Over the years, the Fable games have pushed the boundaries of both fantasy and role-playing. But at a recent Microsoft event held at The Bentley Reserve in San Francisco, we got to see two very different visions of Fable's future.
In a demo session, Lionhead patriarch Peter Molyneux showed off Fable: The Journey, which he calls a fully-functioning RPG that could've been named Fable 5, but isn't. Except, instead of using a controller, the game uses the Kinect sensor in some very unique ways.
Citing how games used to be about discovery, and how we've lost that sensation, Molyneux says you'll have to intuitively figure out how to play the game on your own. Playing from a first-person viewpoint, the first part of the demo has you on a horse drawn carriage. Which prompted our demo subject, one of our fellow journalists, to move her hands like she was holding a bridle, shaking it up and down to get the horse to move, and pulling one of them back to get the horse to turn.
Similarly, combat was also intuitive but never explained. Flicking your right hand, you deploy such magic spells as a fireball (though it was unclear how you'd chose which spells you'd be casting). Conversely, moving the right hand caused a glowing, octopus-looking magical ball to send out tendrils that acted like the lashes of a whip.
While both attacks were effective, when the demo ended, Molyneux pointed out that you can combine the magic and magical whip attacks together. He also noted that you'll also be able to employ verbal commands, not only with the horse—i.e., saying "woah" to get him to stop—but also in combat, with loud yells intensifying the strength of your attacks.
While Fable: The Journey showed us how the game is using new technology to create a new adventure, Fable: Heroes shows that that there's still some life left in the old ways. A downloadable game coming to XBLA, Heroes is a Gauntlet-style, cel-shaded, arcadey, hack-and-slash action game with a cartoony look. Playable solo, but really meant to be played with up to three friends—either online, while sitting together on the couch, or in some combination of the two—the game is a faithful recreation of the games of yore, complete with fantastic creatures who drop gold coins when they die.
But while similar games encourage you to work together, Heroes has more of a competitive streak. Not only can you trade in those gold coins for new or improved abilities at the end of a level, but the one who grabs the most gold in a level is put on an Olympic-style pedestal, while the one who grabs the least is mocked. You also have to fight for power-ups, since, during normal adventures, there's only one in any given section, and its power—be it to make you bigger, or smaller, or faster—only effects the user.
Heroes isn't totally stuck in the past, though. As with so many of these games, getting hurt causes you to lose a red heart, and losing too many will leave you dead. But this doesn't end your quest in Heroes. Instead, you turn into a ghost, and can still attack your enemies. The kicker being, as a ghost, you can't pick up any gold, leaving the spoils of war for your friends. And while you can come back to life by grabbing a heart, your pals might grab them first if they've been hurt and don't feel like going full Casper.
Finally, Lionhead revealed that there will be a bit of a connection between the two Fables. Any gold you collect in Heroes will be automatically transferred into Journey, while playing Journey will unlock that game's main character in Heroes.
Whether either or both games can live up to the exalted legacy of Fable, though, remains to be seen, as Heroes isn't due out until the summer, and Journey will be out after that. But if Journey can keep half the promises its demo made, and if Heroes can be as effortlessly fun in the long run as the single level we got to play, its legacy should be safe.
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*