So, okay, I might have been a little bit aggressive while playing Fable Legends. In my defense, my character looked the part; a young woman wearing no shoes, a tattered dress, and an uncompromising smirk as she hunched over a giant sword, she immediately seemed ready to pick a fight. In proper roleplaying fashion, I went for it, diving right into the thick of fights with giant tree men and bloodthirsty pixies.
Before the demo was over I was lying dead in the foliage, all health potions expended, making a face in the real world as I watched one of my teammates stand uncaringly on my digital corpse. As I walked away from my mighty warrior self, who would never again strike fear into the hearts of her enemies with her incomprehensible accent (at least 'til the next round), I knew one thing for sure: in Fable Legends, you're doomed without a good, communicative team on your side.
At first blush, Legends looks pretty similar to what you might expect from the Fable series, at least in visual design. The forest I traverse throughout the demo has that olde England fantasy vibe synonymous with the franchise, and the characters on my team - including an elaborately dressed sorceress and a sentient suit of armor able to steal the souls of nearby monsters - play well to the semi-sinister fairy tale tropes that Fable is known for. However, the gameplay has a wholly different aim, focusing on tasks your team of four must accomplish together. That means traditional RPG elements like talking with strangers and completing story-based quests have been sidelined (at least during my demo) in favor of killing waves of enemies as a team.
Specific character roles are fairly obvious from the start, based on the weapon each character is holding, but while a clear bit of ambient tutorial, that almost makes it too easy to charge in headfirst without checking with your team. That can result in disaster, because once you're dead there's no way to respawn without being revived by another team member. If they don't see you or don't want to stop and perform the revive spell, that's one less person on the field, and more for the remaining players to deal with. A team that doesn’t coordinate properly will be easily picked off one by one, as their already incapacitated comrades look bitterly on.
On the downside, that means it's hard to recover when you have a disorganized team, and that playing alongside others who don't strategize well will zap the fun right out of the game. On the upside, it makes the game's four vs. one mechanic easier to balance. The player in control of the villain builds up an army of creatures to combat the heroes, making it very possible to split up and overwhelm the team if they don’t play a tight, organised game.
Fable Legends will likely please a very different kind of player to the series' usual fan. With less focus on narrative player choice and inward-focused decision making, Legends has traded slow-burn, solo roleplaying for co-operative multiplayer action where lone-wolf mentality ends in disaster. But with its asymmetric vs. set-up, co-op teams looking for a more layered combat challenge than just ‘take down the big monster’ should be very well catered for. Either be a team player, or be dead. There isn't much in between.