The Fable trilogy, developed by Lionhead Studios and directed by auteur British game designer Peter Molyneux, is an iconic series of RPGs that pioneered multiple open world game mechanics such as gesture systems, in-game jobs, reputation mechanics, the ability to found families, and faithful dog companions – but there’s room for improvment with the upcoming fourth entry. The Fable games were also sometimes rough around the edges due to issues such as clunky moral choices and ham-fisted main plots. To match and exceed Fable 1, 2, and 3, the upcoming Fable game being developed by Playground Games needs to refine old game mechanics while retaining the franchise’s classic fairytale feel and whimsy.
Each game in the Fable series to date takes place in the fairytale-themed fantasy land of Albion, which chances and evolves with each new generation. The first Fable game, set in a pre-modern medieval society, has a plot centered around a guild of magical, monster-slaying heroes. The second Fable game takes place in an early modern era with flintlock firearms and tricorne hats, while the Albion of Fable 3 is on the cusp of an industrial revolution. The common design goal of all three games is that players should be able to go anywhere and do anything, be it good or evil. To live up to its prequels, the new Fable game must take this design ideal to a new level.
The New Fable Should Keep The Old Fable’s Fairy Tale Side-Quests
For many who played them in the mid-to-late 2000s, the best moments of the Fable trilogy didn’t come from the main story (which could be melodramatic and overly linear at times) but from the various random encounters players could stumble across while exploring the land of Albion. Among said encounters were sentient Demon Doors that had to be unlocked with specific gestures or player interactions, eccentric NPCs with absurd problems to solve, random treasures that could be dug up by the Hero’s trusty dog companion, and more. The quintessentially British sense of humor iconic to the Fable games also shines through particularly well in these side quests.
The cinematic trailer for the upcoming Fable, where a freckled hero goes toe-to-toe with a spectacled giant in their over-sized home, is a promising sign that the developers of the long delayed Fable reboot seems to understand what made the original Fable trilogy fun. The trailer footage contains a fairy-tale sense of whimsy (as seen in the trailer’s Jack and the Beanstalk style imagery) and the dry, sometimes farcical humor (the giant talking about his bold business innovation of giant vegetables). The overarching theme of the trailer – that fantasy heroes are both problem solvers and trouble-makers – was also present in previous Fable games.
Fable 4 Should Supplement Moral Choices With Moral Ambiguity
Like many early 2000s RPGs with moral choice mechanics, the “good and evil” choices players were offered in the Fable games tended to be black-and-white in tone, featuring scenarios where players, for instance, could choose to either save civilians from bandits or sell them into slavery. Fable 2 and 3 were also famous for challenging players with ham-fisted “trolley problem” moral dilemmas where players were forced to choose between saving the lives of many strangers or a few loved ones. The issue with these moral choices was that they lacked nuance much of the time, forcing players to choose exclusively between acting like a saint or acting like a cartoon villain.
To surpass Fable‘s imperfect moral choice dilemmas (and the moral choice systems of other video games), the new Fable game could borrow storytelling conceits from more modern RPGs like Elden Ring or modern point-and-click adventures such as Unavowed. To balance out scenarios and side quests where the good and evil choices are clear, the new Fable could add instances where the moral choices are more ambiguous and it’s ultimately up to the player to judge which choice is right or wrong. That said, developers at Playground Games should very much retain the chicken-kicking mechanic seen in all the main Fable games to date.
New Fable Should Update Mechanics For Creating Families
The second Fable game was one of the first video game RPGs to let players constructed a more-or-less full life for their character, giving the Hero the opportunity to earn a living through job mini-games, purchase houses for themselves, get married, and raise children (and even get divorced and lose custody if they consistently neglect their family’s feelings). For its time, the lifestyle mechanics of Fable 2 and 3 were very sophisticated, and the upcoming Fable game could update them to modern standards in two ways – making romance mechanics more than just spamming gestures and gifts, and giving potential spouse NPCs more narrative weight in the story through quests, agency, and character development.
Fable 4 Should Retain The Flintlock Fantasy Aesthetic From Fable 2 & 3
The first installment of the Fable series was classic early medieval fantasy – a world of blades, bows, and feudal aesthetic. From Fable 2 onward, the land of Albion entered an early modern era with muzzle-loaded firearms, bandits in piratical outfits, and more technology produced by science rather than magic. This flintlock fantasy aesthetic set the Fable games apart from other fantasy RPGs of the time and may have partially inspired similar designs in fantasy RPGs with magic and guns such as the isometric Pillars of Eternity RPGs, the Age of Exploration-themed GreedFall, and the open world survival and crafting RPG Outward.
The trailer for the upcoming new Fable game shows a fairy-tale Albion setting that doesn’t seem as modern as Fable 2 or 3, but also isn’t quite as early medieval as Fable 1. Judging by the outfits characters wear in the trailer (with slashed doublets aplenty), the setting of this Fable game might be late medieval or Renaissance in aesthetic. This could mean developers of the new Fable game are aiming for a matchlock fantasy world, where firearms are crude but present, shining plate armor hasn’t yet gone out of style, and the magical heroes of the past are contending with nascent breakthroughs in science.