for another installment of Fable? Lionhead Studios has decided that the week before E3 is a good time to launch new Fable forums, which I'm sure it is. But the end result is speculation that this is a sign of an...
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Microsoft cuts Lionhead staff by 'less than 10%'


Devs disposed off once The Journey was finished
Oct 16
// Jim Sterling
Following the completion of Fable: The Journey, Microsoft shaved somewhere under 10% of Lionhead Studios' workforce, the publisher told GI International this week.  "We are working closely with the affected employees dur...
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Game packaging saves pennies, prints info on cover slips


Fiscal responsibility!
Oct 08
// Jim Sterling
It's no secret that game publishers hate using all that expensive paper and ink to make videogame manuals. Manuals lost their color, reduced the page count, and eventually started disappearing altogether, leaving only the hea...

Review: Fable: The Journey

Oct 07 // Jim Sterling
Fable: The Journey (Kinect)Developer: Lionhead StudiosPublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosRelease: October 9, 2012MSRP: $49.99 Fable: The Journey is the story of one man falling in romantic love with his horse. That is, at least, the impression I get of the relationship between protagonist Gabriel and the equestrian companion we spend most of our time with. There's some incidental storyline involving an ancient evil and Gabriel's heroic destiny, but the most pressing concern is clearly how much Gabriel wants to take that horse out to dinner.  In fairness, The Journey does retain some classic Fable charm, with lighthearted humor and silly characters, as well as the usual labored attempts to convince us we really do care about our pretend animal friend. It would have been easy for Lionhead to skimp entirely on the narrative and atmospheric aspect of the series for such a one-trick spin-off, but it has to be said that some effort was put into the writing and the retention of an environment in keeping with the series.  Effort, in fact, has been put into everything. Let it never be said that Fable: The Journey is the product of rushed development or a lack of attention. The graphics are relatively pretty, there's a simple but decent little upgrade system, and altogether it's evident that Lionhead worked hard on this latest Fable adventure. That does not mean, however, that it's good. Far from it. As much as Lionhead may have tried its level best, the limitations of Kinect ensure, at every step, that The Journey is boring when it works and tear-inducing when it doesn't.  [embed]236153:45344[/embed] Gameplay is split into roughly two distinct sequences - on-rails horse-and-cart stages and on-rails shooter stages. Typically, Gabriel will ride his horse, Seren, to a village or other area of interest, at which point he'll leave the cart for whatever contrived reason and blast at enemies using the magic gauntlets he acquires early in the adventure. Both sequences are in the first-person, with Gabriel and Seren's movements controlled automatically, though the player has some small measure of restricted locomotive control.  Horseback sections are viewed from within the cart, Gabriel holding the reins as Seren pulls him forward. To spur Seren between one of three speeds, the player must crack their arms up and down swiftly. Seren can also be slowed by drawing one's hands to the chest, or stopped suddenly by raising them above the head. By pulling one hand back and pushing the other forward, Seren can also be steered left or right in order to avoid obstacles or pick up experience orbs -- saved for use on a rudimentary skill tree that boosts health, improves the horse, or makes magic more efficient.  For the most part, Fable's horse riding sections surprise due to the fact that they actually work fairly well. Acceleration and steering are relatively responsive, though Seren's turns are a little unwieldy, tending to start slowly before suddenly curving. Though Seren will invariably end up smashing into something or missing orbs due to the unpredictability of the steering, at least I felt like the game always understood what I wanted it to do, something that so many motion-controlled games fail at. In this one area, The Journey stands head and shoulders above many others.  The only major problem is this -- riding a horse is boring, even when the game tries to gussy it up with fast-paced chase sequences or roadside distractions. No matter how often it tries to convince you it's exciting, carriage gameplay still just amounts to the player sat there, intermittently pushing and pulling imaginary reins. So slow are these sections that the game even frequently reminds you that you can just stop playing, put your arms down, and watch Seren do most of the work herself.  Combat sequences are dramatically less savory, and make one pray for the whole game to remain a dull roadtrip. Making many of the mistakes Sorcery did, The Journey's biggest failing is that guesswork is the primary mode of battle, since there's no targeting reticule and you're supposed to intuitively know where you'll be flinging your energy bolts. In theory, the idea of waving your arm and smashing stuff with magic balls is a great idea, but it can never quite work in practice. In any ideal playing situation, the Kinect isn't eye level, and thus can't provide a true 1:1 experience, not without it being suspended in the air directly in front of the television screen. As such, you're expected to just feel it out. If an enemy's approaching from the left, you throw your arm toward the left several times and hope you hit it.  With time, you'll eventually get a vague idea of where to thrust your limbs, but it'll never be perfect, and so projectiles will frequently miss -- especially when the merest twitch can make the difference of several meters in-game. For what it's worth, Gabriel has two magic spells -- a telekinetic "grab" move, bound to the left hand, and an offensive magic bolt bound to the right. With the left hand, players can latch onto enemies or objects and move them by swiping in the desired direction. With the right, players send out damaging attacks, and can later upgrade to fireballs by either waving the hand quickly or shouting "Fireball" at the Kinect. These spells can also change course in mid-air with a swipe of the hand -- theoretically, anyway. It rarely works in practice.  