Fabledom Review

Witches cast curses on you, fawns walk the streets, and you’ve found a missing glass slipper. You might think you know the rest of this particular story, but the question that Fabledom poses for you is whether to return that glass slipper to its owner or pawn it to swell your kingdom’s coffers. Fabledom is a city builder with a severe case of the bedtime stories, merging a traditional dose of laying down pathways, houses and woodcutters with princesses, dragons and evil witches. It’s an approachable and fun take on a genre that often takes itself a bit too seriously, and it’s all the better for it.

When I say that Fabledom is a traditional city-builder, that’s perhaps selling it short. Sure, the first thing you have to do is start chopping down trees and building houses, but there’s a series of well though-out wrinkles to the formula to make you sit up and take notice. Building a house, or several other structures, requires you to build corresponding attachments, whether that’s a garden, which you can lay out with a selection of different furniture, or a storage unit’s palettes of useful material. It immediately means that your little hamlet looks more unique, and more lively, and that your Fablings have a much more interesting home to tootle about in.

There’s a surprising level of additional depth to the building shenanigans too, bringing in more advanced features like ensuring that homes have access to water and sanitation and that your kingdom has a decent stock of coal in preparation for the winter. You also have to consider the attractiveness of an area if you’re going to build homes there. Pop down a bakery and everyone in the vicinity will be happier. If it’s a sawmill instead, be prepared for some unhappy faces, and far less chance you’ll attract new citizens to join you.

Those new citizens are the lifeblood of your domain, as they provide daily taxes with which you expand your reach, and as the workers in your key locations. It’s often a juggling act, as you reach the limits of your undeniably cute workforce, but need to continue expanding or stocking up for the winter. This is where Fabledom takes things a little too slowly, and I often found myself punching the game speed to the highest rate while I waited for a woodcutter to decide to chop enough trees down, or a mason to pump out enough stone bricks. I’m all for relaxed, but the developer might need to make a few tweaks here to the output levels of some structures.

Once you’ve laid the foundations of your kingdom, there’s a real push to beautify and titivate your land with flowers, gardens and additional furniture. You’ll finish up with a city that’s far more attractive than in any other city builder. The cute visuals are more in the vein of The Settlers, or its recent spiritual successor Pioneers of Pagonia, and when you add in the fairytale aspects as well I can see this being a huge success with younger gamers, particularly when it arrives on console later in the year. That said, there’s a lot to balance here so they might need some adult assistance along the way.

So, where do the fables come in? Once you’ve reached a certain point in proceedings, you unlock a Hero. This mighty knight can be equipped with all manner of equipment that you find along the way, and while he’s your greatest warrior he’s also something of a busybody, heading out to explore your kingdom and sticking his nose into all manner of fairytale nonsense. You’re generally presented with a choice of how to proceed, so a talking tree you encounter might offer a boon to the growth of your trees, or you can chop him down for a big payday. There’s a fun and slightly tongue-in-cheek tone to everything in Fabledom, and I really enjoyed its mildly subversive take on some classic fairytale stories.

There are, of course, battles to be won as well. As a city builder you must raise an army to protect your lands, and perhaps to conquer others. However, you can simply try to stay safe within the walls of your kingdom, building immense structures and siting weaponry on top of them to keep the invaders out. It’s hugely appealing, and just as with the rest of the experience, there’s a steady stream of upgrades to keep everything moving forward.

Summary
Fabledom offers one of the most well-rounded takes on the city-builder genre, mixing addictive kingdom-building with a fun and unique dose of fairytale shenanigans.
Good
  • City building with real depth
  • Attractive visuals
  • Genuinely amusing and engaging
Bad
  • Occasionally a little too slow for its own good
8
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.

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