It’s been a long time coming and is likely a long way off still, but Fable 4 is real and official. Microsoft took the covers off the fantasy RPG-adventure game at a July Xbox games event. It didn't really show a great deal about Fable 4 other than a reasonably brief trailer.
But that was enough to get a lot of people excited; Fable is a franchise that holds a special place in people's hearts. The original developer Lionhead Studios is no more, having been shut down by Microsoft some years ago. But Fable 4’s development is in the hands of Playground Games, the developers behind the likes of Forza Horizon 4. That’s a reasonably promising bit of information, as Forza Horizon 4 had sprawling landscapes based on a condensed take on Britain, and Fable 4 has traditionally been an open-world game with a decidedly British tint.
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We’ve seen no actual game footage of Fable 4, though the trailer may have been using Fable 4’s engine; this has yet to be confirmed or denied. However, we were given a short clip of a fairy flying around a fantasy forest, complete with narration extolling the stories of a fantasy world in a plummy English accent that’s a hallmark of the Fable series. And then that fairy gets unceremoniously eaten by a large bullfrog, to represent how there’s a dark side to the fantasy world of what we're guessing is Albion.
That doesn’t leave us much to go on. But it looks like Fable 4 is going to have a lot of the tonal elements that made up the Fable games but likely with a larger and more detailed world delivered courtesy of the power of the Xbox Series X. We’ve done a bit of digging to bring you what we know about Fable 4 so far, including a heavy dose of speculation. So come with us on that journey to find out more.
Fable 4 trailer
Check out the debut trailer for Fable 4 below:
Fable 4 release date
Before you rush to the comments to complain: no, we don’t know when Fable 4 is going to be released. All we know it's in development. Regardless, take this as a placeholder for future updates.
While the trailer of Fable 4 served its purpose to build up hype around the game, it looks like it’s still a long way off.
This isn't hugely surprising given there was no game footage shown off. But thanks to Herve Gengler, a senior games designer working on Fable 4 at Playground Games, we were given the impression that the game won’t be coming out for a couple of years.
Gengler tweeted that Playground Games is looking to fill positions for the likes of a Lead Scriptwriter and Principal Tools Engineer to work on Fable 4. Such positions seem to indicate development for Fable 4 is gearing up rather than well underway.
That being said, it could be that Playground Games is looking for people with software engineering and scriptwriting skills to polish up Fable 4, effectively fleshing out the foundations of a game. Even so, that could mean Fable 4 is still some way off being completed.
We’d predict that, at best, Fable 4 is mid-way through its development. We could be very wrong, of course, as Microsoft might be keeping Fable 4’s development well under wraps.
We’d hazard a guess that it will arrive sometime towards the end of this year or early 2022. We’d suspect that Playground Games, the developer behind Forza Horizon 4, has been working on Fable 4 for some time and that it’s potentially mid-way through its development. It’s looking likely that there will be a decent wait for Fable 4, but we’re open to being surprised.
Fable 4 leaks, news and rumors
There had been a lot of little hints at the existence of Fable 4. But the latest and greatest one comes courtesy of a well-known insider going by the name of Klobrille on the Resetera games forum, who has claimed Fable 4 will be revealed at the Xbox 20/20 games showcase on June 23. That claim was proven to be true.
Before that reveal, Fable 4's future looked a lot hazier. A placeholder for the @Fable Twitter account was spotted being followed by a Microsoft employee, which caused speculation around the game's potential announcement. But then Aaron Greenberg, general manager at Xbox, shot down speculation that this could be a clue that a Fable 4 announcement was incoming.
“I know everyone is hungry for news, but sorry to get your hopes up. These accounts have been inactive for years, it’s standard practice to secure social handles for our IP,” Greenberg said.
I know everyone is hungry for news, but sorry to get your hopes up. These accounts have been inactive for years, it’s standard practice to secure social handles for our IP.June 28, 2020
This poured cold water on the recent fires of speculation. But over the past few years, other clues to Fable 4 have popped up. Phil Spencer has hinted at Fable 4 before E3 2018, with a tweet back in 2017 noting there was nothing Xbox Game Studios had to announce but the Fable IP has “a lot of places it could go.”
However, while that was happening, IGN found that Microsoft has applied for a renewal of the Fable trademark on June 26, with Microsoft also filing an intent to use the application. Microsoft has yet to confirm or deny its plans for the Fable trademark.
In 2018 Don Williamson, the former Lionhead lead engine programmer, tweeted that he knew of a studio working on Fable 4, though he has since deleted the tweet. That studio seems to be Playground Games.
Then in 2019, a massive Fable 4 leak on Reddit popped up around E3 2019, though the game was never showcased. The leak detailed how Albion, the land of Fable, has been completely destroyed by an asteroid called down by a mad king who took control of The Spire, which Fable 2 fans will remember was something you needed to wrest control of from tyrant Lucien Fairfax.
The latest nugget information, not that Fable 4 is official, comes in the form of a developer insider noting that the game will be an open-world RPG, not a massively multiplayer online game. There had been some worry that as the game's trailer teased a large world, that it would be something in the vein of World of Warcraft.
But while there will be online elements, such as co-operative functionality or limited shared open spaces, the source behind the information told Windows Central that the game most definitely won't be an MMO. As such, we can expect it to be a game with a large world to explore yet with a strong single-player element to it; welcome news for dedicated fans of Fable.
In an interview with The Guardian, Microsoft head of studios Matt Booty noted that such MMO rumors stem from the idea that Fable 4 needs to do something new to the series to keep it fresh but not go too far off the beaten path. An MMO would be one such way to do this, but Fable 4 won’t go down that road.
