Early, Early Access Preview: Fable Fortune's Beta

By Josh Brown 17 Jul 2017 0

Rising from the ashes of Lionhead Studios’ demise and now preparing to hit Early Access, just what is Fable Fortune? If you've played at least one of the semi-popular CCGs appearing as of late, there's likely little need to formally introduce you. If you haven't, don't expect the game to do a good job of showing you the ropes.

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Overview

Currently riding out its time in a closed beta fashion until its Early Access release next week, this one spins the franchise off into yet another collectible card game like so many other big-name RPGs have in recent years: think Gwent, Hearthstone and, more recently, The Elder Scrolls: Legends. But if we're to do a direct comparison, Fable Fortune seems to have taken inspiration from Hearthstone and Shadowverse; two CCGs that already have their roots buried deep across both PC and mobile.

Upon booting into the game for the first time, you're immediately able to jump into a game through a number of menu options presenting themselves upon a satisfying - if not oddly quiet - tabletop scene. Both PvP and Co-Op events are available from the start with each set to progress to its next stage (or season) after a set period of time. As of the time of writing, we're looking to Co-op Challenge 10 'Rosewood' and PvP Season 6 'Graveyard'; both with 11 days left on their clocks.

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But here lies the initial problem – there’s no in-game tutorial right now. You might notice the Practice button sitting sheepishly beneath the two main play options, but this is literally just a 'Vs AI' mode in which you select your Hero character before going against an AI opponent with two distinct difficulty levels. If you're new to this sort of thing, you're in for a rather rough ride. With the turn timer persisting even in AI mode, it's really not well suited for beginners looking to try their hand at this new wave of RPG-based CCGs. Again, there’s no tutorial. And you can’t really play by ear when the turn timer is constantly tugging at your strings.

If you've played either Hearthstone or Shadowverse in the past, you'll generally be able to pick up Fable Fortune within your first few AI games. Again, having a timer in this mode really limits how well you can deduce the skills of your new cards to come up with a decisive strategy; but the general idea remains the same. Each card has a 'cost' that is deducted from your 'Gold' (mana) when played. You gain 1 extra maximum Gold and regenerate it all with each turn, meaning you're able to summon higher-cost cards as the battle goes on - or throw out multiple lower-cost cards in tandem instead.

Cards are split into both Spells and Units. Spells execute certain effects on use, while Units persist on the field with a 'Strength' and 'Life' count indicating how much damage they deal, and how much they can take before being destroyed. Many Units even carry additional effects to add a little extra variety and strategy to each turn; like boosting the strength of a nearby unit or summoning less-powerful units at no extra cost.

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At the start of a match, players choose a 'Hero' character and use either a pre-made exclusive to the chosen hero, or a custom deck consisting of cards earned by winning a round, leveling up or obtained store-bought 5-card packs for real or in-game currency - those, of course, are you optional micro-transactions. Each 'Hero' has a unique skill of their own that can be activated with Gold each turn, with the match ending if the Hero's 'Life' is knocked from 30 to 0 - a fate they'll usher in should their Units be unable to block damage from the enemy.

The only noteworthy difference with Fable Fortune, however, is the re-emergence of the franchise's beloved 'Alignment' system. Player actions within the Fable RPGs would have their character reflect a 'Good' or 'Evil' outward appearance - and that remains true in here. At the start of a round, you're presented with optional goals to achieve within the round - like spending a certain amount of gold or summoning strong monsters. Reaching that goal rewards a predetermined card and a choice of altering your Hero skill by choosing to follow a 'Good' or 'Evil' goal as the round progresses. It's an interesting little mechanic that adds an extra layer of strategy as you start to focus your efforts on fulfilling a goal with the promise of a useful spell or unit.

Current State & Short-term Wishes

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In its current state, there isn't a whole lot going on within the game. The main menu is simple enough, but we had difficulty even exiting the game when using a controller through the PC client. Likewise, it seems eerily quiet at times, making it feel vacant and without any real stand-out charm. It functions well enough in a match with individual cards always having something to say, but there’s little more than that.

Its rules are relatively easy to understand from an outside view (when given time), but the overall presentation certainly lacks the character or bombastic effects of its competitor. First impressions really mean something; and they're not particularly great right now. Focusing solely on launching into Early Access, we don’t really know where Flaming Fowl’s long-term plans.

Already hit with a minor delay, it's only natural to wonder whether Fable Fortune is due to be another dead on arrival spin-off stemming from the long mismanaged franchise, or a gem in the rough that may eventually find its audience. Hearthstone holds a massive share of the community across its PC and mobile version, and with Fable Fortune being progressively late to the game with little more to offer that its mid-match 'quest' system, we can't see much reason why someone would choose this over other CCGs based on far more relevant franchises. It feels void of life, but we can only hope it’s given enough time to find its soul.

Closing Thoughts

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Flaming Fowl mean well; that we're sure of. But it seems far too little too late for the stricken series to make a true return. And attempting to do that from what others could easily see as a cash grab card game likely isn't the saving grace fans were looking for when Fable Legends was still a star of hope in the distant release schedule. We can't be sure how much will change from beta to Early Access, but for now, it feels like the shoehorned beating of a dead horse. There's little life in this game outside of the quick attempts at dark British humour that made past entries even remotely memorable.

But, assuming you possess some self-control, Fable Fortune will be a completely free venture – and a decent mind-exercise for those looking for their strategy fix in quick bursts. If you're a Fable fan, there's little reason not to at least give it a shot - outside of principle or a petty vendetta, anyway. Set your boycott aside, and you may like what you find; but it's something that's been done far better for far longer than what we’re seeing here right now. Riding on franchise recognition could be its best bet – but it’s a troubled name that’s carried disappointment many times before.

Fable Fortune should have arrived in Early Access by now, but has been delayed until July 25th. Locked behind a ‘Founders Pack’ purchased through Steam at that time, the final release will see it shift to a true free-to-play format.

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