Gabriel can defend himself from melee and ranged attacks with the counter spell, a shield that is activated by drawing one's left arm up towards the body. This is the real pisser, since it seems to work on a totally arbitrary basis. Sometimes it'll activate without you actually doing anything, other times it won't work no matter how hard you try, even when it's really needed. The nature of the input is such that the game just can't efficiently tell if you're launching a grab spell or trying to shield, so it just decides for you.  Even if it worked perfectly, however, that wouldn't alter the fact that you're just playing a very, very poor version of House of the Dead. I like a good lightgun shooter, but "good" does not describe this spell-slinging trot through mundanity. Enemies are sparse and predictable, player attacks little more than just the same two spells spammed over and over. When playing a motion game, I find it a good mental exercise to imagine it played with a traditional controller or gun-like peripheral, and ask whether it would be acceptable by the standards of similar games -- after all, the gimmicky nature of the input shouldn't be an excuse for inadequate gameplay. No matter how The Journey would be controlled, it'd be vacuous to a mind-numbing degree.  Vacuous and, of course, not very comfortable. Being expected to repetitively thrust one's arms back and forth is wearisome work, and if you think it's just because I'm fat, do bear in mind I'm also an habitual masturbator -- my arms are used to a good workout. The simple fact is that the game, designed as it is to be played sat down, is a pain to play -- not least during moments when projectile commands just won't respond and you're forced to literally whip your arm forward to get the thing to recognize you. There's a reason why both the Xbox 360 and the game frequently remind you to rest your arms during the quieter on-rails sections. It knows how uncomfortable it is, and it doesn't care. Why should it care? Player comfort never matters when making tech demos for technology that's several years old! Yes, the "old tech demo" atmosphere that surrounds most Kinect and PlayStation Move games is here in full force, exemplified during moments of downtime where Gabriel comes to a rest stop. At rest stops, the player is made to perform all kinds of mime artistry, from healing wounds to pumping water to tugging on light switches to opening chests. Pretend to brush dirt off a horse, or why not pull an apple from a tree and hold it out for her? Naturally, any pretense of being a videogame is dropped for these sections, as the player performs banal gesture after banal gesture, in no way feeling like the entertainment value is being enhanced. You're not supposed to be entertained in these sections. You're supposed to be impressed by performing the same pantomimes you've been performing on this machine since 2010. Needless to say, only somebody with the memory retention of a goldfish could be impressed -- and even then, "impressed" may be too strong a word for it.  Every now and then, things may be spiced up with a very minor spin on the formula, but the intensity of any such changes are usually a case of smoke-and-mirrors. For instance, one level sees Gabriel trapped in a minecart as it speeds through a cavern, Hobbes launching a volley of missiles at him. For experimentation's sake, I put my hands down and watched to see if any of the considerable enemy fire would hit me. Gabriel got through the entire section unscathed, without me having to move a muscle. It really is difficult to understand how Peter Molyneux ever had the gall to say directly to peoples' faces that this thing wasn't on rails.  I'll confess to not seeing The Journey through to its ultimate conclusion for, after one failed counter spell too many, an unplanned event happened that saw the disc find its way into my hand -- whereby it took on a new, bendier shape and became unreadable by the Xbox. However, my elbows are thankful for the respite and, given that the hours already spent in Albion hadn't changed one iota since the adventure began, I'm confident in the knowledge that nothing of value was lost. Nothing can change the fact that, in its very best moments, The Journey is stale, and at its worst, it inspires the player to try and crush the disc with arms rendered too weary to crush an egg. As I said early in the review, Lionhead did try. However, it tried to accomplish the wrong things. It didn't try to make the game enjoyable for the player, nor did it try and make things engaging or fun. It tried to show off to the audience, to make them think what they were seeing was clever, rather than entertaining. The Journey is a child screaming at its parents to watch as it does a handstand, blissfully unaware that the adults are only feigning interest as the uncoordinated minor repeatedly falls to the ground and tries again, before managing maybe three or four seconds of stability.  In other words, it's yet another motion control game masquerading as something adventurous and bold, but frequently exposing itself for the shallow, monotonous, borderline broken experience it actually is. While some elements of Fable: The Journey really do work, and no effort has been spared to make this look and feel like a quality product, the reality is that no amount of polish can hide the inherent faultiness of the end result. The Journey wants so desperately to impress you, but it can only ever ruin your day.  And it's on-rails.
Fable: The Journey photo
Looking a gift horse in the mouth
The fatal flaw of Kinect games is that they are built on a foundation of lies. You are the controller -- except most games control much of the action themselves to make up for the lack of input. It's more immersive -- except ...

