- The Fable series underwent multiple changes to keep things fresh, but not every change was for the better, and some good concepts like Armor Rating were discarded.
- The decision to remove Armor made sense given the series’ move away from its original setting, but returning to it in the upcoming Fable reboot could offer more customization options.
- To improve the Armor system, Fable 4 could introduce different Armor categories for different character builds, with parallel equipment progression and cosmetic options for customization.
The Fable series underwent multiple changes over its lifespan, never settling on a consistent formula. This is not inherently bad since it reflected developer Lionhead Studios’ and Peter Molyneux’s interest in innovation and keeping things fresh. Still, not every change was for the better, and Lionhead had a habit of throwing babies out with the bathwater.
Armor Rating is one of Fable‘s many discarded concepts, appearing in the original game but never since. The decision to remove Armor made some sense, given the series’ move away from the first game’s medieval fantasy setting. It also gives players more freedom to customize their character’s appearance without worrying about optimizing their stats. However, with Playground Game’s Fable reboot coming next year, it might be time for Armor to make a comeback.
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The Case for Armor Rating to Return in Fable 4
The original Fable‘s armor system is very simple compared to some other RPGs. Some outfits have additional strengths and weaknesses, such as all metal Armors having a slight vulnerability to Lightning damage. Most outfits have secondary effects, though only a few of those are useful in combat. For all practical purposes, Plate is better than Chainmail, which is better than Leather, which is better than regular clothing. There is no encumbrance system, and Strength requirements only apply to weapons, so there’s little gameplay reason for players to stick with light Armor late in the game.
Some might criticize Fable for this, though the linear equipment progression has its uses. First, it clearly indicates the player’s progress through the game. One could arguably split the game into early, mid, and late based on whether the player can be reasonably expected to have Leather, Chainmail, or Plate as their primary Armor. It also reduces the problem of players finding Armor they can’t use.
Of course, it is pretty limiting from an RPG customization perspective. Fable had Light and Dark variants of most clothing items, but they were just palette swaps with a few modifiers to how NPCs perceive the Hero. Meanwhile, the magical resistance from the Will User outfit variants and stealth bonus from the Assassin outfits are too situational to make them viable alternatives to heavy Armor. It’s hard to say if any of the factors influenced Lionhead’s decision to abandon Armor in Fable 2, but the studio never looked back either way.
The Return of Armor in Playground Game’s Fable
Bringing back Armor Ratings in Playground Game’s Fable 4 does not necessarily mean recreating the system as it existed in the first game. If one were to discuss improving the first game’s Armor, the obvious suggestion would be to create parallel equipment progression for different builds. The three branches of Strength, Skill, and Will are one of the few constants across the Fable trilogy. It would make sense for the new game to have Armor categories for Strength, Skill, and Will users, with multiple tiers for each.
This could be as simple as other RPGs’ typical Heavy, Medium, and Light Armor. However, Armor sets in the next Fable game could instead emphasize the strengths of each category. For example, perhaps Strength Armors could give a bonus to the damage players deal per hit, while Skill Armors increase attack speed. Playground Games could also create Armor progression paths for each combination of two aspects and one for heroes who engage in all three equally.
There is also no reason the game couldn’t feature cosmetic options as a side grade to the main Armor sets. This potentially offers the best of both worlds, giving players some of the freedom that Fable 2 and Fable 3 offered while maintaining the clear sense of progression that the first game’s Armor provided. Alternatively, if customization is the priority, Playground Games could also let players apply outfits as skins to other items, as seen in games like Diablo 4 and Cyberpunk 2077.
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