It’s been just over four years since I wrote one of my most popular posts ever, Why Fable 3 is an Embarrassment to Video Games, and the series has never recovered since.
I don’t mean to take all the credit, but at one point my post was so popular that it was the number two or three thing that came up when you searched for ‘Fable 3.’ It can’t have hurt, and the reality is that future fully-fledge Fable projects were all-but abandoned as a result, and when the series has come back to life, it’s been warped into something…odd.
First there was Fable: The Journey, an atrocious Kinect-based game that was atrocious because anything described as “Kinect-based game” that isn’t Dance Central is going to be atrocious. Let me reiterate, it was atrocious. Then comes Fable Legends, a “rebirth” of the series which takes the game out of being an RPG and makes it a multiplayer combat game in the style of the also-upcoming 4v1 Evolve where four heroes take on a villain in a variety of maps.
Potentially cool, but probably not, and definitely not Fable 4, a game which doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to exist, despite the love many once had for the Fable series as a Microsoft exclusive.
Fable 2 was one of my favorite games at the time of its release. It improved in nearly every way from the original game, and was a delightfully fun, colorful, accessible RPG.
Fable 3 was a disaster.
The game had an utter refusal to innovate, and the difficulty had gone from “relatively easy” to “wiffle ball” where the press of a single spell button could liquefy an entire room of enemies. I highly suggest you read my entire lengthy review for the full scoop, but my favorite highlight was that my white hero and his white wife managed to have a black child because of the sheer and utter laziness of the programming. It was a hilarious example of the very real and endless faults with the final product.
The response to Fable 3 was dismal, and yet, I never thought it was so bad it would kill the series entirely, which is effectively what happened. You can say the series live on through Legends, but a faux-MOBA is not what most had in mind when they pictured the triumphant return of the series.
Part of the reason Fable 4 may never exist is because mastermind Peter Molyneaux has taken his eccentric brain elsewhere, and is probably currently designing a phone game that’s linked to your heartbeat or something. The man is a mad genius, but the past few years the emphasis appears to be on the “mad,” and he’s done little of value when compared to his Black and White/Fable days.
And yet, I don’t think Microsoft should let Fable languish the way they have. Either figure out how to reboot Lionshead or get the property to a new developer, and bring the world back to life again. There’s a persistent need for every beloved single-player game under the sun to now move to multiplayer, and now that’s even infected Fable. But Fable fans don’t want that. Liking an RPG does not translate into liking a 4v1 mini-MOBA-whatever-the-hell-Legends-is. It might not suck, and that would be cool, but Fable 4 needs to happen regardless.
The roadmap is there, and there’s proof that single-player RPGs are still in-demand, as evidenced by Dragon Age: Inquisition and everyone on earth dying to play Elder Scrolls VI sometime before they die of old age. And this is an age where Microsoft very, very much needs exclusives to compete with the likes of Sony. They’ve been on a role recently between Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief Collection compared to Sony’s well…nothing, and a new true Fable game would work magic in 2015 or 2016.
The roadmap to fix the series is there, and everyone knows all things that made Fable 3 so shitty. But the way to fix them wasn’t to transform the series into another genre, it was to get up and try again. Molyneaux gave up, but the franchise doesn’t need to die, and someone a bit more sane at the helm might actually work wonders for the series.
I think there’s still hope. See you at E3.
[Photos via Lionshead]