Also available on: N/A
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: Action Adventure
Fable has become one of the Xbox's biggest names thanks to its rich fantasy story and meaningful choices. However, some of the franchise's more mature content and themes have made it alienating to younger players. This is a new issue, as Microsoft has long grappled with the conundrum of having its key games strictly targeting the 18 and older crowd.
The release of Kinect has helped in this area, and it seems Fable Heroes is poised to become the controller-bound bastion for making Xbox games accessible to all ages.
Fable Heroes is a significant departure from the mainline series. Fans of the series may remember collectable dolls in each game that represented Albion's significant heroes. Fable Heroes is a game that shows how Albion's children may have played with these action puppets.
Levels themselves are fairly linear, travelling from one monster ambush to the next. Treasure chests along the path offer temporary power-ups, while the occasional 'good and evil' chests give the choice of either helping or hurting a random player.
It's a far cry from Fable's often difficult moral choices, but does at least pay homage to what made the series special. Each level ends with yet another choice, as the path splits leading to either a boss fight or minigame.
All the while, players collect coins. These coins add the game's competitive touch, as players race to collect the spoils dropped by enemies. Players are then ranked at the end of the level on how many coins they've collected, and are transported to a Monopoly-like board game where they can spend their cash on upgrades or unlocking new characters.
Upgrading characters can be a rather slow process, due to random die rolls deciding which new skills can be acquired. You can speed things up by performing better in levels though, as your number of die rolls is tied to how much gold you collect.
Fable Heroes is also rather packed with content for a lighthearted hack and slash romp. Completing the main set of levels unlocks a second quest, which increases the challenge and mixes up some of the familiar locales with a new darker look. There are then a total of twelve characters to unlock, each one upgraded independently for a little extra replay value.
Not all of that content is accessible right away though, with two of the characters only unlocked by playing Fable: The Journey, along with the option to transfer gold from Fable Heroes to The Journey when it comes out.
However, for all of its content, it all begins to feel like a grind before too long. The linear levels start blending together and enemies lose their variety by all behaving the same, a fact that isn't helped by each boss employing the same attack patterns.
The issues of monotony are heightened even more when playing alone. With four heroes always on the screen, the computer clumsily takes control of any unmanned heroes. A.I. controlled heroes only half-heartedly confront enemies or chase after loose coins, detracting from both the game's co-operative and competitive elements.
Fable Heroes is certainly at its best when played with a group, whether that be locally or online. In a nice touch, online players can even bring along their own heroes, allowing them to continue collecting gold and upgrading to bring back to their game.
While Fable fans may be put off by the lack of a new chapter in the franchise's grand story, it's hard to deny the charm of Albion's miniature puppet incarnation. How long that charm will last depends entirely on how many friends join you.
Perhaps the optimal condition is that of a Fable fan parent, finally able to share Albion - from cosy Bowerstone to frozen Mistpeak - with their child. However, those without deep fondness for the series or youth's love of repetition will tire of it before long.