Review: Fable Heroes Tells a Disappointing Tale (Xbox Live Arcade)

This spin-off deviates a bit too much from formula.

We’re all for trying something new in a long-running series, but the problem is when an idea is introduced that doesn’t pan out like the development team expected it to.  Sadly, this is looking like the case for Lionhead Studios’ Fable.  After three entertaining adventure outings, the series is drastically moving into Kinect territory later this year with Fable: The Journey, which, honestly, doesn’t look so hot right now.  To make matters worse, things don’t really fare much better with Lionhead’s recent XBLA release, Fable Heroes.

Rather than following the kind of tone as the previous games, Fable Heroes reaches out for more casual players.  In it, you play as four doll characters, each brandishing their own special kind of weapon.  You’ll journey across a map of selected locations, taking on groups of enemies through combat similar to arcade-style beat-em-ups while occasionally engaging in mini-games and a board game, where you’re able to sustain an improvement somewhere in your battle skills.

Now, first off, Fable Heroes lacks any kind of story that ties in with the other games.  Not that it’s completely necessary, but without something to explain why we’re playing as these dolls to begin with, it doesn’t really make much sense.  Worse still, the dolls barely display any kind of personality, either in combat or cinematic sequences.  They all react the same way at the end of a match, too.

Secondly, the gameplay is flawed in multiple ways.  The mini-games are rather dull, with the only standout being one where you launch chickens – and even then, you’re lacking accuracy.  The board games take forever to get through, because for some odd reason, rolling a dice and selecting a reward requires a certain control method, rather than just pushing a button.

The combat is screwy, too.  General hits register well, but you can’t really aim with that much accuracy.  Also, your stronger move, a wind-up attack with a stronger impact, takes forever to execute, leaving you open to cheap hits from enemies that surround you.  There’s a special “clearing” technique that you can use, but considering your health is dwindling enough as it is (even with heart power-up pick-ups), it’s a risky maneuver.