The new Fable Fortune card game takes its foundation from other collectible card games, then brings Fable’s renowned morality system into the mix.
The digital card game genre has picked up steam these last couple years, with renowned developers like CD Projekt Red and Bethesda adding their projects to the mix to compete with Blizzard’s Hearthstone.
Flaming Fowl Studios, an indie developer founded by Lionhead veterans, partnered with Mediatronic to become the latest contender in the ring, bringing the world of Fable to the CCG genre. They call it, “Fable Fortune.”
I finally got my hands on this free-to-play game, and while I thoroughly enjoyed its Fable charm, I don’t think it will be my go-to CCG game anytime soon. (My fellow writer Marco played Fable Fortune as well and felt the same.) Here’s the logic behind my impression:
Fable Fortune is Not Complete
As of this writing, Fable Fortune is missing several key features, including a battle log, three of the six Heroic Tales, custom card backs, and localization. And that’s not me touting what the game should have, these are features promised by Fable Fortune’s very own developer roadmap. This is in stark contrast to Gwent, which has features like localization, a battle log, and five solo challenges (not counting limited-time challenges, such as the Midwinter Hunt) despite the fact that it is still in Game Preview with no official launch date announced.
It feels like Fable Fortune was rushed out the door.
And while these may seem like minor features, the lack of a battle log proved to be sorely needed.
I’m the kind of person who never looks at the battle log in CCGs (sue me), so normally I would be the last to complain about the feature being missing. But Fable Fortune has very quick, snappy animations. This makes the game move quickly, with AI’s often blasting through their turn in a couple of seconds. I absolutely love that about Fable Fortune. It brings the game to life in a very Fable-esque sense.
But when an opponent takes one of those quick turns, chaining several moves in a row in a series of rapid animations, it can sometimes be impossible to track where a power-up came from, or why my minions exploded despite the fact that my opponent had no minions. With no way to view a graveyard or battle log, I was forced to shake my head in bewilderment and move forward.
The more I played, the more I learned the cards and was able to recognize the source for certain spells, but only because they were spells I had played myself. Overall, the experience would have been far less frustrating if I could have peeked at a graveyard or battle log whenever a few seconds of glorious madness erupted on my screen.
To add to the “unfinished” feel of the game, Fable Fortune was typically slow to load between games or modes. These loading screens were empty of anything to look at or read, making the wait feel more noticeable than in games like Gwent where loading screens show tips or new cards, making the load time seem faster.
A Foundation Built on Standard CCG Gameplay
The foundation of Fable Fortune is much the same as other CCGs in the genre. Like their predecessors, they took a bunch of mechanics from the competition, tweaked the rules slightly, and gave those mechanics new names. What Elder Scrolls: Legends calls mana, Fable Fortune calls gold. What Hearthstone calls taunt, Fable calls guard. The list goes on.
For anyone who has played Hearthstone or Elder Scrolls: Legends, the gameplay will be incredibly easy to pick up.
Although to be fair, Fable Fortune puts an interesting spin on guard compared to its compatriots. While minions in Hearthstone and ES:L have guard (taunt) built into the cards themselves, in Fable Fortune guard is freely given to a single minion at the cost of one gold. This creates an interesting dynamic where a player can choose their desired defender from turn to turn, but only if they remember to save the one coin to do so. If I found myself in a pinch and needed more than one guardian, I had to rely on abilities from other cards to grant guard beyond the first one.
Fable Fortune also has hero abilities, much like Hearthstone, but these abilities come with a unique Fable twist. More on that in the next section.
The Fable Touch Brings a Unique Twist to the Genre
This is where Fable Fortune gets fun.
Fable is known for its morality system and whimsical world full of chickens and choices. Fable Fortune is no exception.
First, the chickens. With a basic card dubbed “Vengeant Chicken,” and a tutorial that pitches the player against, “A fowl presence,” there is no shortage of Fable charm.
It was this quintessential Fable humor, coupled with the vibrant colors and snappy animations, that softened my heart to the game. Regardless of any other shortcomings when compared to its more established brethren, Fable Fortunes brings a light-hearted, fun experience that isn’t necessarily present in other CCGs. Charging my opponent in the face with a Vengeant Chicken will always bring a smile to my face.
Then there’s the gameplay mechanics.
Each game is played on a different map, and each map comes with its own quests. At the start of the game, a player chooses which quest to pursue, such as, “Play 4 units that cost 4 or less,” or “Spend 20 gold!” Once a player finishes the quest, they add a special card to their hand as a reward, then make a morality choice. Pick good or evil, and your hero’s ability will change accordingly.
For example, a shapeshifter starts out with the Rend ability: pay 2 gold to deal 1 damage to an enemy. Choose the side of good, and that Rend becomes Focused Rend: deal 2 damage to your opponent, or 1 damage to an enemy unit. Choose the side of evil, and you are granted Draining Rend: Deal 1 damage to an enemy and heal your Hero for 1.
This creates an interesting dynamic wherein a player can level up and change their hero ability throughout the game. Every time a player finishes a quest, they get to pick up a new quest on their next turn, granting them a chance to gain another morality point and another chance to change their ability.
