Video Game Fables: A Truly Spectacular Indie RPG – PC Review
I’ve been playing a lot of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 recently. While I’m enjoying it, I can’t help but feel as if it’s lacking somewhat. It neither feels particularly original, nor exceptional within its own series. That’s not to discount its positives, but rather to express that despite altering certain aspects of its gameplay it fails to extend itself beyond its genre’s tropes. The same cannot be said for the wonderfully original indie RPG, Video Game Fables. While I initially went into Video Game Fables experiencing RPG-burnout, I came out of it finally realising what the genre had been so desperately missing. Apparently, it is developer Momiji Studios’ creativity and expertise.
“I felt comforted and welcomed by the game’s audacious ingenuity and ability to weave self-aware antics through a rivetingly compelling fantasy story.”
All too often, video games attempt to subvert genre tropes through mockery, pandering and an inane sense of self-aggrandising awareness. Fortunately, Video Game Fables fails to fall into any of these traps, instead offering a genuinely refreshing and heartwarming examination of a genre its developer so clearly adores all while maintaining a baseline of humour so overwhelmingly hilarious I quite literally laughed out loud.
A delightfully refreshing sense of wit and charm is felt in every inch of Video Game Fables. Whether it’s through the creatively comical visual gags or the phenomenally crafted narrative through which memorable characters offer some of the funniest dialogue I’ve seen in a video game, I felt comforted and welcomed by the game’s audacious ingenuity and ability to weave self-aware antics through a rivetingly compelling fantasy story.
To say that Video Game Fables is the gift that keeps on giving would be a huge understatement. At every turn, it offers up a newfangled hilarious scenario through which it phenomenally blends humour, character development and a fantastic sense of worldbuilding. It never felt like Video Game Fables promoted gags and laughs over an impressively original narrative. Rarely did the jokes overpower or undermine the overall story. Rather they complimented it in a creative way and helped keep the pacing brisk and consistently engaging.
“Video Game Fables’ visual aesthetic feels purposeful, intent on evoking a sense of childlike wonder.”
One aspect that I think a lot of people may be put off by is Video Game Fables’ visuals. Which is unfortunate, as in motion they’re beautiful. The simplistic yet vivid colours pop out at every opportunity and offer up a picturebook aesthetic so rarely executed in such an impressive way. There is not so much a lack of detail, as an absence of realism. Gone are the god rays, 4K textures and motion-captured facial animations that you’d expect in say a new Elder Scrolls game. In their place is a delightfully cartoonish colour palette and visual scheme that perfectly exemplifies the larger-than-life nature of the game’s overall narrative.
Video Game Fables never appears cheap. Rather, its visual aesthetic feels purposeful, intent on evoking a sense of childlike wonder as well as paying homage to classic NES games and the Paper Mario series. Everything from its bouncy, playful UI to its bold textures and instantly iconic character designs have been crafted with the utmost care and attention. These visuals add so much to a game that is already packed full of wonders.
“It’s frankly mindboggling how masterfully Momiji Studios has managed to tie each and every mechanic to one another.”
When it comes to combat, Video Game Fables adopts a turn-based style. Turn-based battles have been in a bit of a lull as of late with few games innovating upon the tired formula. Fortunately, Video Game Fables’ frantically paced and endlessly creative battles prove to be an unceasing joy in amongst a treasure trove of perfection. My favourite addition to the turn-based formula that Video Game Fables introduces is the CRIT system. Whereas in other games a CRIT simply means your attack deals more damage, in Video Game Fables it is the system whereby you’re able to use your special abilities.
You gain CRITs through your regular attacks, and can further improve your chances depending on which weapon you have equipped. Once you’ve gotten a CRIT, you can use it to activate an ability. This works infinitely better than say an MP system, as it not only greatly increases the importance of said abilities, but also enhances the level of strategy involved in a battle as you’re forced to think on your feet as to which ability you prioritise.
Of course, like with every system in Video Game Fables, this is all expertly and cleverly tied into exploration and the myriad of other mechanics at work. In order to unlock new abilities, you must first craft them using resources gained through combat and exploration. Then, you must use experience points to unlock new ability slots to equip them. It’s frankly mindboggling how masterfully Momiji Studios has managed to tie each and every mechanic to one another. You’re constantly having to prioritise resources, experience points and more which serves to place a far greater importance on each and everything that you collect. It’s simply genius.
“Video Game Fables ensures that those who want to fight are rewarded for doing so, while those who want to get on with their journey aren’t hindered by the constant need to do so.”
There are numerous other mechanics present in combat that I am hesitant to detail as I fear it will spoil the overall experience. However, rest assured that you won’t grow tired of fighting. Combat constantly and consistently feels fresh, offering a solid and engaging foundation from which to introduce new and exciting mechanics.
Fortunately, for those who fear that combat may resemble the random encounters of old, combat is not a requisite. Enemies appear on the overworld as amorphous clouds of smoke that will chase you should you try and run away. Fortunately, that means there are no random encounters which have been a blight and plague on the RPG genre for far too long.
Video Game Fables incentivises you to fight by improving the odds of encountering rare enemies or collecting rare items the more you do so. It ensures that those who are prepared to fight are rewarded for doing so, while those who perhaps want to get on with their journey aren’t hindered by the constant need to do so.
“Video Game Fables is this decade’s most boldly intelligent, exhilaratingly enjoyable and ingeniously innovative RPG.”
Reviewing Video Game Fables has been quite the challenge. This is a game not like any other, a work of art so unique in both its execution and subversion of genre tropes that I find myself a little flustered. Not since Tinykinhave I experienced a game that has left such a remarkable impression on me, an impression that is sure to last a lifetime. There are so many more mechanics I haven’t even begun to detail in fear of simply listing all of the genuinely amazing aspects of this tremendous game.
I love the way that exploration ties so perfectly into everything from combat to crafting. The way each mechanic has its own personality – literally – and how through these fun interactions Momiji Studios has created such an incredible world that I love to inhabit, is nothing short of pure brilliance. I also love the diversity in mechanics, how Video Game Fables is never content with offering you the same gameplay styles and is frequently switching things up and keeping you on your toes.
But to say any more would venture, in my opinion, too far into spoiler territory. This is absolutely an experience that you have to try for yourself. I simply cannot stress just how important this game is. Not only is it a clear display that its developer is a genius whose work I will be sure to follow closely but that Video Game Fables is this decade’s most boldly intelligent, exhilaratingly enjoyable and ingeniously innovative RPG.
Video Game Fables is available right now on Steam for $19.99/£15.49.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.
Video Game Fables Review
Video Game Fables is a truly exceptional indie RPG. While it would have been easy to merely copy the tropes of the genre, developer Momiji Studios has crafted something entirely new. The game's myriad of systems revolutionise the turn-based genre in ways since thought impossible and it's witty script and colourful cast of characters propel a unique and memorable narrative forward at a brisk pace. Despite its indie roots, Video Game Fables has been so expertly crafted, featuring slick UI, clever mechanics and gorgeous visuals, that you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for a triple-A experience.