Good and evil is barely the start of it, frankly. Fable is one of those rare, fascinating game series upon which nobody can really seem to agree about anything for very long. It's a shallow RPG, or maybe it's a canny and satirical examination of RPGs in general. It's hilarious - oh, the burping! Or maybe it's just juvenile. Let's face it: Fable's easy to the point of being obsequious, isn't it? Or maybe it's choosing to measure itself in ways that go beyond mere difficulty? It's no surprise, then, that with all this discussion churning around it, the world of Albion is so often defined by a mechanic that it doesn't even contain.
Hello! Hopefully everyone's had a chance to read Wes' spectacular feature on the life and death of Lionhead by now, but if 20,000 words isn't enough to satisfy your curiosity, I had a chat with Wes to discuss how the piece came together. Oh, and we recorded it! That's lucky!
In October 2008, Microsoft released Lionhead's Fable 2 to critical and commercial acclaim. At a launch party an emotional Peter Molyneux held aloft glowing reviews and praised the exhausted team of developers who had spent the previous four years pouring everything they had into the game. Fable 2 would go on to win a BAFTA and become the best-selling role-playing game for the Xbox 360. Lionhead was on top of the world.
If you ever had doubts as to whether Fable Legends was a worthy extension of Lionhead's much-loved RPG series, consider this: in the final, never fully released game, there were at least 10 different ways to fart. There's Sterling, the self-obsessed hero who lets rip into his hand then relishes the ensuing aroma; Flair the acrobat who stands on her hands, parts her legs then politely parps; Inga, the armour-clad bruiser who winds up her arms before unleashing a burst from her bowels. Finally step forth Shroud, the assassin who makes sure he's not being watched before letting out a silent, deadly gust. We truly were robbed of something special.
The best games create stories as well as telling them, and when you ask people about a Lionhead game there's usually a good one. A friend told me how, when playing Black & White, he'd found his inscrutable cow-god familiar taking a dump in the village's food supply. He went to punish it, mis-clicked, and instead petted the beast. From then on the cow went out of its way to poo on food, and no amount of beatings would dissuade it. My friend persevered with his save for days before, finally, admitting defeat and starting over - left only with the memory of handing out monotonous beatings to a bewildered, unhappy, constantly-befouled creature.
Microsoft's PC and Xbox One multiplayer-focused, four-versus-one cross-platform role-playing game Fable Legends is free-to-play.
Saving the world is easy. Conquering it, however, is hard. The former I've done in thousands of games, but the latter? That's the tricky part. At least that's how it is in Fable Legends, Lionhead's asymmetrical third-person brawler/RTS hybrid that cleverly mixes team-based co-op with tactical top-down defence.
It's a grey January morning and the rain batters the windows of the taxi taking me from Guildford train station to Surrey Research Park. Typical English weather, then, as I head to the home of a developer which has been making typically English video games for a decade.