Before you angrily write your comments about how illogical it is to compare a fantasy RPG to a looter shooter, hear me out!
See bottom of post for TL;DR if you dont want to peruse my wall of text!
What is Fable anyway?
According to Xbox.com, Fable is:
“A new beginning for the legendary franchise” where you can “Explore a land of fantastical creatures and wondrous places.”
Obviously, a very vague description. Based off previous titles, what has been communicated to us from insiders, and actual imagery from the teaser we got last year, it is quite apparent that Fable will be a fantasy action RPG oriented around the player being a “hero” – that is a heroic (or villainous) figure of immense strength, will, and skill.
The previous titles – Fable, Fable 2, and Fable 3, anyway – were each built on the core experience of player choice through the lens of good and evil. Each action by the player impacted their physique, other characters, and how the world itself responded to you.
Well Destiny itself is not particularly important here. I am more so talking about the gameplay structure it has helped to popularize – with titles like The Division, Anthem, and Avengers (kind of) also existing in this space. These are typically considered online action role playing games, shared-world shooters, and other such titles. They are built around a collection of PVE-driven main quests and side quests, with the opportunity to play such content solo or with friends. Sometimes, there is a hub where you can interact with other players, squad up for raids and other such cooperative encounters, and show off your collected zany outfits and loot.
So why and how should we expect Fable to take that approach?
If you can remember back to last year, on the day Fable was announced, an insider predicted the Xbox Games Showcase lineup beyond the doubt of guesswork. Listed among the titles we saw trailers for what was the labeling of Fable as “FABLE MMO”
On the other Era, we had some great discussion:
ZhugeEX, Transistor, and Jez Corden of Windows Central were each quick to declare the rumors false – with the language of MMO-lite being thrown around to characterize a seemingly limited incorporation of multiplayer gameplay within the reboot. Now, multiplayer in Fable is no new thing. Cooperative questing through the game world has been a staple since Fable II. But the MMO-lite label is of particular interest to what has been noted above. And after seeing Playground Games’ blowout of Forza Horizon 5 yesterday, I think the shape by which Fable takes with game design is a bit clearer today.
“Best Enjoyed with Others.”
This was the phrase used by Mike Brown, Creative Director at Playground Games to describe the feature suite of Forza Horizon 5. We were given a brief glimpse of the “adventurous” campaign in which the player travels around the game world to expand the Horizon Festival – this serves as the main narrative thread by which the meat of the game is built around (i.e. multiplayer racing, cooperative arcade activities, and the like.) I am speculating here, but I think a structure similar to this is likely for the upcoming Fable reboot. The teaser trailer from last year showed an old, rusty sword adorned with the Guild Seal and the remains of some figure lost to time. This implies a Heroes Guild in decline, or perhaps non-existent in the world we would enter.
In conjunction, with the MMO-lite label given by insiders and the demonstrated expertise of Playground Games integrating multiplayer into a living world, I believe a story centered around the rebuilding of the Heroes Guild is a logical premise for this game. With this approach, you would have ample flexibility to build up your own version of the new Heroes Guild – with your choices influencing specific elements of the guild/world - with that location (and perhaps Bowerstone) serving as a shared world hub for other players to shop, talk, and join up for quests/raids. A singleplayer-only main questline, akin to Avengers, would satisfy players looking for a traditional role-playing experience, without impeding the potential for optional large-scale raids, cooperative dungeons against all manner of Hobbes/bandits/other monsters, and seasonal events in the living open world. In Horizon 4, we saw FTech power dynamic seasons across their version of the United Kingdom, and with their new Horizon Servers you can interact with dozens (and maybe more) actual players driving around the open world. These seem like perfect components for a Fable game that evolves over time, and which integrates a live multiplayer world seamlessly into the game design.
At an even higher level, when accounting for the future slate of Xbox role-playing titles the likelihood that Fable exists as some sort of shared-world experience makes even more sense! As of right now, we can classify these titles into the following:
The Outer Worlds 2
The Elder Scrolls VI (presumably)
The Elder Scrolls Online
Zenimax Online’s New IP (Spyteam?)
One could argue that Fallout 76 falls into the category that I am speculating that Fable exists within, but I’d argue that game relies on multiplayer at its core more than I think Fable will (although the recent expansions have certainly made a more traditional Fallout experience quite possible.) When accounting for this wider context, Fable would operate in a category distinct from many of its peers in the Xbox Game Studios catalogue. It’s ever evolving nature would be a perfect fit for the subscription & retention driven Game Pass model. And it would leverage the strengths of Playground Games as they enter into an entirely new genre.
TL;DR / Conclusion
I think we have good reason to suspect Fable to be an open world action RPG, with a traditional singleplayer story line centered around player expression and rebuilding the Heroes Guild. However, I also expect a rather nuanced integration of multiplayer opportunities into the game world (via cooperative quests & raids, shared world spaces, and seasonal events ala Destiny.) This aligns with what we know about Fable based off of insider commentary and what we can infer from the trailer/Playground Games’ core competencies.
*Note: I could be totally off the mark here - there are not many, if any, positions listed for the Fable team that identify online systems within the expect job duties or experience expectations. Perhaps the Forza team would support on that front? I am not totally sure. Additionally, the first few murmur we had regarding a new Fable was that Xbox wanted a open world RPG to go up against Horizon: Zero Dawn and a singleplayer Fable would fit the bill. Something to ponder! *
What do y’all think? What sort of game do you want Fable to be (or expect to be?)