Fabledom Review – Off to Work We Go

Fabledom Review

Fresh off of Manor Lords, I find myself building, tilling the fields, and otherwise attending to the needs of another growing village. This time, though, I’m not in an exacting replica of the Middle Ages. Instead, I rule a colorful storybook land, complete with a towering beanstalk. This is Fabledom. It’s a generally chill building game in a very crowded genre. However, Fabledom’s connection to the world of fantasy and fairy tales sets it apart. Fabledom has been in early access for over a year and is now a fully-fledged title.

Open the Book

Fabledom opens with a narrated storybook introduction that perfectly sets the scene and establishes the aesthetic. You have a few choices at the beginning, such as some basic romance options for later in the game. You can also choose where you’d like to place your little kingdom on the world map. Fabledom isn’t Civilization. Where you start isn’t all that critical. At some point, you’ll encounter, romance, battle, and trade with neighboring realms, but that comes much later.

At its heart, Fabledom is a chill builder with pretty recognizable mechanics and a few key differences. You start with a small group of peasants, build some basics like housing and farms, and follow the steady drip of objectives and upgrades. There’s a surprising amount of depth and customization as you build out your town. For example, your farms can produce a wide variety of different crops and each house can support something extra, like a beehive or clothesline. This gives your settlement some character and specificity. It would be nice to have the ability to repaint buildings or to add some decorative touches.

Provided you have the resources and housing, new peasants will arrive at regular intervals. Of course, with more population comes a bigger tax base and more workers. More workers means more building and more new arrivals. You know the loop. One of Fabledom’s differences is the absence of the usual tech tree. Satisfy specific objectives, like collecting a certain amount of tax income, building tasks or resource production, and new options open up. Thanks to the game’s linear objectives, though, a certain amount of creativity and choice gets left behind. While keeping the populace happy isn’t too hard, there’s still a bit of micromanagement. Unassigned workers don’t leap at the chance for labor.

Romancing the Princess

Aside from the familiar building tasks, Fabledom leans into two other themes. Early on, for example, I had the opportunity to plant (or not) a towering beanstalk in my village. Can you guess what happens next? Whether it’s flying pigs, beanstalks, giants, witches, or other storybook tropes, Fabledom does a great job of suggesting a living fairytale. The other — somewhat surprising — theme is romance. Your neighboring kingdoms are full of flirty folk who want to do more than trade wheat and stone. Sometimes the tone and narration shift into a slightly more mature (but still family-friendly) gear. In any case, the romance angle is more than cosmetic, because those relationships have an impact on the health, growth, and economics of your kingdom and city. In Fabledom, “friends with benefits” means you get some much-needed food for the city.

Fabledom isn’t without the clash of swords, and part of the assignment eventually becomes building military units and defenses. Expanding the boundaries of the starting area necessitates creating a hero who can explore the countryside.

For those folks who just want to tinker and build, there is a Creative (i.e. sandbox) mode in which building times are instantaneous and everything is unlocked from the start. It’s fun to see what you can look forward to, but it’s also a bit lifeless.

Whether the Weather Matters

Generally, Fabledom does a stellar job of capturing the storybook/fairytale look, with rustic cottages progressing to more imposing half-timbered collections of buildings and finally, a towering castle. Seasons progress through some attractive weather effects, though there’s no day/night cycle, an odd omission in such a detail-focused game. Although the framerate is capped at 30fps, the performance was good. There’s not a ton of voice work, and the game’s music is about what you’d expect, given the subject matter. Both the music and environmental audio are understated, but at least there’s not a steady menu of chipper tunes.

One area where Fabledom hits some high marks is in its mechanical clarity. There are a lot of things to do, but the game is rarely opaque or confusing. It is slow, however, and even at triple speed, come prepared with some patience and a very large cup of tea. Nothing happens quickly. Fabledom definitely earns its spot in the “chill builder” genre.

Fabledom has deeper mechanics than maybe its storybook look suggests, and the folding-in of fairytale fantasy is winning. While both the fairytale and romance elements are unique twists, the core mechanics are pretty standard. Fans of the genre will feel right at home. I wouldn’t call Fabledom uninspired, but whatever it lacks in ambition it makes up in charm and familiar fun.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Attractive art
  • Fun fairytale references
  • Familiar building mechanics
  • Clear goals

The Bad

  • Very slow moving
  • Could use some additional modes or maps
  • Feels overall a bit generic