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Preview: Fable: The Journey


Sep 18
// Abel Girmay
I have a bit of a sordid history with the Fable franchise. Despite the now-infamous promises it never delivered on, I absolutely adored the first Fable, as what was delivered was a finely crafted game, and one of my favorite ...
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A look inside Fable: The Journey


Aug 20
// Fraser Brown
With Fable: The Journey offering up hours of wagon riding, spell flinging, arm flailing, and regional British accents on October 9, Lionhead have put together a few developer diaries. In this first one the team talks ab...

About fantasy: Please let there be a dragon extinction

Jun 27 // Ryan Perez
Sending all elves to the back of the class wouldn't be a bad idea. The thing about fantasy that lends itself best to creativity is that no rules exist ... literally. At no point does anyone see a mage fire a bolt of lightning from his finger and say, "Wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense!" The genre, at its core, only requires one thing from the person experiencing it: to leave their disbelief at the door. More often than not, people forget to bring it with them from the start. Fantasy is simply make-believe; the unreal and illogical fabrication of things that likely cannot and often do not exist in this thing we call "real life." Essentially, it's a creative mind's wet dream. The very nature of fantasy should beckon the most insane ideas ever concocted for aesthetic and narrative pleasure.  If Japanese entertainment retains one quality that I do admire, it's that they completely understand this flexibility. Fantasy is a subgenre that is so widespread and standard throughout Japanese games, manga and anime that few people even bother identifying its elements at all. Some of the country's most memorable entertainment franchises have tossed bits of illogical fabrication into its sci-fi, historical fiction, and even American-inspired Westerns! Our Eastern brothers know more than anyone that this genre welcomes with open arms whatever crazy shit our minds can come up with. So then my annoyance should be at the endless amount of fantasy that's impossible to distinguish and keep track of, yes? Unfortunately, that's not the case with our side of the industry. The reality is that, if you've experienced one American or European fantasy title, you've pretty much experienced them all. The key reason for this, as I hope most of you are aware of at this point, is the genre's emphasis on Western mythologies -- Scandinavian, to be precise. Most others will gladly point out that this is, duh, the Western world, and that such a natural interest in European shit should be a no-brainer. To which I reply: We play Japanese games on a regular basis (some of us even prefer them), so such an excuse is simply stupid. One would think it's common sense to encourage the stretching of this young industry's already atrophic legs. Samanosuke Akechi: Part samurai, part demon slayer, all Japanese. While we do get a few decent exceptions and mold-breaking titles from time to time, the fact remains that the majority of these mystical worlds we experience often feature a lot of the same things over, and over, and over again. But why do we as an industry perpetually gravitate towards the now mundane world of Scandinavian mythology, when we've been provided so many examples of how great settings can be when they've been inspired by Eastern cultures? A core fundamental in fantasy is world building based on reference. The genre is all about taking bits and pieces from specific cultures and blending them together with supernatural elements, unique customs, fabricated life forms, and funny words that readers never manage to pronounce correctly. The potential for unique and intriguing settings should be endless, considering how history provides us with a considerably large variety of foundations to choose from. Hence my frustration with Skyrim; I had the chance to be thrust into a foreign world, and be completely engrossed in it, both by the boundlessness of the game and the unknown setting around me. Unfortunately, you couldn't have put me in more familiar surroundings if you based the game in downtown San Francisco. I remember a moment in Skyrim when I was conversing with a Redguard, and thinking to myself, "Wait a minute, I want to go wherever the fuck you're from!" With his dark skin and his baggy, desert-conscious attire, I couldn't help but assume that his home of Hammerfell was based on Islamic culture (though I could be wrong, as I've never seen it). How much do I know about Middle-Eastern society? Jack shit. Considering how little I've been exposed to that part of the world, it should go without saying that wandering about an arid world and conversing with cultural beliefs, mannerisms and aesthetics completely unlike those of European societies would intrigue the hell out of me. This was the reason I preferred the second acts in both Diablo II and III. and the reason I'm looking forward to ... um, you know, all those other impending games with Middle-Eastern stuff in them. So many come to mind, you know. "This creed of the desert seemed inexpressible in words, but never in videogames." -T.E. Lawrence The 2005 Xbox title, Jade Empire, was interesting to me for this very reason -- fantasy based on an unfamiliar cultural foundation. After viewing the game's "making of" feature, I was overwhelmingly excited about how much time and effort BioWare put into researching Chinese history, religion, and mythology. And it really showed, so much that the game has burned more long-lasting imagery into