Despite Fable being one of Microsoft's most-beloved exclusive IPs, we haven't seen a mainline instalment since Fable 3 was released way back in 2010 - that's nearly a whole decade without a follow-up.
Of course it hasn't been all quiet on the Fable front. There was an unsuccessful attempt to pivot to an online games-as-service model with Fable Legends. But that was followed by the eventual closure of original developer Lionhead Studios, which meant many thought we’d never experience another traditional single-player Fable adventure.
However, when Xbox boss Phil Spencer said in early 2017 that the series wasn’t dead and still had places to go, hopes were understandably raised. More recently, reports have emerged that Playground Games, the developer behind the Forza Horizon series, is working on the fourth Fable game.
Now it looks like we have a bit more to go on than rumors after an alleged Fable 4 leak found its way into the wild and the details were published on Reddit.
We’ve put together everything you need to know regarding the news and rumours about Fable 4, as well as what we'd love to see from the next instalment.
[Update: There are rumors that Fable 4 will have some impressive writers behind it. Read on to find out more.]
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The fourth game in the Xbox exclusive open-world RPG series
- What can I play it on? Xbox and PC most likely
- When can I play it? Nothing confirmed but, even if it is, it’ll still be some time
Given that Fable 4 hasn’t actually been confirmed yet, and we sadly don't have the prophetic powers of the games' soothsaying Theresa, it’d be hard to pin down any kind of release date for Fable 4.
However, back in 2018, Eurogamer posited that development on the game was in its very early stages, with rumored developer Playground Games still hiring to boost team numbers up to around 200.
Of course that news feels a little old now, but it's all we have to go on at the moment. So, taking it with a grain of salt, we may not see the next Fable game until 2021, 2020 if we're being optimistic.
News and rumors
Though Microsoft hasn’t officially confirmed Fable 4 is on the way, there have been signs that the franchise hasn’t been abandoned.
We've collected together all of the top rumors and news below, take each with a grain of salt and remember that some of these are years old now - we're keeping them here to show you the full development of Fable 4. Fingers crossed the wait will be worth it.
If the rumours that Playground Games is indeed the studio tasked with developing the next Fable game are true then things are looking positive for the game’s story.
Recently (via VGC) senior scriptwriter Kim MacAskill joined the studio’s as-yet-unannounced RPG team from Rocksteady to work alongside fellow Rocksteady and Batman: Arkham Knight writers Martin Lancaster, who is now a narrative director, and Craig Owens, principal scriptwriter.
It remains unconfirmed that Playground Games’ RPG project is Fable 4 but if it is then the game will have some narrative chops thanks to the Arkham Knight alumni.
On June 3, 2019, Reddit user LagSwag 1 published details of an alleged Fable 4 leak. The details come from a video that's since been removed (and which we haven't seen ourselves), which details a few key features of the fourth installement, including both first and third-person perspectives, an in-depth character creator, no guns, the option to ignore the main quest, the option for players to build towns, multi-player and running on Unreal engine. Wow, that's a lot to take in.
If that wasn't enough to throw your head in a spin, two more details have emerged from the leak. The first is that the land of Albion (where the game is set) could be no more, with different worlds and planets to explore. And to access these planets? There could be a time travel element, via a Demon Door.
This is clearly a huge departure from the original Fable games, but it sounds ambitious and exciting too. We also expected nothing less given past iterations of the game made huge leaps time-wise between each installment. Jumping possibly centuries into the future to a time when time travel tech is around makes a lot of sense.
However, that's porting over old ideas of how the game progresses onto the new idea. Maybe this will take us back to the past of the first game but with time travel elements added in? The leak suggested the reason for the new planets is that someone got control of the magic Spire and used it to destory the planet (!), which means we might not be in the future at all? These are all just guesses, of course, but it's fun to speculate where the game might be taking us next.
Peter Molyneux talks Fable 4
Though Peter Molyneux is no longer actively involved in the Fable 4 franchise, rumors of the next title have reached him and in a recent IGN interview he had some comments to make on where he'd like to see it go, as well as what he regretted in games gone by.
Molyneux said that he regretted the massive time jumps between the mainline games and that he'd like to see the next game be a prequel: “Fable story hinted at a dramatic time before Fable 1 when the Guild was founded, this would be a perfect setting for Fable 4, the land of Albion would be much more primitive, the magic much more attuned to nature, the combat much more brutal. The story would follow the founding members of the heroes guild, why it was set up."
Finally, he wants to see a more organic morality and character progression systems, where players will affect their alignment through their actions rather than choosing a class at the beginning of the game. Find yourself stealing lots of stuff and making use of stealth? You'll quickly become known as a thief.
The Eurogamer report
In January 2018 Eurogamer said that according to sources close to the project, a brand new high-budget Fable game is in the works.
This news comes less than two years after the closure of Lionhead Studios, and the report says that UK developer Playground Games, best known for its work on the Forza Horizon series, will be the new developers for the series.
Eurogamers sources say that a team of more than 200 will be working on Fable from the team’s new offices in Leamington Spa, though development is still in the very early stages.
Just what kind of Fable might Playground be working on? Well, the report says that the game is planned to be an open world world action RPG with a focus on character and story.