“With any kind of franchise like that, where you’ve had existing versions, there’s always that balance between what you’re going to bring forward, what still stands up, and what you want to add that’s new,” Booty explained. “It’s like the challenge of making a new Star Wars movie—there’s stuff that everyone wants you to bring along, but then you’ve got a responsibility to that, to new places and I trust Playground has a good vision for that.”
Fable 4 setting and gameplay
The asteroid impact results in “a land reduced to fables” and the leaked information indicated that Fable 4 will take place on another continent. Oh, and there will be other planets too, as the Heroes’ Guild and enigmatic character Theresa have to take shelter on a different planet that can be accessed via a Demon Door — think portal to another world or area.
As odd as that sounds, the leak implies that Fable 4 will have a similar medieval setting to the first game, with Fable 2’s muskets and pistols replaced by more swords and sorcery. Multiplayer is also expected, likely in the form of co-op exploration, though there’s been no clue to how it’ll be implemented.
More interesting is the suggestion that Fable 4 will be completely open, suggesting a larger open-world game than the previous Fable games. Players can allegedly ignore the main quest to become a hero and instead go around building towns.
But if they do pursue the quest, it will apparently involve time travelling and will see the return of the first game’s antagonist Jack of Blades. As this is a Fable game, there’ll be in-depth character creation and likely a lot of moral choices to make that influence how people perceive the player’s character. It should look pretty good as well, as it's tipped to use Unreal engine (possibly the new Unreal Engine 5 we've already seen in action on PS5).
What we want from Fable 4
Unlike Skryim or recent Grand Theft Auto games, the Fable games have always been about giving you a reasonably constrained open world packed with things to do rather than places to explore and story to uncover. While we don’t want to lose some of the charm and silliness Fable games offered us, such as buying out whole towns or marrying multiple people and watching as they had arguments in the street about you, we’d like to see a bit more depth with Fable 4.
A larger open world with more space to run around and the ability to effectively go further into places your character may be poorly equipped to deal with is something we’d like to have the option to do. And some deeper side quests with results and consequences that leave a mark on the world would also be appreciated.
We’re not expecting the same level of plot depth as The Witcher 3, as that wouldn’t suit Fable. But a little more flesh on the story and sidequests would be great.
It would also be neat to be able to manipulate the world in the ways like Peter Molyneux promised the original Fable would have, such as being able to cut down a tree and see it grow back if you come back years later. The power of the Xbox Series X and Windows 10 PCs should have no trouble making this a reality.
Combat in Fable could also be improved, making it feel more kinetic and strategic rather than a slightly floaty mix of hammering a couple of buttons and cycling through enemies until they hit the deck. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild proved that depth could be added into combat with various parry, dodge, and weapon moves without making the game complex or too like Dark Souls.
Finally, we’d like to see the dog make a return. It was a core and excellent part of Fable 2, but its role was somewhat diminished in Fable 3.
So Fable 4 could instead give the dog more of a part in the game, maybe allowing you to sic it onto enemies in the vein of D-Dog in Metal Gear Solid V.
A brief tale of Fable
The last proper Fable game was Fable 3 released on the Xbox 360 in 2010, following up on the success of 2008’s Fable 2 on the same console. The third game in the Fable series was reasonably well-received but didn't win the critical acclaim of its predecessor or the original Fable.
The departure of legendary game developer Peter Molyneux and other key developers from Lionhead Studios resulted in a change of direction for Fable’s studio and its ultimate demise in 2016, despite it being owned by Microsoft. This left Fable in a semi-state of limbo.
There were spin-off Fable games in the form of Fable Heroes, a beat ‘em up game for the Xbox 360, Kinect-centric exploration and spell-slinging game Fable: The Journey, and Fable Fortune, a free-to-play digital card game that was launched in 2018 for the Xbox One but then discontinued March 2020. None of these Fable games garnered much acclaim, arguably sinking the series.
In 2013, hope was kindled with a teaser trailer for Fable Legends. It showed a five-player Xbox One game that had four people playing as hero characters and one player being a form of dungeon master villain sending enemies to attack the heroes. But the closure of Lionhead meant Fable Legends got cancelled.
That brings us to E3 2018, where Xbox boss Phil Spencer implied that what could be Fable 4 may be in the works. Spencer didn’t leave fans much to go on, but thanks to the Xbox 20/20 games showcase, we now know Fable 4 is real and it's being developed by Playground Games.
Could this be a sing that more Fable games are to come? Well, we're not sure yet, but it's just nice to see the Fable series not get consigned to video fame history.
Fable 4 is actually happening
We had been fearful that despite all the above, Fable 4 wasn't going to happen. At least not any time soon; we'd previously said Microsoft isn’t done with the Fable series just yet, but we wouldn’t put much money on it....may be we should have.
The reason for those initial thoughts was that Fable 3 also came out at a time before Skyrim, The Witcher 3 and Breath of the WIld set high watermarks in how open-world fantasy games could be delivered. Arguably, in a world with such games, a new Fable game might feel a tad archaic.
Playground Games could shake-up the formula, but then there’s a risk it might not feel like a Fable game. Sure, some fans would be happy for more of the same. But to make Fable 4 compelling, it will need to tread the line between being faithful to the series yet having something new and fresh to make it compelling and keep people from going back to yet another new console version of Skyrim.
So now that we know Fable 4 is real, we're quietly optimistic that it will give the Xbox Series X an ace in the hole. Time will tell, likely another12 months or so.