Why Going Free-To-Play Is The Best Thing For Fable Legends
Fable Legends was always going to be divisive.
Ever since Lionhead announced that it was taking the beloved Xbox exclusive in an all-new direction – shedding many of the franchise defining features in favour of focusing wholeheartedly on multiplayer – we had begun to wonder whether Peter Molyneux was in fact the only thing holding it together in the first place.
Whether it was the idea of a multiplayer-only Fable, the fact we aren’t receiving an open-world Albion rendered in Unreal Engine 4, or simply because it’s stripping away many of the features that made Fable 1-3 so loved in the first place, but it was becoming all too easy to be negative about Lionhead’s experimental next-gen project.
But time and time again people – myself included – have been genuinely impressed with the results once they are able to get their hands on it.
Combat was never anything to write home about in Fable, but Lionhead has done some major revamping to the core systems as it looks to transform the franchise into an action-oriented arena combat game. You’ll have the option of playing as one hero in a team of four – using conventional attacks and abilities to cut through enemies – or as the villain, doing your best to thwart the heroes’ progress through quest lines by directing monsters and laying traps in their path from a top-down perspective. It’s fresh, entertaining, tactical and – most importantly – it’s fun.
Now, as Fable Legends goes free-to-play, Lionhead has assured every gamer with access to an Xbox One or Windows 10 in 2015 will have the opportunity to circumvent the hype and hatemongering and decide for themselves.
How Will Fable Legends Work?
So, how’s it going to work? The base Fable Legends game will be free to download for everybody with access to the aforementioned platforms. It will launch with a full story worth of content and quests, with more to be released episodically every few month alongside other continuous updates, such as balance tweaks and cosmetic items.
While ten heroes will be finished and available at launch, Fable Legends will utilise a model similar to that of Killer Instinct, whereby four heroes will be available to everybody at any one time and will then rotate every two weeks. If you want to continue playing as your favourite hero (or villain), you can either wait for it to come back into rotation or pay to unlock them immediately and permanently. Either way, all of your XP and equipment will stay intact.
You can either pay for these characters – as well as in-game cosmetics and consumables – with earned in-game currency or with real money. Everything available inside the game – and this include villains, new traps and new monster types to unleash on unsuspecting heroes as well – can be earned in-game without spending a penny of real world cash money. Lionhead is very eager to avoid a pay-to-win fiasco with Fable Legends, and seems to be looking towards Riot Games with League Of Legends and Valve with DOTA for inspiration. Balance will be key to success here.
Of course, this is something of a grand experiment for Lionhead and Microsoft. Once the first set of story expansions – which the studio is dubbing ‘Seasons’ – begin releasing it’ll be interesting to see whether it splits the community or helps it thrive. Whether Lionhead can appropriately deal with the pressures and concerns from fans over the ‘Games as a Service’ moniker will be telling – this is a studio that has traditionally released a game and moved on, it hasn’t had to deal with the struggles an active online multiplayer community can present in any substantial way.
Following the launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, there will also be concerns – and rightfully so – regarding Microsoft’s ability to handle the server load of a big budget, multiplayer-focused game. Then again, it sounds like Lionhead is looking to combat this with a dedicated beta run.
Fable Legends Open Beta
A closed beta is currently happening as you read this and, rumour has it, it will open up to the public in the coming months. Then again, it has to.
It isn’t just Fable fans coming into this anymore. Those millions of dedicated RPG fanatics are going to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the masses of Xbox Live and Windows 10 players. Microsoft recently announced cross-platform play, which is going to be insane – and risky. If Microsoft isn’t capable of handling and maintaining the servers for an always-online game across two platforms, it won’t just have another PR shitstorm on its hands – it’ll be responsible for the death of Fable.
An open beta will allow Lionhead to really optimise its servers for the masses, so expect an announcement before E3 2015 on this front.
A New Dawn For Fable
At the end of the day, this is exactly what Fable Legends needed to have a chance at success. As much as gamers and the general industry hates on sequels, it’s also inherently afraid of change.
Fable Legends is trying something new. Lionhead is taking a chance with one of Microsoft’s biggest exclusives, and that should be celebrated not ridiculed. It could fail, or it could be fantastic, we just don’t know yet.
What we do know, however, is that what we’ve played has been a welcomed change of pace and surprisingly entertaining. And what’s great is that you won’t have to take our word for it, you’ll all be able to find out for yourself when Fable Legends launches in Q3 2015.