Remember movies like Transmorphers? Back in the days before online streaming, when people actually rented or bought DVD’s, there was a whole market for lazy movies that were meant to fool you into thinking they were something else. Your clueless aunt would stroll through the entertainment aisle of the store and pick up a copy of Transmorphers for your birthday, not knowing the difference between it and that copy of Transformers you actually wanted. Well, developer IGG seems to be resurrecting this slimy gimmick for the mobile games industry, especially with games like Final Fable.
While no reasonable person would hopefully mistake this game for a Final Fantasy, the hacky title of this RPG is just one small part of Final Fable‘s tireless pursuit to make you think it is a better game than it is. The game is littered with distractions in the form of various upgrades and item shops, while the actual gameplay is very thin. It all looks quite nice, with playful character designs, fluid animations, and an overall consistent fantasy aesthetic, but anyone familiar with the typical traps of a freemium game will immediately be wary.
Final Fable brings you to the realm of Fantasia, where it turns out that you just so happen to be the chosen one of something or other. Who knew? Fantasia is a universe inhabited by classic favorite fairy tale characters, ruled over by Aesop of Aesop’s Fables in a Zeus-like role and appearance. All of the characters’ storylines are re-imagined with a darker edge, like Snow White gone mad from obsessing over her appearance and Three Little Pigs that look more like the Gamorrean guards from Star Wars. It certainly takes some inspiration from Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us, based on the comic series Fables, just without the modern New York setting or gritty noir feel.
You battle your way through these twisted fables with the help of an army of heroes in automated, turn-based combat. As you progress through the game you pick up new heroes, like the Little Bad Wolf or Katnip Nevergreen (come on, really?), as loot for beating certain bosses. Attacking is fully automated, and one of the only things you can do is tap on a hero when she’s fully charged up to release her special attack. Final Fable‘s one interesting innovation is in how you can rotate your party’s line-up mid-combat for strategic advantage. You can hold seven in your party at one time: a leader and six supporting heroes. Only three of those six can be in the front line of a battle at any given time, but you can swipe right to bring back-row people to the front and send your front line people to the back to recharge health.
But, as with most games of freemium ilk, Final Fable is less about playing and more about upgrading, upgrading, upgrading! There are always more heroes to unlock and new levels to reach to keep the lizard part of your brain sated with all the accomplishments you’re supposed to feel like you’re making. There’s even two different ways to increase the stats of your heroes—leveling up and evolving—and the latter requires buying or collecting a certain set of items. You even have to pay gold pieces to level up your heroes’ skills and special attacks rather than having them level up with the hero. Outside of configuring your party, there is no customization possible, only more stuff to get. And if you aren’t earning gold fast enough, then what do you know? You can pay real money to get in-game stuff, as the game likes to remind you from time to time.
The problem with games like Final Fable is that they take the concept of a reward too literally. Rather than rewarding you by providing a good story, or a satisfying game experience, this game will just heap gold and gems on you for so much as signing in to play for the day. It’s like the game is desperate for you to play, and it isn’t hard to see the motivation behind its neediness. Freemium is nothing new, and for the most part neither is this game. I’m not fooled by all the flashy upgrades, or the knockoff title.
Final Fable adds a small innovation to an otherwise standard RPG combat system, but it’s still mostly shallow freemium gimmickry.