Thursday was a big day for Microsoft, who showcased some of the new first-party games coming to the Xbox One and Series X. The showcase featured a variety of new IPs as well as several long-awaited sequels. Halo Infinite was naturally the star of the show. Still, Halo isn’t the only classic Xbox franchise getting a new installment. That’s right, Fable is making its return after four years of silence.
Although the rumor mill never stopped turning, the last major release in the series was Fable Anniversary in 2014. That was also the final game released by Lionhead Studios before the company shut down in 2016.
There have been plenty of alleged leaks and wild speculation ever since Playground Games took the wheel in 2018, but what do we actually know about Fable 4?
For now, not much, at least not for sure. The trailer certainly did not reveal a whole lot. It begins with a small pixie discovering a rusty sword planted in the ground. The Guild Seal, the closest thing Fable has to a proper logo, is clearly visible on the pommel. As John Cleese narrates about heroes and villains, the camera pulls back to reveal that the sword protrudes from the back of a moss-covered skeleton.
This line is most likely a reference to the moral choice system that has been at the core of Fable since it’s inception. Now, I have already expressed my opinion on when and how morality systems can be effective in games. Were just going to have to wait and see what Playground Games has in store.
The trailer continues with the pixie frolicking through the forest as the narrator talks about wondrous creatures and fantastical places. Unfortunately for our fairy friend, things don’t quite work out for her. A toad takes her by surprise, swallowing the pixy whole as John Cleese explains, “Not all stories have happy endings, but yours has yet to be written.”
If nothing else, I think the fairy gobbling shows that Fable hasn’t lost the moderately dark humor that’s been the undercurrent of the series.
Playground Games hasn’t divulged anything specific about the upcoming release. I talked about some of the Fable 4 rumors back in May, but rumors are pretty much all there is at this point.
I will say that one popular theory appears to be untrue. According to an alleged 2019 leak, Fable 4 will take place thousands of years after the Kingdom of Albion was destroyed by a meteor. This would have allowed Fable 4 to serve as a soft reboot of the franchise.
However, if you look at the last shot of the trailer, you can see what I’m pretty sure is Albion’s capital city of Bowerstone. The castle looks like it’s been built up a bit since the last time we saw it. However, you can still see the isolated tower the protagonist of Fable 2 was thrown from near the beginning of the game.
This makes me think we’re looking at a sequel rather than a reboot. Who knows, maybe it’s that steampunk Fable 4 that Peter Molyneux wanted to make.
Playground Games is an interesting choice of developer. You may know them as the makers of the Forza Horizon series. This is the studio’s first attempt at developing an action RPG, and they’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill. That said, we can’t discount the studio’s experience designing open worlds. If this 2018 Eurogamer article is to be believed, Fable’s rebirth was motivated in part by the success of Sony’s Horizon Zero Dawn.
Still, it’s strange to think about a Fable game developed by someone other than Lionhead. Fable was very much the product of Peter Molyneux’s unique creative vision. While Lionhead made more than its share of mistakes under his leadership, Fable would not exist without him and his team. It remains to be seen if a new studio can recapture that magic.