Chasing chickens: what I’d like from Fable IV
It isn’t just pirates who hold a special place in my heart.
The Monkey Island series may have left me with a thing for wannabe buccaneers and leather jackets, but Fable is also special to me. The original instalment managed to get me back into gaming after drifting away from it as a teenager and the second game is one of my favourites.
It’s been a while since I’ve thought about Fable IV though. After the Reddit leak back in June 2019, no news at all during Microsoft’s E3 presentation stream the following week and an official announcement trailer in July 2020, I got fed up of hoping. The spotlight was firmly on the Xbox Game Pass, Cyberpunk 2077 and the Xbox Game Pass. Oh, and did I mention the Xbox Game Pass?
The world premiere of the announcement was short and rather vague. While it looked stunning and had a familiar vibe, it didn’t offer any insight into what the story would be about this time or even give us a glimpse of the Hero. It’s final line about not all stories having happy endings and yours being yet to be written was intriguing – but I needed more than a minute of pretty graphics.
A random entry in my news feed over the weekend put Fable back on my radar however. The game has a new narrative lead: Anna Megill, the writer behind Control and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, is taking the reins at Playground Games. Is it time to get excited yet? To be honest, I’m too old and tired to buy into the hype around releases nowadays – but that doesn’t stop me thinking about the great time I’ve had with the series so far and what I’d like to see from the next instalment.
I want to feel as though I’ve been transported back to an epic age of magic and mystery, where the battles of Heroes had far reaching consequences.
The same fantasy theme
The first theme that comes to mind when you think of Fable is fantasy. But with that old Reddit leak announcing that Albion is gone thanks to an asteroid and a Heroes Guild based on a different planet accessed via a Demon Door, could we see some science-fiction elements added? Call me a stick-in-the-mud, but I really hope this isn’t the case. I want to feel as though I’ve been transported back to an epic age of magic and mystery, where the battles of Heroes had far reaching consequences for all creatures.
Remember the first time you stumbled upon a Thunderjaw in Horizon Zero Dawn, or rode out to meet a stone giant in Shadow of the Colossus? These are the kind of moments I want from Fable IV: those which stick with you long after you’ve finished the game. I want to step into the initial location after the opening cutscene and feel as though there’s a whole world for me to explore. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a massive place; just one which is detailed, filled with fairy-tale charm – and not on different planets.
Moral decisions with consequences
One of my favourite things about the series is its morality system and the way it changes your appearance. But what if this was developed into something more organic? Your alignment could be determined through your actions rather than a series of choices which are simply good or evil. For example, if you end up using stealth regularly and stealing items, you could become known as a thief; or if you buy all the property and set the rent to the minimal amount, the townsfolk could see you as caring.
More mini-game jobs
While I’m not a fan of mini-games and tend to avoid them wherever possible, I find those within this series relaxing. They don’t have to be used to the same extent as they were in Fable III where it was necessary to earn a huge amount of gold to save your kingdom completely. But would it really be Fable without being able to generate money as a woodcutter, pie-maker or lute-player? Scrap the pub games and don’t force me to play them for a quest – just keep the jobs and let me be a bartender again.
A bigger role for the dog
The star of Fable II was the dog. He was the reason I took a particular action and he should be brought back for all future instalments. The good boy would help you in battle and direct you to buried treasure, as well as change appearance in line with your character’s morality. Perhaps this could be expanded upon so he could be taught new tricks and occasionally take more of a lead. There needs to be a way to protect him though (perhaps some doggy armour?) because I hate it when animal companions get hurt in video games.
More time for Theresa
Theresa is one of my favourite characters both from the Fable series and gaming in general. She’s so mysterious and it’s difficult to figure her out. Frequently referred to as ‘The Blind Seeress’, she has had prophetic powers since a young child and possesses extrasensory perception despite being unable to physically see. You’re never quite sure whether she’s on the side of good or evil: is she telling you all she knows, or has she seen the future and is now trying to guide you down a certain path? I want to be given the chance to find out in Fable IV.
The acorn that grows into a tree
Remember the acorn incident? Players were promised the ability to plant one at the start of the first Fable game and then see it grow into an oak tree by the end. That didn’t happen however, and many people turned on Peter Molyneux as a result (although I maintain some admiration for the guy, and that could be a subject for another post). It would be great to finally see this in the next release. Imagine being able to plant a seed and see it grow, the state of the tree affecting what was going on in the world around you. That would be awesome
That same old silly humour
I love the franchise’s humour and cast of colourful non-player characters (NPCs), frequently voiced by well-known stars. It manages to strike the perfect balance between absurd silliness and black humour. This will be hard for another developer to recreate properly but if they manage to channel that charm, it will help Fable IV stand out from the other RPGs on the market and turn it into something special. New players will be won over by its funny magic while established Chicken Chasers will be reminded why they love the series so much.
Hype has a way of coming back to bite you on the butt and leaving you disappointed.
While the update about Megill’s new narrative lead role can only be a good thing for the series, I’m not going to allow myself to get excited just yet. Even if you ignore the recent rumours about Playground Games’ lack of RPG experience and apparent downscaling of the project, hype has a way of coming back to bite you on the butt and leaving you disappointed. Sometimes it’s better to give your news feed just a cursory glance over the top of your controller before going back to whatever it was you were playing.
I’ll be there on day one when Fable IV released though. And until then, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the dog makes his rightful return.