Despite the fact that Microsoft revealed titles like Gears 5 at its E3 press conference, there was a distinct lack of Fable 4 in the lineup. Since rumours started circulating that Fable 4 is in the works over at Playground Games, the team who've previously brought you the Forza Horizon open-world racing series, we've been incredibly excited.
Fable 4 was once just a pipedream, a mythical game being that would never see the light of day. That's because just over two years ago, developer Lionhead Studios was closed shattering our dreams of seeing even one screenshot of Fable 4. The Fable creator was shut down in early 2016, and with it went Fable Legends, the free-to-play, multiplayer version of the classic open-world series. BUT, there's a chance that our dreams might just come true.
Fable 4 is coming
In January this year, Eurogamer managed to get a scoop on the fact that Fable 4 actually exists, so now at least we know that it is coming, just not from Lionhead. According to the report, which comes from ‘sources close to the project’, the next Fable is in the works by another UK-based developer, PlayGround Games. The studio, which has made its name by creating the Forza Horizon series, is currently recruiting more developers for its new second office in Leamington Spa, with the aim of creating a team of around 200 to work on Fable 4.
Fans will be pleased to hear that the next Fable will follow the cues set out by previous games in the main series, with Fable 4 set to be another open-world action RPG focused on story and characters.
PlayGround Games had been openly advertising for developers to work on a AAA, open-world RPG before the Eurogamer report too, which caused rumours to spark about a brand new IP for the studio. Forza Horizon might be open-world, but it’s certainly not an RPG.
The Fable 4 rumours don’t stop there though
That report was backed up by an Xbox Live API leak that emerged a little earlier this year, which suggested that a Fable game with the codename Wisdom is in the works, again by a UK developer.
A former Lionhead Lead Engine Programmer, Don Williamson, also posted on Twitter that he knew a UK studio was working on Fable 4. He stated he thought the choice was “interesting”, but later deleted the tweet. WCCFTech managed to capture the tweet though, which read:
“Mmm ok, having no inside information, I totally know who's building Fable 4 now. Interesting choice…”
He later replied to another user who asked whether the studio was based in Brighton, another UK locale, but he said there wasn’t a studio capable of the task in that area.
there's nobody here in Brighton that could take on a task of that magnitude.January 6, 2018
The Fable 4 release date is probably a long way away
But before you get too excited, it’s looking very likely we’re going to be in for quite the wait for a Fable 4 release date. PlayGround is still working on pulling a development team together, so work on recreating Albion in all its glory is going to take a little while.
What could happen is that Fable 4 gets an official E3 2018 announcement, with a cheeky teaser trailer revealing that it’s on the way. The Xbox is struggling a little with exclusives nowadays, beyond Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3 and a handful of indie titles, so it would be a huge boon for gamers to know that something else is en route.
Will there ever be a Fable 4 PS4 release?
Now here’s something we’re definitely sure of. You’re never going to play Fable 4 on PS4. The IP is owned by Microsoft, and because of that you can put all your money on the fact it’ll be exclusive to Xbox One and PC when it does eventually arrive.
The original Fable creators have mixed feelings about a sequel
Seeing as the original team behind Fable is no more, it’s understandable that the folks behind the original series have some concerns about a sequel being made by an entirely new team.
“I have slightly mixed feelings,” said Fable co-creator Simon Carter, in an interview with Eurogamer. “On the one hand, it’s great for the UK games industry, and very pleasing that Fable isn’t dead; indeed, it will be lovely to play one as a punter, without coming out in hives. On the other, it is a little curious to get rid of the team that is uniquely expert in making Fable, and then try and make Fable. Fable is a weird game, and a tough one to deconstruct for a new team. That said, the team in question is very talented, and I’m sure they’ll do a fantastic job.”
Microsoft has always believed in the Fable IP
In early 2017, long after Lionhead closed, Xbox boss Phil Spencer actually tweeted that he thought the Fable series still had potential. That was about the time that people started to speculate that there might be a little glimmer of hope for Fable 4.