my brain than almost any other title in the past 10 years. The moment I entered heaven and spoke to the elephant demon, Shining Tusk, I was already preparing to throw my money at a sequel. Alas, not enough people bought it -- due to the lack of green-skinned meatheads with underbites and tusks, I'm assuming -- so BioWare will probably never touch the franchise again. And yes, I know JE also had dragons in it, but it doesn't take a genius to see the difference between the Chinese type and the reptilian fire-breathers that we're used to. The one in Jade was literally a goddess. It's a damned shame that games like these are often overlooked, though, and lost in an ever-deepening sea of clichéd concepts, generic routine and ball-numbing repetition. Again, if you really broaden your perspective of this industry, you'll learn that this "hardcore" market we so proudly consider ourselves a part of suffers from a lot of the same issues we snicker at Hollywood for. People were really excited for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and my first reaction was, "You have got to be kidding me." "No, no," their reply often was. "It's like Fable, but better. It's what Fable should have been." If Amalur was influenced by something like, say, Indian culture/mythology, then they would have had a point. I would have agreed that Fable should have been that very thing, and Amalur is worthy of anyone's financial support. As far as I could see, though, they were suckered into buying the same make and model of automobile, simply because the newer one had a different antenna ball. Jade Empire's demons were nothing like those of my culture, which interested me all the more. Of course, most people are going to chime in with the expected, "Well, if that's what we the market want, then that's what you're gonna get." Yes, that's entirely true, but that doesn't make it good ... or even acceptable. I don't usually try to be openly antagonistic, but if you're a proud member of this particular, "I'll eat whatever is in front of me," demographic, then you're one of the contributors to this problem. For us individuals who aspire to experience the endless creative potential that this medium holds, you types are one of the reasons we're sometimes prevented that pleasure.  Honestly, how many goddamned McNugget Happy Meals do you need to eat before you'll try some other restaurant on the block? It's a big freakin' neighborhood, in case you haven't bothered to look yet. I apologize for being so crass, but this actually does kind of piss me off. It's like visiting a gym that only ever plays Katie fucking Perry ... yeah, you bet it's going to drive me crazy after a while. And I'm very aware of the vast number of you who share my sentiment, considering that I'm practically repeating concerns of yours word-for-word. The problem with you guys is one that actually bums me out more than the aforementioned folk: You too perpetuate this banal market. Really, you guys have no problem buying every little piece of generic Western fantasy crap that comes out, even though you're openly bored with it all. In reality, all you have to do is stop buying the shit. I know, it's an odd concept, this "not buying something because I want it different or better," but it does work. Has nobody yet told you that a free market acts much like a democratic system? Yeah, your dollar is basically a vote. Not enough votes means Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak doesn't get elected again. This is why we'll never see Jade Empire 2 in office; dunderhead conservatives keep voting Scandinavian. Despise DRM? Don't buy games that have it. Want Nintendo to branch out of their usual first-party franchises? Stop paying for every mother-sexing Mario game they fart out. If you don't spend money on it, companies tend to change their product or try something new ... sometimes for the better. Of course, the potential for them to discontinue it altogether does exist, but that's a risk we're willing to take, right? Right. I find it hard to distinguish Twihards from lovers of generic Western fantasy. I'll admit, I did buy Skyrim, but it was the only fantasy game I bought of this entire generation (besides Diablo 3), and mainly due to the overwhelming mainstream success it achieved. Really, if you're like me and you are fairly burnt out on Dragonworld #5,143,234 ... simply don't buy the next one. It truly is as easy as that. Trust me, you're not missing a whole lot. Perhaps with enough of us refusing to throw our votes at every AAA scrap that's thrown our way, we can enjoy some real variety, not only in the one-trick pony that is fantasy, but in the medium as a whole. So now I'm stuck at a crossroads. I have this game, Skyrim, that I do want to play, because it really is fun doing the things I get to do in it. Creeping in the shadows and assassinating baddies with my ridiculously lavish bow is an absolute blast. Also, ever since playing Fallout 3, I've fallen madly in love with Bethesda's open-world style; it's like an MMO, but all the assholes are NPCs. The problem is that I find myself dozing off whenever someone starts yammering on about this Dovacrap, though I suppose it's a credit to the game that its talking dragons aren't Scottish misogynists. Oh well, perhaps I need to take the good with the bad for now. Or at least hold out until Bethesda sets an Elder Scrolls game in Hammerfell.
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One of the hardest things for me to understand is whenever someone belittles a "casual" game (whatever that may be to them) by claiming it's either unoriginal or lacks any sort of cutting-edge quality. I find this funny, beca...

