A witch has turned all my little villagers into skeletons in Fabledom. Cute, adorable little bone folk now wander the gravel streets, shocked at the loss of all their skin. Otherwise, though, they carry on with daily life… But, with one exception - they're really, really hungry. As part of the curse they now need twice as much food as before. It's just for a week, but suddenly my reserve stock of butternut squashes and bread isn't looking quite so plentiful. Not great when winter, with its snow and freezing temperatures, is just around the corner.
Such is the life of a ruler in Fabledom. Not only have you got to figure out how to best provide for your citizens, but you've also got to contend with some fun fairytale trappings. From the moment you pick a spot to set up camp, the narrator starts commenting on your decisions with his big booming voice and witty quips - even mentioning he should probably put some clothes on before our story truly begins.
Cue a big unfolding storybook to kick off proceedings, telling stories of princesses and beautiful kingdoms, which of course you're about to try and recreate. Fabledom really dials into the fairytale element of its name. It ranges from little things like giving wild pigs wings to having to pick your romantic narrative. Before you've even begun you'll be asked to pick whether you want to play as a prince, princess, or gender-neutral highness, and what kind of royal suitor you're looking for - whether that's a prince, princess, or both. But, the courting will come later, first you've got to have a home.
Fabledom is a city builder that loves a slower pace, particularly at the start. Right now, it's pretty chaos free, with the focus more on building a nice place to live than fending off enemy armies, or having to worry about plagues or apocalypses. The art style helps fuel that sentiment too, with gorgeous little details that bring color and personality to its charming fairytale world. I love the smaller touches like giving your villagers' homes their own outdoor spaces, with the ability to add elements like chicken coops or outhouses to boost their morale. But if you whack something like an apple tree or greenhouse in their garden, they can also produce their own food, helping to offset any hunger dramas that might arise from bad planning - or witch interference.
Cute but meaty
There's a lovely slow deepening of the strategies on offer in Fabledom, like when you get the option to start building condominiums and townhouses. This adds commoners and nobles to your villager pool for tending shops and running hospitals; complementing the villagers that will take on the salt-of-the-earth jobs. You'll later get a hero too, who is armed to the teeth and capable of exploring ruins and other functions in-game. It's a little barebones at this stage though, as Fabledom is still in Early Access.
But, the game is evolving all the time and already has a pretty robust roadmap in place for what it claims will be a year of Early Access before full launch. In just a few short weeks, I've already noticed new additions, like how the distance between workplace and home can impact the happiness of your citizens, which regularly causes me to dive into the overview menu and better assign each worker according to their locale. The game teases you with more to come too, from castles to barracks and sheep farms to blacksmiths all listed in the building menu as things to come in the future.
Already, Fabledom is setting itself apart by being an approachable, sweet little city builder. But, then it layers in royal romances, which just takes it all to another level. Eventually, the developer promises eight romanceable monarchs to discover, each with their own storyline, but for now, there are two. One prince and one princess, both designed to look like they've been plucked straight from Wallace and Gromit. The prince is focused on money, whereas the princess is more about flowers and wheat, so you'll have to decide who to woo and find out what gifts you get in return. There's nothing quite like getting a package from your admirer full of coal during a hard winter, or food after a skeleton curse to boost you - and your town's - mood.
There's something so quirky and delightful about Fabledom, and it's got so much promise. What's here isn't that lengthy right now, and yet I'm on my fifth or sixth playthrough, mainly enjoying flirting with both monarchs simultaneously without the threat of war, and trying to make the cutest town I can. I can't wait to see how this one develops.
Fabledom is out now in Early Access for PC via Steam. For more of our indie picks, head over to see all the games we've covered as part of our Indie Spotlight series, or check out our roundup of upcoming indie games.