Nothing to announce right now but I do think the IP has a lot of places it could go.April 30, 2017
It wasn’t exactly evidence back then, but in light of the new information from the various reports, it certainly adds (a little more official) weight to all the Fable 4 rumours.
What we want to see from Fable 4
Until we have an official reveal from Microsoft, we’ll just be here, waiting to see the chickens and the taverns, and making a Fable 4 wishlist of all the things we’d love to see.
1. Make combat more epic, but also more personal
Although combat has been great fun in previous Fable games, the next entry in the series could do well to make things a little more grand, both on the large and small scale. Firstly, make some enemies have more emphasis; slow things down at times and make the build up to major fights feel more weighty. It’ll keep fights from feeling mundane over time, and ensure that your decisions really matter when it comes to the bigger characters.
Of course, that could extend to the scale of battles too. Rather than making you juggle between a half dozen enemies at a time, why not make the occasional battle look like a deleted scene from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones? It would play into the fantasy adventure thing a little more, and keep your play style on its toes.
And while they’re there, the development team could also add in a little more weapon variety. The emphasis has always been on swords and bows, but melee could do with some attention in Fable 4. Give us staffs or spears, or other new weapon types to hit bad guys with, please.
2. Give the dog a bigger role
This should go without saying, but although previous Fable dogs have been very good boys, it would be better for them to have a little more purpose to the actual gameplay. In Fable 2, he would dig up treasures and help you in battle, with more tricks available if you found the right books. He would also change appearance depending on your morality alignment. In Fable 3, however, he became a smaller part of your journey through Albion. You could pet him, play fetch or discipline him, and occasionally he would find you treasures.
Having the dog play a larger role in your journey - along the lines of Fable 2’s faithful canine, or Dogmeat from Fallout 4 - would make it feel like a more integral part of the gameplay, rather than just a cute face to greet you every time you start up the game. Although, saying that, that’s okay too.
3. Make all your decisions matter more
Original Fable creator, Peter Molyneaux, famously always had grand visions of what Fable’s morality system could be, but in reality, the gameplay never quite lived up to expectations or promises. Hopefully with the power of Xbox One X and PC, we could see the morality system - and overall decision making - get a decent overhaul for Fable 4.
It would also help if your clothing choices weren’t just cosmetic either. Yes, your morality changed your appearance, especially in terms of skin, but your clothes had no affect on your character’s attributes or play style. Maybe in Fable 4 they could.
4. Enlist another all-star cast
The list of voice actors on board for Fable 3 was a dazzling array of talent, from Stephen Fry and Ben Kingsley to Sean Pertwee and Michael Fassbender and even Simon Pegg, John Cleese and Zoe Wanamaker, the voice talent in the game was brilliant. Hearing well-known voices in your game was a huge boon for Fable 3, and if Fable 4 could have a similarly star-studded cast, we wouldn’t mind at all.
5. Bring back the mini-games
Ah, RSI. An occupational hazard way back in Fable 2 and Fable 3 thanks to those job-related minigames that put your thumb to the test, and we’re 97% certain that were they to reappear in Fable 4 that muscle memory would reawaken from its slumber. Each activity requires you to stab various buttons in a certain order (duh), but with each promotion the difficulty increases - mainly by making the button prompts zip across the screen much, much faster. There is the chance to earn some serious gold and when you get really good at it you sort of go into a daze where your fingers act independently, waking up from the stupor with a sack of gold by your feet. Or is that just me?
6. Keep the silliness
Although it’s easy to go a little over the top - we’re looking at you Saints’ Row - there’s a wonderful place that lies between that and being very boring indeed. And that’s where Fable has always sat, embracing the silliness, the occasional black humour and always, always individually quirkiness. If PlayGround Games, or whoever is making Fable 4, can channel that ethos and charm, it’ll help the series continue to stand out from the other RPGs out there.
What do you want to see in Fable 4? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter @GamesRadar.