These days it seems the term “free-to-play” carries a lot of baggage with it. Gamers tend to cringe at hearing a game is free to play or ‘F2P’ because the term has been somewhat corrupted over the years. A ton of shady practices have been implemented under the F2P banner including policies of forcing players to pay for more play time, forcing players to pay for resources needed to play the game at all or locking out the core experience until something is purchased. Even with all of the games that tarnish this style of experience, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about games after they announce that they’re going free to play.
(More waits for you below the jump…)
Take Fable Legends for example. A couple weeks ago, Lionhead and Microsoft announced that the upcoming title was moving into a free to play format. I saw a lot of negativity based around the announcement and as I mentioned above, I understand where it comes from. That’s also leaving out the fact that people were upset about Fable Legends previously as it deviated from the tried and true RPG experience set by previous games for one that tends to mirror a game like Evolve.
For those who don’t know, Fable Legends pits four players as heroes set in the Fable universe. They’re tasked with navigating a map and stopping the evil villain character who is also controlled by a player. The villain character towers over the map looking down upon the heroes throwing traps, obstacles, and enemies their way in an effort to prevent them from reaching the end point.
Fable Legends was at PAX East this past weekend in Boston and while the demo was on the lengthier side creating a constantly long line, I did stop to watch the game in action for a little bit. Using Unreal Engine 4 to power everything, there’s no denying how beautiful and vibrant the game looks. It manages to capture the look and feel of previous Fable games but now has the engine to really make the world sing. It’s still a third person action game, only now, heroes are locked into specific roles or classes and teamwork is a must to succeed past obstacles put forth by the villain character. The villain is able to place traps and enemies during the “setup phase” and then acts more of a field commander in an RTS game once the match starts. It’s an interesting mix, I’ll say that.
So why does free-to-play work for Fable Legends?
The first reason why I believe this helps the game is based around Microsoft’s experience in this sector. Take a look at Killer Instinct, a long dormant fighting franchise created in the mid-90’s by Rare for Nintendo. Once that relationship fell apart and Rare went to Microsoft, they took that beloved franchise, resurrected it, and made it free to play on Xbox One (with the help of Double Helix and Iron Galaxy as well). Players can go in, download the game and start playing right away without any cost. The character you can use rotates on a set schedule giving you a new look at the title. Better yet, if you want to purchase the game, you can without losing any of your progress and there are multiple pay options as well fitting any budget. To me, it’s a win-win situation. There’s no harm to download the title and try it out almost like it’s an extended demo. For Killer Instinct at least, the free to play aspect has been a boon for it as it’s now quite popular on Xbox One.
For Fable Legends, it’s a similar situation. If you don’t want to spend a dime, you don’t have to as heroes and villains will be rotated out on a set schedule just like the aforementioned Killer Instinct, or even a game like Blizzard’s popular PC title, Heroes of the Storm.
The other positive from free to play is the fact that the price barrier is now gone. I won’t lie, my interest in this multiplayer centric Fable was minimal at best. The $60 retail price was another aspect that didn’t interest me mainly because I wasn’t even sure I’d enjoy the game enough to justify spending that. Considering the game is now free to download and play, I don’t have to worry about spending money on a game I dislike. Because of that barrier being removed, I’m definitely more interested in at least checking it out and seeing if it’s something I’d spend money on. If not, no harm done, I’ll just delete it. I feel like this is the mindset that many players will take and it should help the game get more attention than it would have at a normal retail price point.
Now, I can’t confirm if Fable Legends will be any good in the end. All I’m saying here is to think twice before dismissing a game that goes free to play. You just may be missing out on a fun and rewarding experience.