E3: Fable: The Journey is not on-rails, kind of

Jun 10 // Brett Zeidler
[embed]229167:44008[/embed] I'm dropped into a later point in the game, five years after Fable III. The Corruption that had plagued Albion before is back, and it has taken up shop in The Spire. Taking the role of Gabriel (an "accidental hero"), I find myself in his horse carriage, escaping from an unknown entity. I set off by reaching my arms out and snapping the reins on my two horses. As we travel, every once in a while we are faced with a choice to either go left or right. Obstacles get in the way, and the only way to avoid them is by directing the horses left by pulling in my left arm and stretching out my right, and vice versa for turning right. After traveling alongside a few different wooded areas and around a huge mountain bend (which you can fall off and die), I pick up quite a few experience orbs and sprint-extending objects. Eventually, Gabriel comes to a stop after he spots something in the woods and out comes a defenseless, frightened Theresa. This is something we've never seen from her character before and it's something we'll be seeing quite a bit in the end product. Theresa gets in the carriage and we head off in a hurry as the Corruption comes out of nowhere, surrounding us in no time at all. I whip my horse into motion and we're well on our way to get the hell out of there. The Corruption attempts to swallow us and block our path, but it's nothing I can't handle after mastering the reins from earlier. After a mix of strategically snapping the reins like crazy and grabbing a plethora of sprint extenders, we escape the Corruption at the end of the first part of the demo. Like Fable II and III, Lionhead wants the player to create an emotional bond with an animal companion in the game. Before, it was with the dogs. Now, you have two horses. To help create this bond, Lionhead made it so that if you're too harsh on your horses and force them to sprint too hard and fast, you will eventually see scars appear on them. I remember how I managed to escape the Corruption earlier and, while it was essential for survival, a sense of regret overcomes me. Our carriage rolls up in front of a giant ancient door that has two orange and blue orbs each. Gabriel gets out and stands in front of the door. This is where we learn to use our two spells. In the left hand, a blue spell will appear once raised (or right, if you're right-handed). I clear the two blue orbs by pushing my hand forward at the door. Well, after I miss by a mile a few times and embarrass myself, of course. After a few shots, I've got the hang of things, though. Now for those orange orbs. I have to first pull out the blue spell and turn it into a fire spell. There's two ways this can be done: first, you can wave your hand from right to left quickly or you can utilize the voice capabilities of the Kinect. Yelling "Fire!", "Fire spell!", "Flame on!" or any variant of a fire-related term you can think of will turn it into that orange glowing ball of flame. I make quick work of the last orbs and Theresa lets me know she'll wait outside, leaving me to brave the unexplored cave. Gabriel starts into the cave and almost immediately he's attacked by Hollow Men. They're a bit too close for comfort, so I raise my right hand to bring up the push spell and give myself a bit of breathing room. I can also use the right-handed spell like a whip to latch onto the Hollow Men and rip apart their limbs piece by piece. Or one can just shoot repeatedly at the enemies, as you do. After a couple waves of Hollow Men, Gabriel makes his way up a short flight of stairs and reaches his hands into an altar that contains a shallow pool of water. This is how the player will receive new spells throughout the game. The spell I'm given is activated by reaching behind my head, as if I'm holding a javelin. This makes a spear appear. Yeah, I'm ready to rid this cave of Hollow Men. While spearing a wave of Hollow Men on a cliff above me, my terrible aim gets on my nerves. I found out that you can apply an "after touch" to your spell that you cast. If timed correctly, this can turn your horrible aiming into stylish kills. I finally make my way to the end of the cave, where a giant rock troll is residing. He sends handfuls of hollow men and throws rocks at me, which I can either block, push back, or dodge by leaning left or right to find cover. I eventually spot a giant sword conveniently placed above the troll's head. One spear was all it took to make the sword stab the troll like a hot knife cutting into an ice cream cake. To put him out of his misery, I latched onto the sword with my right-handed spell and pulled it further into his back and watched the life fade from his neon-blue eyes. Being a Fable game, The Journey involves exploring. Even though you cannot explicitly pick every step you take, you can pick paths, slow down, speed up, figure out new ways to handle each combat encounter, and explore the many ways to interact with your own spells. Even though the game is only 10-15 hours long, Lionhead is creating the biggest Fable they've ever made. The Kinect controls were hard to get used to at first, but once I was comfortable with them I felt overtly powerful I could handle anything with the palette I was given.
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Lionhead Studios is no stranger to making spin-offs for Fable. The first was an Xbox Live Arcade tie-in with Fable II called Pub Games, which was a collection of mini-games that appeared in the game and would allow you to car...

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E3: Fable: The Journey pegged for Holiday 2012


Jun 04
// Jim Sterling
At Microsoft's E3 press conference, it was revealed that Kinect's TOTALLY NOT ON-RAILS GUYS Fable spin-off, Fable: The Journey will be available for the holiday season of 2012. One can reasonably expect to see it at some poin...

