The joy of villainy in Fable Legends

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Part of that prestige, it seems, lies in creating the first functional, widespread PC-console framework. The mechanics of Windows 10’s cross-platform setup were kept secret during my time with the game—the best thing that can be said for cross-platform play at this point is that I didn’t notice a difference between either format, nor any negative performance when playing with both in the same game. But there are little details that mark a positive, proactive approach.

On PC Legends is cross-controller, as well as cross-play, for a start. “If you put a controller into your PC,” Eckleberry tells me, “the moment you input it, your user interface will flip to the controller controls, and the minute you tap any key on your keyboard, it’ll flip to the keyboard controls. You could change moment-to-moment.”

That’s useful not only for changes between hero (designed initially for controller) and villain (judging by my utter domination, a neater fit for keyboard), but even between hero types. Eckleberry admits that while he prefers the precision of mouselook with a ranged character, melee play is probably better suited to a controller.

His game is proof that any Xbox One game could, and perhaps should, end up on Windows 10 too.

Alongside this, cross-platform cloud processing comes into play, bringing both formats’ physics, loot and end-of-quest rewards into line. Both sets of players are working towards the same Achievements, under the same restrictions and requiring the same skill levels. And, apparently, implementing all of this has been a relatively simple process. Legends’ lead Windows 10 engineer, Raymond Arifianto, is enthusiastic enough to suggest that his game is proof that any Xbox One game could, and perhaps should, end up on Windows 10 too.

“The goal from a platform perspective is to make it easy for people to do what we’re doing,” he says. “Hopefully, we’re just the tip of the spear and people will say, ‘huh! That is doable, let me think about it for my next game’.”

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Beyond the intentions, promises and, let’s face it, Microsoft evangelism at work here, lies the simple fact that we could be getting an excellent multiplayer game for absolutely nothing. Every member of Lionhead’s staff perks up the moment I ask them who their favourite character is, what tactics to use as a new class, or their best villain’s ruse. As I unsteadily lurch vampiric healer Leech behind an experienced party, a villain-playing producer cackles at every Redcap sneak attack he sends around a scenic route to take me by surprise. Developers mill about discussing hero tactics and combos throughout my entire day, questioning whether brutish fist-fighter, Tipple, works best as a control user for the lethal, brittle Sterling, or alongside support mage, Winter, who can freeze his unlucky targets for him. Factions begin to appear in the studio, as people reveal themselves to prefer hero or villain play.

“There should be, and there is, something for everyone,” says executive producer Geoff Smith. “There are so many hero types to mix and match, or you can really get your teeth into the villain, which is exciting and different. It’s great fun playing against human villains—we will have AI, but against humans it’s just so much better. Humans will open gates to knock over a single human player over and over again—Stu [Stuart Whyte] does that a lot. He loves gates.”

Bear in mind that this man is primarily in charge of high-level organisation, getting the game shipshape and out of the door. He’s spending time trash-talking a colleague for their virtual gate strategies and etiquette. That central design philosophy—that the game comes first, long before the business or the technology—seemingly suffuses everyone working on Fable Legends. It’s the first thing they want to talk about, and they constantly want to play.

Above and beyond its role in the vanguard of a new operating system’s games, or the fact that it stands on the brink of a true multi-platform player base, or its general technical wizardry, this is a game that offers friends the chance to go on adventures together or to get ogres to fart on guys in big hats. Windows 10 might have offered this game a lot in development, but it’s increasingly likely that Legends will offer it more after release.