The game that Playground will reportedly be working on sounds rather similar to the vision Lionhead had for Fable 4 before its pitch was rejected and the studio was shut down. Prior to its closure, Lionhead had been working on Fable Legends, a free-to-play service game with a heavy emphasis on online multiplayer.
This was quite a departure from Lionhead’s previous Fable titles and the studio hoped that it would be able to return to creating single-player story-driven adventures when development of Legends was complete. This didn’t happen.
Fable co-creator Simon Carter told Eurogamer that the news left him with “mixed” feelings. Though he said it was great news for the UK games industry and he’d be pleased to return to Fable as a “punter”, he added that it’s “curious” that Microsoft would get rid of a development team that knows the franchise inside out.
He doesn’t doubt, however, that the team at Playground is “very talented” and will do a “fantastic job.”
It is somewhat curious that Microsoft has taken this sudden shift in attitude towards the Fable franchise. According to Eurogamer, it’s the result of the success of Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn, This single-player story-driven game was a hugely beneficial exclusive for PlayStation and a sign that the future isn’t just exclusively for service-based online games.
Playground is a studio that has done fantastic work for Microsoft with the Forza Horizon series so it’s understandable that the company would turn to them in the hopes of another exclusive success.
Microsoft has yet to comment on these rumors so Fable’s return remains unconfirmed.
The Xbox Live API Leak
Before Eurogamer’s report, in early January 2018 an Xbox Live API leak suggested that a Fable project with the codename Wisdom is being worked on by a UK-based developer.
The Lionhead tweet
Not long after this, a former Lionhead Lead Engine Programmer called Don Williamson posted on Twitter that he’d worked out which studio was working on Fable 4, stating that he believed it to be an interesting choice. This has since been deleted though it was captured by WCCFTech.
When asked by WCCFTech if the studio working on the game was based in Brighton, Williamson replied that there was no Brighton-based studio big enough to take on the task. With the knowledge gained from the Xbox Live API Leak, WCCFTech surmised that it must be Playground Games working on Fable.
The studio had been recruiting developers to work on a Triple-A open world RPG before this point, which ties in neatly with these suspicions. Given that Playground Games is best known for the Forza Horizon titles and hasn’t worked on an open world RPG before, it’s unsurprising that Williamson believed the studio to be an interesting choice. However, given the degree of hiring going on we imagine the team is trying to get developers with the necessary expertise.
Our very first sign that the Fable franchise would one day return came from Xbox’s own Phil Spencer. In early 2017 Spencer tweeted that though Microsoft had nothing to announce at that time, there were “plenty of places” the IP could go.
Nothing to announce right now but I do think the IP has a lot of places it could go.April 30, 2017
It wasn’t much to go on but it added weight to reports that emerged in the aftermath of Lionhead’s closure that Microsoft had turned down offers to buy the studio as it wanted to keep hold of the Fable license.
What we want to see
An exciting story
Albion is a world with serious potential and we’d love to return to it in style. Previous Fable storylines haven’t always been groundbreaking and the story in Fable 3 was really very disappointing. However, the history of heroes and guilds has always been an interesting one and the Fable universe is far from short of interesting and well-written characters to jump off from.
If more recent rumors are true, we may have to make peace with the Fable universe in a literal sense. We'll be sad to say goodbye to Albion, of course, but we're also confident that if the game is taken to different places, and even different planets, it'll make sense to the experience as a whole. Each iteration of the game has always felt like a big change - Fable 4 is likely to be no exception.
A great soundtrack
Without fail, every single Fable game has had a soundtrack that’s stuck in our heads. Every track manages to create an atmosphere and a real sense of fairy tale fun. We’d love to see this commitment to sound and music make a return in any new instalment.
One of the biggest recent rumors is that the game could be getting a multiplayer mode. We're not entirely sure how this will work, but it's an option that will add a new twist on the classic game that we're excited to try for ourselves - and with everyone we know.
That sense of humor
Alongside its soundtrack, the Fable franchise is recognisable for its sense of humor. It’s a little bit silly, occasionally a little bit dark and always individual. Though it’ll be a hard thing to replicate exactly, we’d love to see the new game take that same approach of not taking itself too seriously. It always helped Fable stand out from the other RPGs on the market and it would undoubtedly continue to do so - no other game has yet to strike the balance in quite the same way.
More choices and consequences
Peter Monyneux always had a grand vision when it came to Fable’s morality system but sadly it never quite lived up to his vision. It’s been a long time since the last numbered Fable title and the power of consoles has come a long way. Greater power means vastly improved AI and we really hope the new development team will use this to create a far deeper morality system.
Rather than simplistic good and bad choices, we’d love to see more complex decisions and far-reaching consequences. Especially the chance for your character to be a more neutral presence in the Fable universe. Recent rumors suggest you don't have to necessarily become the hero to play the game anymore, so we're hoping for more nuance in character development here.
The thought of Fable returning is exciting and given the criticism Microsoft has received with regards to its lacklustre exclusive offerings on Xbox, it’d make sense for the company to revive one of its most beloved worlds.
However, the main thing to remember here is: nothing is official. But, we have everything crossed that will all change during Microsoft's E3 2019 conference where more details - as well as an official announcement - could well be revealed.
- Although Fable 4 might, finally, be on its way, there's still a long wait ahead. In the meantime, check out our selection of then best Xbox One games to play right now