What we know
Fans of the fantasy RPG series, Fable, have finally been dealt a glimmer of hope after internet leaks suggest development of Fable 4.
This is the first instance of good news after an abysmal 2016 saw Microsoft pulling the plug on the “nearly finished” MMO Fable Legends, and the closure of its developer, Lionhead Studio.
Details remain scarce, all we know comes from an anonymous source suggesting that developer Playground Games is working on the fourth installment to the Fable series, under the codename: Wisdom, but this has been enough to get fans – and an ex-developer of the series – digging for more information.
“I totally know who’s building Fable 4 now. Interesting choice…” shared ex Lionhead dev, Don Williamson in a now deleted tweet.
He went on to explain that he knows nothing for certain, with the allusion to the new developer being speculation.
What this could mean
And why shouldn’t the fans be excited? Ignoring a string of poor releases, the last we saw of Albion was back in 2010 with the release of Fable 3, yet what haunted the series during its painful decline from 2010 to 2016 still persists, and arguably worst than before: Microsoft’s grasp.
Hype culture is damaging at the best of times, any No Man’s Sky player could tell you that much, but in Fable’s case it could prove fatal, and is spreading at an alarming rate as we ignore the issue of the Xbox giant’s involvement.
Perhaps due to the slow, six year death of the series, no real analysis was put into Lionhead’s closure.
The games had stopped living up to their predecessors; it was the elephant in the room for over a quarter of the studios entire life.
Ironically however, Fable 3 was actually ahead of its time. By watering down the more complicated elements of an RPG to make it more accessible for a wider audience, it’s not unimaginable that Bethesda were taking notes for Fallout 4’s development.
But in 2010, the market was more demanding for a Fallout New Vegas type game, so rather than bringing new players in, Fable 3 just kicked the old players out, longing for the intricacy in the combat system the first two games boasted.
Blame had to be attributed somewhere, and to the media’s credit, Peter Molyneux – series creator – isn’t a bad choice. Rightly or wrongly, history has almost caricatured him for his infamous lies – but he has answered for his crimes, more than Microsoft has ever done – and can prove unbelievably honest in interviews:
“I think Fable 3 was a train wreck,” shared former Lionhead boss, who even criticized his critically acclaimed, Fable I.
“It was hugely flawed in some senses, and there were technical issues like the animation didn’t work but it wasn’t bad.”
It’s telling that the only decent game Lionhead released post Molyneux was a remastered Fable I, the game they made independently.
But lies to the media certainly wasn’t what made Fable 3, The Journey and Heroes bad, it was Microsoft.
“[Molyneux is] a genuine, passionate, talented designer whose words tend to get him into trouble”, ex-coworkers shared in a 2014 Kotaku interview.
“I think he intentionally tries to say things to make them happen, that’s him trying to retain control of his creativity…” another explained.
“The trouble is, I’m a terrible PR person,” – Fable creator, Peter Molyneux admits in a Kotaku interview
And can we really critique his creativity? While the first Fable certainly lacked a few features Molyneux promised (“you could knock an acorn off a tree and, over the course of the game, watch it become a tree of its own!”), it had enough of his ambitions to make a good game.
Good enough for Microsoft to buy Lionhead.
And then, in 2006, Molyneux’s ‘lies’ became a problem.
A completely open world with no fenced areas, kids aging into adults, another attempt at integrating the acorn-into-tree mechanic… none of this was to be found in Fable 2.
But it was found in interviews, and with Lionheads relationship with Microsoft in full swing, more eyes were on these interviews, and more anger felt at the broken promises.
Regardless, Fable 2 also managed to earn its place in gaming history, but Molyneux had made himself an easy target for any criticism.
This is when we fast-forward to 2016, when Lionhead closed its doors.
The late Fable Legend’s would’ve been a free-to-play MMO to rival Blizzard’s Overwatch, why did Lionhead insist on such a gamble?
Well… They didn’t.
“Lionhead wanted to make Fable 4 instead”, a Lionhead source revealed, explaining that there was little enthusiasm for Fable Legend’s development.
“People were happy that Legends was coming to a close”.
Just not in the way it did.
Microsoft saw that Overwatch had more passengers on the hype train than its Fable counterpart, so it killed Legends before it drained them of anymore money. The series died how it lived, a mold for whatever genre the Xbox giants wanted next.
Which is why we should be cautious in giving the new dev’s a blank check for a new game. Playground Games’, like Lionhead, is a small British developer pumping out Xbox exclusives. Even more worrying, they have no experience with RPG’s (they are presently known for Forza Horizon, a racing series), making them ever more reliant on Microsoft, and more prone to its influence.
The return to the main series shows they at least care about what the fans want, but how has Albion fared in its eight-year hiatus?
Will we still recognize it?