Albion is a setting of adventure and love, of battles against mitigating evil, and more. As your character traverses the fields, mountains, hills, rivers, dungeons and castles, you are whisked away on a grand adventure where promises of fortune and fame await on the horizon (most of it though is just smoke blown up our rears by the now departed Mr. Molyneux). If you believe Fable Heroes from Lionhead Studios has any of that wonderful fairytale b.s. that I just talked about, then you my dear reader are the sucker at the poker table, seriously it's amazing how little Fable is actually in this game, other than the title. Fable Heroes is Lionhead's attempt to release another generic, and this time, incredibly annoying tie in, but this time it's tied to their new upcoming game Fable: The Journey. Now Mr. Molyneux is now gone from Lionhead and has no involvement with Fable Heroes, so let's find out just what happens when you get a few bored developers who are apparently mentally unstable and have an unquenchable thirst for the hatred of chickens.
What if Fable was laid out in a demented board game style where mundane action and disappointment are the frequent emotions felt, and the drudgery of completing various areas and bosses is only compensated by a dash of Fable influence here and there? What if this Fable game came with horrible camera work and controls that were unresponsive and made you feel like breaking your controller? What if this Fable game had mammoth potential to be a great standalone plus add-on game, but instead became something so grotesque that it tarnished the name of Fable? The sad thing my dear reader is that the new Xbox Live Arcade game, Fable Heroes from Lionhead can answer all these questions and more, and you're not going to like the answers you find. This side scrolling cartoon adventure, hack-n-slash board game features characters from Fable in an over embellished cartoon puppet style and lands that have only a scattering of Fable influence. Familiar names such as Millfields, Bowerstone, Mistpeak and more appear as areas in the board that you can explore, but do little to inspire the areas themselves in the Fable universe.
If the depression hasn't sunk in by now, just keep reading, it only gets worse. One of the issues that has plagued other Fable games in the past is the camera, and in Fable Heroes you will quickly discover that the camera is back and back with a vengeance, so much so that you have zero camera control so when in single player the camera follows you around in a fixed distance and sometimes varies the angle of view. The camera even gets upset at you when in multiplayer and distorts the total view to a smaller stretched size so that if you have thoughts of running ahead and opening chests or collecting loot, keep dreaming.
This gets really frustrating given that there are multiple times when the enemies attack from such a wide area that you find it hard to get the camera to work in your favor. I'm telling you, Lionhead's camera system hates you, and it doesn't care what you think. If you trudge through the horrific camera system, you're greeted with an incredibly unresponsive control system that has you lumbering around the levels like either a drunken puppet or a puppet on rich, mountain grown, Columbian... coffee. You will find yourself rolling around to change direction quicker than using your control sticks and this does us no good when combined with the next disappointment and that are the puppets themselves.
In Fable Heroes each puppet takes up "space" in the game environment, which means you cannot walk through other puppets, instead you must walk around them. In a VERY NARROW side scrolling environment, fighting multiple enemies can become such a hassle when you realize that you have three other puppets that you have to maneuver around with this unresponsive control scheme. Plus when you take into account the fact that every enemy follows suit, then when you have a bunch of enemies plus your team on the screen and you're caught in the middle, there's no way out, and given the camera has already sealed your doom, unless you button mash and swing like crazy to hopefully hit and kill something, then you're pretty much s.o.l., and thats a shame considering the high hopes that many gamers have been festering for this title. As you clear each level you will be taken to a Monopoly style board game (yes a board game within a board game, please someone make the pain stop.) This is why collecting gold is so important because it's here in this new game board you will unlock new abilities, weapons, characters and more and if you progress far enough on multiple levels and unlock some achievements, you will unlock square tiles on the inside of this new game board. These squares offer you bonuses that are good for one level use only but can help really increase the cash flow.
Speaking of the characters, there are some pretty iconic Fable characters such as the Jack of Blades, Reaver, Lucien, and more and each puppet is done in an over embellished cartoon style where everyone is apparently happy. Even familiar enemies such as Hobbes and Balverines almost give the feeling that this in fact a Fable game, alas such hope is but a fleeting moment in time, then the reality sets in. The levels themselves are done in a very generic cartoon feel, however, do very little to make you feel like you're playing a Fable game. The cartoonish sounds that you have come to expect in a Fable games are there, but instead of focusing on a score that fits the feel of Fable, your ears are treated to music you would expect from a demented carnival attraction. This is supposed to help you with the fact that you are controlling puppets with an unresponsive control system while trying to cooperate with a camera system from hell and the key word in all of this is "supposed."
The old Fable games were filled with promises of amazing adventures, and sadly most of them never came to fruition. I guess thats where the final nail in the coffin rests because instead of trying to achieve lofty goals and falling short, Fable Heroes doesn't even try. For 800 Microsoft points, is Fable Heroes worth the purchase? Well if you go into this thinking that it's a great Fable adventure, then no it's not worth it.
Suggestions: How about allow the user controlled characters to "pass through" any AI controlled characters, or have the ability to turn off any/all AI controlled puppets. Give the user camera control. Oh one last thing, make it better than this pile.