Date: August 8, 2022
Many video games have three common character tropes: the princess, the hero, and the villain. These games also have the same basic outline for their story — the villain kidnaps the princess, and the hero has to go on a journey to save her from her captor.
Video Game Fables has the three common character tropes covered, but then it decides it does not want to follow the standard story structure. What we get is a game that pokes some good fun at many RPG tropes, while also having a surprisingly involved battle system.
The story revolves around the three playable characters. First one is Aru, the princess who has just about no patience for… anything. Then, there is Nate, a traveler who finds excitement and joy in everything around him. And, finally, Tator, the timid son of this setting’s main villain, still learning how to become one himself. The world this game takes place in goes through ‘cycles,’ where the princess must be captured and the hero must save her, with all the residents following a ‘script’ for their stories.
One day, Aru decides she doesn’t want to follow the script anymore, and saves herself after being captured. This causes a series of events where the three main characters must work together to save Aru’s castle, as well as her and Tator’s fathers.
One thing you will notice almost immediately is that the game doesn’t even pretend to take itself or its story seriously. Video Game Fables will constantly subvert people’s expectations on classic story aspects of the RPG genre, such as needing an artifact to unlock a new area, or what kind of monster would guard an important item.
It also gives explanations on many common things you see in towns, such as how a shop constantly has stock on items for the player, or how resting at an inn will restore your health (though most of these explanations are entirely silly). All of these aspects combine to make a game that has a bottomless sense of humor, and is great at keeping things lighthearted.
Exploration and Dungeons
Navigating the world of Video Game Fables is straightforward. There is just one town in the entire game, but you will frequently unlock teleport points that allow you to go directly back to the town to heal and stock up on supplies (as well as travel to any other place you’ve unlocked). The world’s entire map is yours to explore while you make your way to the next destination, though you will probably want to avoid the areas with stronger enemies at first. While traveling on the world map, you could also mine for ores (used to make weapons), and fish (which you can exchange for various goods).
Every dungeon has a unique design and a mechanic you will need to work with — for example, one will be a straightforward obstacle course, while another is a literal maze that you will have to navigate through to find certain items. This helps make every area in the game feel completely different from another.
The game encourages some degree of exploration: there are treasures to be found if you go off of the main path, however, most of what you’ll find will just be money and materials. You will occasionally find a piece of equipment that you cannot get otherwise, but there is nothing game-changing you will miss if you just go straight through the dungeons.
For how lighthearted this game’s story is, the gameplay requires a surprising amount of strategy. Video Game Fables features turn-based combat, and you can see the turn order on the top of the screen. Something you don’t normally see in RPGs with this kind of gameplay, however, is that you can actually choose to delay when your attacks execute by a chosen amount of turns.
Another unique feature of the game’s combat is how it handles critical hits (referred to as ‘crits’). In most games, a crit will simply do extra damage to the enemy. Here, however, crits are actually stored and used as a resource. Once you land a crit, you will gain a crit charge, which you can use to either do more damage (like they typically do), or enhance your abilities in certain ways instead. In fact, having a crit will be required to execute damaging abilities.
While this game is turn-based, it still encourages you to make your decisions quickly: on every turn, there will be a timer on the lower-left of the screen. This timer (who is actually a character) will enhance your action depending on how much time you have left after you make your choice — so, the quicker you resolve your turn, the better your following action will be.
Random battles show up as spheres while you explore the world map and dungeons. You will frequently see 2-4 spheres show up at once, and if you touch any of them, a battle will trigger. Battles start off pretty simple, but enemies will start applying more status effects and using abilities that can take out your party if you’re not careful. While this makes regular battles require more strategy than you would usually see in these kinds of RPGs, this can also drag fights out and make random battles feel tedious towards the end of the game.
Bosses are very well designed in this game. Each one has a unique mechanic that you will have to exploit — for example, one of the bosses will punish you in various ways if you execute actions on the wrong spot in the turn order. This gives every boss a unique feel and keeps battles from just being a matter of hitting them enough until they die.
In this game, XP is not just a thing you need to gain to level up; instead, it’s treated as another resource. XP is earned after every battle, and shared across the whole party. Once you have enough XP, there are three different things you can do with it: level up your party, equip gear on a character, or equip abilities on a character.
The better the gear you get and the more abilities you unlock, the more XP you will need to invest in a character. To help manage this, you can actually lower your party’s level to get more XP, if you happen to need just a little more to equip a new weapon. Because of this, the game highly encourages a certain amount of level grinding, and even flat out suggests you should do some when you first go out into the world.
Your characters are able to equip any piece of gear in the game, and the different weapons and shields each have special properties, letting you build every party member the way you’d like. Each character also has an entirely unique set of abilities to unlock as you progress through the story, which can be used in a diversity of situations.
Length and Replayability
Video Game Fables is a very short game, especially for an RPG. A full playthrough of the game’s story will take about 10 hours, and there aren’t any side quests, collectibles, or hidden bosses to extend the game any longer. Additionally, there isn’t much of a reason to play through the game a second time, unless you just want to experience the story again. You can experiment with different gear and ability setups with your characters, but these setups won’t make enough of a difference to give you a new experience with the game.
Video Game Fables is a very fun meta-narrative RPG that can offer some lighthearted adventure, while also keeping you on your toes with an active battle system. While unfortunately short, it is worth experiencing this game’s unique take on the genre, both in its story and the gameplay mechanics. Hopefully, we will get to see more of this world and its characters in the future.