And some cards will be affected by how many morality points a player has, or what type. For example, Hardened Colonel will transform into either a Merciless Colonel (Big Entrance: Give adjacent units +2/+2) or Merciful Colonel (Big Entrance: Gain +2/+2 and Guard) depending on whether you are good or evil. Meanwhile, Snowspire Summoner will deal one point of damage for each point of morality you have.
It certainly adds a new layer of strategy to the game.
Do I take the path of good and add 1 Enhanced Vial to my hand, or do I take the path of evil and choose 1 of 4 Basic Vials to add to my hand? Decisions, decisions…
Co-op Mode: Everything You’d Expect
It’s like the heading says, no surprises here. Co-op is a fun and difficult mode that puts a new spin on the game and encourages you to play with friends. Players can see each others’ hands, ping suggestions to their allies, and players on Xbox One can opt into voice-chat for better communication.
But, playing with a stranger can easily go sour. It is hard to predict the moves of your ally, making it hard to strategize when you have to wait two turns (enemy + ally) before your next move. And when the enemy is flooding the board with minions while you’re sitting at 6 health and only one guard, it is scary to put your faith in someone else.
Or, in my case, I felt bad for the ally putting their faith in me. I jumped into co-op fairly early in my Fable Fortune experience, so I was still fairly new to the strategy of the game, and woefully unprepared for the relentless onslaught dealt by the co-op opponent. Add that to my typical CCG strategy of, “Oops, I f*cked up,” and my ally was in for a rough ride.
To be fair, we rode out a half dozen turns with only six health, which was no small feat when the enemy was constantly filling the board with minions. But when my every attempt to ping, “Good Job,” or “Oops,” resulted in obnoxious fanfare or a rambunctious toot, I could only imagine my ally sitting in front of their computer with their head in their hands.
That’s right. The in-game communication plays silly noises instead of voice-lines when communicating with an ally or opponent. While they can be a cute throwback to sound effects from the main series games, in practice they are obnoxious and woefully out of place in a CCG.
Back to my trials of co-op!
After bleeding out health over the course of a bazillion hands (I obviously didn’t keep count), we finally lost to a computer that sat at a healthy 30 hit points. It was painful, but I was sure my ally took solace in the fact that they no longer had to deal with me and my distracting fanfare.
But, not one to back down from a challenge, I queued up again. I was slightly-better-prepared this time, and my next ally would never have to know of the pain I put my last teammates through!
The next game fired up, and… my ally had the exact same username as before. Oh, the poor sap!
Fortunately, this game went far better than the last one. I toned down my fanfare, and my ally actually picked up the habit. We cordially pinged each other suggestions and encouragement, and slogged through the trenches with some fairly decent strategies. While we didn’t win, we did manage to get our opponent down to half health this time, and that alone felt like a victory!
All in all, it was a fun experience. I did eventually win a game, albeit not with my initial friend. But that being said, I am not particularly keen to return to the mode anytime soon.
A Note on Xbox One Controls
I played Fable Fortune on both PC and Xbox One one. It wasn’t a particularly hard thing to do since my progress seamless transferred from one device to the next thanks to Microsoft’s Play Anywhere. Although, that experience is no different than hopping between phone and PC on Hearthstone or ES:L.
And, much like co-op, playing on Xbox One went about as you’d expect.
Playing a CCG with a controller has always been notoriously difficult, even harkening back to early MTG days. On a board with dozens of different cards and abilities in play, it can be tedious to scroll through each item to reach the right one instead of simply pointing at it as you would on PC.
Although to be fair, Fable Fortune did a good job of assigning common tasks, such as the hero ability and guard, to their own buttons so they could easily be activated on the fly.
That being said, there were two things that bugged me beyond the standard CCG-on-a-console qualms.
For one, I couldn’t view my quests via the console controls. So, if I couldn’t quite remember which quest I had picked, tough luck. I just had to wait and see what actions happened to grant me progress.
For another, communicating via the in-game menu was impossible. I attempted to send, “Good Job,” to my opponent and found that it was glitchy as heck. After hitting LB to open the little menu, any animation triggered on the main board would close it out. And even if I happened to find a lull in the action, I couldn’t properly scroll to, “Good Job,” because my indicator was highlighting both a card in my hand and the chat bubble simultaneously. As a result of the UI confusion, the indicator hopped around like mad with my every attempt to navigate, frantically skipping past my desired selection as it glitched. Graah!
Sorry, opponent fellah. I guess I won’t be congratulating you on that face-smashing combo.
Fable Fortune builds on familiar mechanics from the CCG genre and adds in its own quests and morality modifiers to spice things up. When compared to other CCGs in the genre, it didn’t feel “complete,” and it lacked the staying power to pull me away from my favorite CCG games. However, the unique Fable charm it brings to the table makes for a fun, goofy experience that I believe every Fable fan will enjoy.
An article ranking popular CCGs from “best” to “not as fun” is pending. Stay tuned!