Review: Fable Heroes

Apr 30 // Maurice Tan
Fable Heroes (Xbox Live Arcade)Developer: Lionhead StudiosPublisher: Microsoft StudiosReleased: May 2, 2012MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points First things first: no, this is not that (non-)linear Kinect game where you shout at your horse. Fable Heroes is the result of Lionhead's yearly "Creative Day," during which employees can come up with creative new ideas (think Double Fine's Amnesia Fortnight). Although the four-player, hack-and-slash genre may not be the most innovative of gaming experiences on offer, Fable Heroes does sport some creative touches where you least expect them. Each player selects one of ten hero puppets that represent characters from the Fable series, then either goes online to fight through some of Albion's more memorable locations together or sticks with offline solo and local co-op play. It's your regular hack-and-slash fare, with normal and "flourish" attack moves serving as your quick and heavy attacks, while the right trigger is reserved for an area-of-effect attack that costs health every time you use it. [embed]226606:43533[/embed] You shouldn't really think too hard about why you are in control of puppets -- which can look creepy or cute depending on your point of view -- and neither should you think about why the menagerie of Fable enemies, such as Balverines, Hobbes, and Sand Furies, isn't in puppet form itself. In fact, Fable Heroes doesn't require much of your cognitive capabilities at all. Hacking and slashing your way through the six levels in Albion is as straightforward as it can be. You follow a path, collect coins which count towards your score and which act as currency for upgrading abilities, and kill enemies until a "Go" sign says you can progress. At some point before the end of a level, a choice of two paths is offered, one of which usually leads to a boss or a button-mashing mine cart or boat ride mini-game. As easy as all of that sounds, it's not as smooth an experience as it should be. For starters, the controls are sluggish. Especially when playing as Garth or Jack of Blades -- who float in mid-air -- it's very hard to have any sense of precision as to where you are in relation to the ground. This is slightly less of a problem with the melee characters, while ranged characters like Reaver also control a bit odd when switching from stationary ranged pistol attacks to running around to collect coins. The controls are not so much a problem when it comes to dispatching enemies, as you'll just aim in their general direction and mash the same button over and over again for what is usually the entire duration of a level. Where it does become an issue is when you try to pick up coins. As long as you don't get hit, your multiplier bar will increase with each enemy kill, and it will only slowly decrease when you don't kill anything for a while. The higher your multiplier, the more coins you'll collect when running over them. On the Normal and Challenging difficulty settings, it's these coins that define how well you did in a level. The player who has the highest coin score at a level's end will stand victorious on a podium, while the player who was least successful in their scramble for monetary gain is rewarded with a sad trombone. In what is a very creative visual solution to indicate how long coins remain on the playfield, large coins spin around and only flicker and disappear after falling flat on one side. However, all coins of any size and value disappear far too quickly, making it a scramble for coins to get on the victory podium for trash talking's sake. What's worse, the act of collecting coins is bothersome since it can be very hard to gauge where your character is on the 3D playing field, usually meaning you'll walk right past these coins instead of picking up them up. This results in chaos, with players often running and rolling in all directions except the piece of ground where the biggest coin is located, simply because the controls and the slightly tilted camera angle don't allow for the kind of precision movement required to pick up every coin on the ground. During solo play, the AI puppets also seem to randomly decide to steal your coins or wait for you to pick them up. The only time this shouldn't become an issue is on the Family difficulty, where players collect coins for a shared pool which is later distributed among each of the four puppets, but even then, it's a hassle to do such a basic thing as collecting all coins before they disappear. Another big problem with the use of coins as a primary competitive driver is that, any time a player dies, the hero puppet turns into a spectral form which can deal damage but can't pick up coins until you collect a heart item which provides health. Until puppets are "leveled up" a bit, death can come easily to melee characters. This means that, as a ranged character, you can risk a tiny bit of damage then steal any heart that appears so that other (melee-oriented) players will eventually die, steal all the coins, and laugh as your co-players rage. In solo play, the AI will take care of this job for you, stealing hearts away from the player even if they desperately need them. After a level, each of the four characters is awarded dice depending on how many coins they have collected. These are used in a board game of sorts, where a throw of the die moves your character to spots where you can upgrade specific abilities. Increased damage against certain types of enemies or against the highly repetitive bosses, increased speed, and new puppets to play with are among the range of upgrades you can purchase with the coins you've tried so hard to walk over. Over time, each puppet (even those that are AI-controlled in solo play) will become powerful enough to make an already easy game even easier. As uninspired as Fable Heroes is when it comes to its core design, it offers a surprisingly nice touch with its credits level. Here, you can destroy the developer team's names while some enemies wield letters as weapons. It's a fun way to do a credits sequence, and it ends up being a full-fledged level to boot. After playing through the six levels and the bonus credit level, you are awarded access to Dark Albion, where you can play through all these levels again. Dark Albion levels are (surprise, surprise) dark versions of Albion levels. They are slightly more challenging, but the level layouts are the same. This means that if you want to "complete" Fable Heroes, you can either choose to spend the hour or so to run through each Albion level once and leave it at that, or you can play through each level in both regular Albion and Dark Albion twice, to unlock each path for each level. Essentially, you'll have to play every less-than-exciting level four times for completion's sake. Even though the combat is a matter of mashing buttons, the controls make a chicken-kicking mini-game almost impossible to play, power-ups often work against you while they are considered to be positive by the game, and the biggest drive behind cooperative and competitive play -- collecting coins -- is poorly implemented due to a lack of precise control and the short lifespan of coins, none of these aspects are the title's biggest crime. Fable Heroes is merely boring beyond belief. No matter if you are playing in co-op or on your own, you'll have trouble paying attention to what is going on in the game. Due to the extremely simple combat and repetitive nature of the levels, it can be played on autopilot while you read about something slightly more exciting on a second screen, such as the family history of 16th century Dutch Stadtholders. If you are playing with a child, the kid will likely prefer to talk about his or her grades rather than focus on the messy action on-screen. It is by far the most boring gaming experience I've had in years, and I'm hard-pressed to imagine anything more coma-inducing than playing all of the levels on offer more than once, other than perhaps watching a Steven Soderbergh film without sound or subtitles or listening to Anvilania's national anthem for five hours straight. Having to play through each level four times just to complete the game can at best be considered a punishment. Fable Heroes is a mediocre game at best, largely due to imprecise controls that are exacerbated by its scoring mechanics. If it was even slightly exciting to play, all of its issues could be overlooked in favor of a capability to provide simple cooperative family entertainment. Unfortunately, it is not.
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One part hack, one part slash, and one part four-player cooperative Fable with puppet heroes. Fable Heroes would be the last thing you would expect Lionhead Studios to come up with if Fable: The Journey hadn't been announced already. In true Lionhead fashion, Fable Heroes is a game that made me feel emotions I hadn't felt in more than a year, but perhaps not the kind that it intended to elicit.

