Book Review: The Art of Fable Legends

TheArtofFableLegends

After more than three years in development, Fable Legends has officially been cancelled as of earlier in the week. Lionhead Studios also is on the brink of being closed outright by Microsoft, a sad and sudden end for the developer clearly looming. In some ways the news honestly does not come as a huge surprise given the general lack of enthusiasm the game had been able to generate, particularly from core Fable fans disappointed by the shift to a free-to-play cooperative multiplayer format instead of a proper RPG successor to the original trilogy. However, the announcement still comes as a shock to the system considering how the game had been positioned for so long as the centerpiece of Microsoft’s cross-platform plans between Xbox One and Windows 10 and was intended to have an extended lifecycle, potentially beyond that of even the Xbox One console itself.

Some cross-media promotional tie-ins even began last year, when the game was originally supposed to launch. Prior to the game being delayed back in December, a companion novel, Fable: Blood of Heroes, was published over the summer by Del Rey, and in late November Titan Books published an art book, seemingly a signal that the game was safely on the road to completion. Due to the delay, I held off on reviewing The Art of Fable Legends late last year, with plans to feature it when the game’s new release date came around. But since that’s no longer going to happen now, instead I think it’s only appropriate to showcase the work Lionhead’s creative team put into conceptualizing the game and reflect on what could have been.

Whether you were a fan of the game’s direction or not, there’s no denying that Fable Legends looked gorgeous. Fable games, if nothing else, have always had a wonderful sense of style, as well as a distinct visual language immediately recognizable as being part of the Fable universe, unique in many ways compared to other fictional worlds of fantasy. This game only looked to push the bar even higher. Flipping through the art book highlights the game’s return to a more mystical, folklore-influenced vision of Albion, hundreds of years before the original Fable when magic was more prominent, the land was more rustic and fantastical and less mechanical and industrialized. Newer technology like Unreal Engine 4 and DirectX 12 brought greater realism to the visuals, but, as the art shows, there was still that familiar Fable fairytale style of asymmetrical architecture, exaggerated characters evoking a bit of a cartoonish quality, and, of course, that signature British humor at the heart of the series.

Roughly half of the book’s 192 pages are dedicated to the game’s 14 heroes–Sterling, Inga, Rook, Winter, Leech, Glory, Tipple, Evienne, Shroud, Celeste, Malice, Verse, Flash, and Flair–an eclectic and suitably eccentric cast of warriors, brutes, assassins, spellcasters, healers, and ranged specialists. Each character is featured with an introductory bio and a full-page portrait, proceeded by a few pages of various concept images (facial studies, costume designs, illustrations, black and white sketches, weapon diagrams, etc.) plus a full grey scale character model render.

The remaining half of the book features art and descriptions of the game’s creatures, locations, and even the character-specific UI symbols used for each hero’s skill icons. Albion has never looked more like a dark fairytale; it’s a shame players will never get to fully explore locales like Brightlodge and Rosewood. After going through the creatures section, I’m especially saddened by not getting the chance to face off in-game against the Redcaps, the goblin-like Hobbe replacements with red hats literally nailed into their heads, or the humorously Fable-ized take on Ogres, giant beasts that carry around their twin’s talking head on a stick (in Albion ogres have both their brain and heart in their head) which doubles as club. Fun little touches like that are what Fable has always excelled at.

The book also contains a foreword by art director Kelvin Tuite and an afterword by game director David Eckelberry, which, along with author Martin Robinson’s introduction, are kind of sad to read now that the game has been cancelled, because their passion for the project jumps off the page, and it’s clear they had every expectation to finish the game with plans for years to come. To go from having a goal to support the game possibly five to ten years down the road to not even producing a final product has to be a definite punch to the gut for everyone involved.

Fable Legends is no more, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a moment to admire and appreciate the gorgeous artwork (and the years of hard work) that went into its conceptualization. Artistically speaking, Lionhead really did a spectacular job realizing the fairytale fantasy world of Albion that was to be depicted in Fable Legends. It’s just too bad the masses will never get the chance to experience it as a playable game.

Buy From: The Art of Fable Legends is available now for MSRP $39.99 from Titan Books and Amazon.com.

Disclosure: A copy of The Art of Fable Legends was provided to VGBlogger.com for review by Titan Books.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!