Once upon a time in an era not too long ago, digital collectible card games were the new MOBA, before Battle Royale became the current MOBA stand-in. That is to say, developers chased the almighty dollar trying to get in on a genre that’s inherently built upon loot boxes and randomization. As is the case whenever any craze happens, some came out on top and are still around, some are forgotten, and a few are still popping up like daisies. Fable Fortune, part of the latter group, is in a weird spot in where it shows promise but borrows far too heavily from its predecessors to make a mark.
After playing just a few games of Fable Fortune you’ll likely experience a sinking feeling that you’ve played it before—and that’s because you probably have. Presented primarily in a 1v1 format, each player sports a hero with a special power and a hand of cards (comprised of spells and minions) and goes at it. Once one hero dies and the other side wins, you shake hands (metaphorically) and move on to the next foe. It’s not inherently a bad model as it’s one that’s been used for decades; especially when you account for all of the strategic depth and sheer number of card setups.
Each turn you’ll net an increasing amount of gold, used to pay for your cards. Generally, stronger minions have a larger cost, and they can either ping off each other, smash into a hero to dole out game-ending damage, or cast a spell that buffs your allies or debuffs your enemies. I’m really struggling with avoiding a direct comparison with another leading card game here, and I’ll refrain as best I can!
Where Fable Fortune tries to differentiate itself is through quests and morality alterations, two clear cues from the series proper. Quests require a player to play certain cost cards and then offer up a choice to stay/shift to good or evil, marginally spicing up your hero powers or even select morality cards. It’s neat, and it’s something you can build around, but it’s always in the back of my mind. The mechanic of paying one coin (or conversely, calculating it out and saving one coin specifically) to label one character as an automatic “defender” (read: something enemies have to attack to reach your hero) is one of its strongest twists.
The issue is that instead of immediately presenting the player with nostalgic characters like Maze, Whisper, and the Guild Master, the game is content on forging its own identity with vague overlay screens teasing art from icons such as Jack of Blades. Fortune‘s original creations or adaptations just don’t cut it, and all too often I’d forget that the game even took place in the Fable world. Whereas other card games do nail that thematic feel, Fable Fortune is bog-standard medieval fantasy. Having minions show up on a cute little pedestal is cool at first, but they can be hard to read at a glance and can blend together.
Coming off of Early Access and into the free-to-play fray, Fable Fortune does have a decent amount of content to work through if you’re the curious type. There are several campaigns with some narrative cues involved, as well as limited amounts of co-op events. The campaigns could definitely stand to be more thematic, as they’re individualized rather than epic quests through unique areas, but they get the job done. They’re also not finished at the moment, as several heroes don’t even have campaigns and the ones that do exist are in partial limbo.
But really, the developers of Fable Fortune had the chance to revolutionize the industry and didn’t. I’d really love to see an era where a card game makes a splash that doesn’t rely almost entirely on gambling for cards. If you’re used to playing CCGs you’re likely okay with the idea of buying packs en masse for that fleeting rush of foils and sniping singles off eBay, but the model, especially in this lootbox-heavy era that’s fishing for whales, is wearing thin on me. Fable Fortune doesn’t do anything special in this regard, as it still sells card boxes for 1,000 in-game coins or more than a dollar a pack, even with bundles. Like the RNG involved in snagging cards, it’s quite the gamble to expect other players to wholly buy into another ecosystem at this point.
It’s hard to justify getting too heavily involved in Fable Fortune when it isn’t able to truly spread its wings. The loot box format doesn’t work in its favour when so many of its early cards are devoid of personality—there’s just no major drive to keep grinding for new cards. Maybe if it pivoted to more of a PvE approach and really leaned into its “quest” mentality instead of trying to have it both ways in an attempt to become an esport, it could make its mark.