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Molyneux accepts 'personal failure' for Fable III


Apr 11
// Jim Sterling
It's a glorious day, because I get to talk about the Molyneux Cycle once more. It's the method by which Molyneux attempts to make his next game look good by trash talking the last one he made -- the last game being one he hyp...
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Fable: The Journey for 'serious' gamers only


Apr 04
// Chris Carter
Unless you're a "serious" gamer, you need not apply to Fable: The Journey, the latest "not on rails" on-rails Kinect game. Lionhead Studios issued a statement regarding the content on FTJ -- "Needless to say we are very proud...
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Trials Evolution, Minecraft XBLA given prices and dates


Mar 22
// Jordan Devore
"Arcade NEXT" is the latest promotion Microsoft has whipped up for Xbox Live Arcade. If you're starting to think these things aren't packing the same punch that they used to, you're not alone. Trials Evolution (1200 MS Point...
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The DTOID Show: GDC 2012 Wrap-up!


Mar 11
// Tara Long
Did you catch today's live Destructoid Show? We're all thoroughly exhausted from GDC, but Hamza Aziz, Jordan Devore, and Conrad Zimmerman were good sports and stopped by the studio for some good old-fashioned video game disc...
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Peter Molyneux leaving Lionhead, forming 22 Cans


Mar 07
// Jim Sterling
Enthusiastic game developer and perpetual backpeddler Peter Molyneux has announced that he is leaving the developer he co-founded, Lionhead Studios. This departure also marks his exit from Microsoft Studios.  "It is with...

Preview: Bring out your inner child with Fable: Heroes

Mar 05 // Wesley Ruscher
[embed]223170:42934[/embed] Fable: Heroes (Xbox Live Arcade) Developer: Lionhead Studios Publisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: 2012 Twelve characters are available to choose from in what is best described as a four-player co-op beat-’em-up. The drop-in-and-drop-out experience can be played either online or offline in any combination of players, but one thing is constant: there are always four characters hacking and slashing their way through this delightful Albion. As I worked my way through an area known as Millfields, armed with the brute strength of Fable II’s powerful heroine Hammer, smashing hobbes -- no matter how cute they look now -- brought back a nostalgia I hadn’t felt since I played Streets of Rage 2. The similarities to the iconic beat-’em-up didn’t end there. The combat mechanics boil down to light and heavy attacks, an evasive roll, and a special radial attack. This special attack reminded me the most of the Sega Genesis classic, since players must sacrifice one heart from their health to pull off the deadly maneuver. While every character controls identically, they offer many different play styles. Pretty much all the varieties of combat found in past iterations of the Fable franchise are available. And just as in Heroes’ big brothers, each character can be upgraded and customized with around 40 unique abilities. There’s a style for everyone, but it takes a well-balanced team to get the most out of each stage. What would a Fable game be without choice and mischief? Each main area offers branching paths that must be unanimously agreed upon in order for a party to proceed. It’s all for one, or none at all. Where the paths go is a mystery the first time through. I played the demo twice to see both outcomes. One path took my crew to a boss fight with a large queen beetle, the other to a mini-game with some exploding chickens. Treasure boxes fill the landscape and force players to race each other for the bonuses within, such as combat multipliers and gold. In an especially cruel twist, certain areas contain good and evil chests. Players can only open one, but when they do, one of the four players is selected at random to receive the reward or punishment. These can range from coin bonuses to being cursed with a storm cloud that causes one to drop his or her hard-earned money, free for the taking, until the effect wears off. There seems to be a lot of replayability to Heroes. Those who need a holdover until Fable: The Journey arrives later this year will be able to transfer gold earned here into that upcoming Kinect title. If you tend to find Fable games on the easy side, you’re in luck: beyond the three base difficulties, there is an extra Dark Albion mode that should offer the challenge that many fans have asked for. Fable: Heroes caught me by surprise. The series has always been by far my favorite Xbox 360 exclusive, with Fable II ruling as king. But Heroes’ cute visuals, wrapped in a beat-’em-up package and garnished with an sprinkle of RPG goodness, might well make it my go-to Fable experience.
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Perhaps the biggest surprise at Microsoft’s recent Xbox 360 spring showcase was the announcement of Fable: Heroes for Xbox Live Arcade. Built by some of Lionhead’s biggest Fable fans, Heroes pays homage to many o...

