Free-to-play role-playing game on a mobile device these days follow a standard procedure. The game (a) coddles you with a mandatory tutorial that forces you to use your available currency, (b) make you go through simple combat be it simple attack taps or match-three puzzle-solving, (c) encourages you time and again to make friends with random strangers for additional resources, and (d) make you wait for the all-impending energy meter to fill up so that you can repeat the grinding cycle that’s part and parcel with the genre.
It’s only a matter of time until one mobile game with F2P connotations that will change up the formula and break free from energy meter shackles that purposely prey on the impatient of us all. Like, maybe, a developer can borrow the Path of Exile F2P model and make an enjoyable experience without resorting to cheap stalling tactics.
Fable Age isn’t that game at all.
A shame really, given its interesting art direction and untapped source material. There isn’t much of a plot to begin with; just you gathering an army of characters from popular fairy tale books (Snow White, Red Riding Hood, etcetera) and fight off against ogres and demon armies in turn-based puzzle-tile combat. Some of the quests you partake will have a short description on a highlighted quest-giver’s plight, but there’s no narrative or story progression whatsoever for people to give two shakes about; nothing to keep players invested and care beyond screen-tapping. It’s a huge waste on a golden opportunity.
But what of the F2P-tailored game itself? It’s a decent romp if turn-after-turn battling affairs are your thing. Players have to draw a line to link two or more gems of the same color to dish out damage. You can link different-colored gems provided that you have enough link chains to do so. Lining up gems that form a circle (linked or unlinked) will result in your team doing an all-enemy attack. If you’re low on health, just draw and match heart gems.
The game follows a three-element system (Fire>Nature>Water>Fire), so you’ll have to consider setting a proper four-fable team for a five- to seven-tiered quest run. Planning on tackling a Fire-heavy opposition? Load up on Water heroes. Be mindful of just sticking to a single element for your team, because lining up the other two gems will do squat.
While the combat gets mildly fun thanks to a combination of pre-planning, audio clicks when you link gems and clear them, and figuring out the best lining combination for a situation, there’s a high percentage of luck involved. There’s no telltale sign and indicator that tells you what gems will come down next on the 4×6 board after the initial line-clearing. Sometimes you get to pull off a 40x chain on a near-dead enemy, other times you’re stuck with a chance to do a 3x chain on a big-bodied troll or undead. There’s no element of control over what you can do, which will irk many players looking for something a lot more stimulating for the brain.
And then there’s that energy meter that limits your play time, with the game’s menu passive-aggressively asking you to throw down money for gems to keep on trucking. There’s just something asinine about having a game telling players that it needs to “recharge” after they spent just a few minutes grinding and leveling up, which is a huge part of an RPG in this day and age.
Worth playing for: The fact that it’s free, so that you can gauge whether its European-styled aesthetics and F2P shenanigans will gel with your playing habits.
Watch out for: Instant difficulty spikes. Some regular enemies can one-hit kill you turn after turn and not give players a chance to counter-attack properly. Oh, and that same quest song that plays over and over and over and….
In closing: In a free-to-play sea polluted by exploitative and greed-induced mechanics, you could do a lot worse than Fable Age.