Preview: Discovering the emotion of Fable: The Journey

Mar 05 // Wesley Ruscher
Fable: The Journey (Kinect for Xbox 360)Developer: Lionhead StudiosPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: 2012With the crack of the reins, my journey through the Albion countryside began. Holding my arms out was not required, and instead a simple left-or-right gesture from my hands (that rested comfortably in my lap) steered my gentle steed down the dusty dirt roads towards the unknown. For the most part, Seren obeyed my guidance, but at times, I had a hard time grasping where my hands needed to be to properly control his gallop when evil threats arose. It was during one wild chase that my companion began to act differently in our escape. As I pulled back on the reins, tugging at his bit, we came to stop on a side path that offered some shelter. His canter was one that writhed in agony the harder I pushed him out of harm's way. I could tell he had been injured. As I stepped down from my carriage, I moved towards my brave friend to offer him what aid I could. Three arrows had found their way into his hide. I reached for the first one and pulled it out with short tug, the second sliding out just as effortlessly. Pulling back firmly on the final arrow, Seren jumped in pain. I had been too violent, causing him more anguish, and needed to slowly retrieve the splintered wood with a peaceful pluck.Seren was better, but not at full strength. So with what little magical knowledge I possessed, I placed my hand onto his wounds. A calming, circular caress eased his pain as a warm glow radiated from my palm. The cuts from the arrows began to heal and I could tell that my friend was feeling better. If only I had an apple to give him as a reward, something to show my affection. We were secure for the moment, so I brought out my map to see what possible mystery laid concealed on our course. There’s still an abundance of the unknown in Albion, as the world holds just as many secrets like the fables of past heroes I read about when I was but a child. With this knowledge in hand, I left my resting stallion to explore on my own. Proceeding on foot, I stood in front of a large stone entrance. Locked in my stance, swarm after swarm of insects shot at me like little warnings, begging me not to press on. I reared back my right hand, conjuring a fiery blast. With a ferocious toss forward, the bugs popped in my inferno, but as more darted at me, I realized, a simple flick of my fingers was all that was needed. There was power in my subtlety; something I had not expected.With the door's guardians subdued, all that was left was a simple magical riddle to solve. Five seals rested like locks for me to pick on this granite gateway. Precise flicks released the keys to unfasten the mystery ahead, teaching me that I could be just as selective with my supernatural gifts as destructive. What was beyond the doorway, though, I would have to save for another day. As I made way back to my carriage, the most deadly of threats presented itself. Wild balverines jumped down from the hills, their howls shrieking across my spine. I stood firmly in place, ready for combat. In my right hand burned the deadly flames, but now, in my left, I conjured a whip-like tentacle attack. Bouncing back and forth, the balverines avoided most of my blasts as they anticipated my moves. I threw my left hand forward, trapping one of the weaker warriors in a tentacle, my right followed incinerating the threat. Another jumped towards me, and like a whip I cracked my tentacle, sending the balverine in the air for an easy follow-up. Their leader, with his white fur gleaming, was even more cunning than the rest of the pack. Fire blast, then tentacle, tentacle, then fire blast; he was too quick. I was at a loss, questioning if these would be my final breaths, and that’s when my opening came. As my snowy attacker regrouped himself on a large stone column, I threw my tentacle out towards its base. He quickly jumped to the adjacent column, but it was too late. As I pulled back the column crumbled, crashing into the other, trapping my foe underneath its rubble. I was safe for now. Adventure, exploration, discovery; these are all things I still question. I was just coming to grips with the powers I possessed, but I had not even bothered to see how the soothing or passionate levels of my voice could calm or enrage my spells. What would happen if I clasped my magical hands together ... would they created even more beauty and destruction? There is much left to unravel in Fable: The Journey. How much freedom truly exists? How guided will this adventure be? Hopefully these answers come soon, as my brief travels in Albion have me excited to come back and visit again later this year.
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If it is one thing the controller cannot do anymore, it’s offer a player “that sense of discovery which we had with the early days of games.” That’s what Peter Molyneux, the visionary behind Fable: Th...

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The DTOID Show: Now with a helping of Jim Sterling!


Aug 22
// Tara Long
Oh hey there, Destructoid. I didn't see you come in. I was just watching this evening's episode of The Destructoid Show, starring myself and Mr. Jim Sterling. Oh, and Max makes an appearance, too... I guess. First up on toda...

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