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Fabledom Review (PC)

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Fabledom Promotional Art

It seems that for every time I iron out the creases of some materialistic world and depart from its morally balanced infrastructure to pursue another endeavor, I often find myself rerouted and forced to return to another planet that’s also in dire need of restoration. In this instance, it’s Fabledom, yet another “cozy” city-building game that recently held out its hand to offer me a bustling space to create without boundaries. It didn’t take long, either, for me to realize that it was to come equipped with all of the seasonal trappings of a traditional sandbox sim—a needy populace, ravenous supply networks, and a treasure trove of monotonous tasks to grind out for the sake of “bettering’ the communal workspace, to list just a few of its keystone elements. It had it all, and so, naturally, I once again felt morally obliged to take to the reigns.

At first glance, it’s relatively easy to compare the likes of Fabledom with another, slightly more established IP — and understandably so, given its textbook UI and oh-so familiar mechanical designs and progression barricades. However, a little extra digging will kindly inform you that, despite its blatant similarities with other games of its kind, it is, in ways, its own form of powerhouse in the art of city-building. It’s a fairytale game, too, and so, while there are numerous factors that resonate with the vast majority of its kin, it does make a genuine attempt to reinforce its appeal through the use of dragons, trolls, and other mythical folk, too. Suffice it to say that, as far as “original” IP goes, it clearly has the potential to be something much greater than a vivid clone of a former cult classic. Not quite convinced? Read on.

Where the Fairy Folk Play

Dragon flying over lakeside settlement (Fabledom)

As the title suggests, Fabledom is an idyllic city-building game in which players take to the quaint and colorful quarters of a storybook setting—a vibrant communal hub in which dragons radiate warmth across the braziers of the earth, and curious creatures flesh out the crags and crevices of the luscious woodland havens and beyond. And, believe it or not, that’s barely scratching the surface; it actually features a solid variety of other mythical beings, too, including witches, trolls, and flying pigs — all of whom share the same communal space and ambitions as the one in charge. To make it absolutely clear — that’s you who’s pulling the strings. Go figure.

As always, it begins with a vacant plot of land—a small patch of grass that stretches far and wide across biomes of cascading waterfalls, wondrous caverns, and elegant meadows. It’s here, at the foot of an empty allotment of trees and economic uncertainty, that you begin your quest to breathe new life into the soil, and essentially evolve the foundations of the world to become a structurally sound and sustainable environment for your citizens.

There are several difficulty levels to choose from, though, the one that aims to shovel itself down your throat is the bog-standard “beginner-friendly” mode—a choice that allows you to flex your creative wisdom with fewer financial constraints, as well as progress a little quicker than the latter option. And honestly, that’s sort of what the game wants you to choose; it doesn’t strive to be complex, nor does it make a bad habit out of punishing you for failing to connect the dots, either. Is it an easy game? No — but it certainly does all in its power to make the process of building your own settlement a little less threatening and monotonous. Kudos.

Once Upon a Time

Bustling city center (Fabledom)

Gameplay in Fabledom isn’t all that different from, say, The Wandering Village or Timberborn; in fact, it borrows a lot of the same features and building blocks from both sides of the same coin. To start, you have little more than a few wandering villagers, as well as a small pile of natural resources to build your first few structures, including a small house, a well, and a laborer campsite. From there, it’s merely the case of broadening your horizons by expanding into new areas via a gravel path, and unlocking valuable materials to create wider settlements, and in turn, attract even more citizens to join your colony and boost your economic potential. And that’s not all, as it turns out; you’re also a Prince or Princess, and so, whilst you do have the responsibility of keeping tabs on your citizens’ welfare, you also have to find a suitable spouse.

In a similar fashion as SteamWorldprogress in Fabledom is made by accruing more citizens for your realm—a job that can only be accomplished by building larger housing estates, and securing new modes of capital for your community to exploit over a certain period of time. As with any city-building game, you begin your conquest by laying the groundwork for a small village, after which you gradually start to add more layers to your existing structures by unlocking new blueprints, resources, and tools. Naturally, this process will take you a fair amount of time, and perhaps even longer, depending on how you build your enterprise, and which courses you choose to pursue as the rightful heir to the throne.

Build it, and They Will Come

Three witches flying over town (Fabledom)

Thankfully, it isn’t a tough task — developing the structural integrity of a fairytale world, as a lot of the milestones are mostly attached to the general population of the universe itself. To make dents in the campaign and transform your bastion of pride into a full-fledged communal movement, you must first be willing to make a little wriggle room for your vessels. And by that, I mean, creating new homes and careers, and utilizing the space in your village to entice new settlers to visit and enjoy the fruits of your labor. This is, at least for the most part, the primary objective of the campaign: driving new people to plant roots in your town, and having them contribute towards the general welfare of the economy.

Granted, the act of acquiring new villagers can become a little monotonous, given the fact that a lot of perks can only be unlocked once the populace has met a certain threshold; for example, in order to unlock a new feature, you must first locate a spot for a new resident, as well as a career path for them to pursue. Sounds easy enough on paper, for sure, but seeing as there are, perhaps, thrice as many settlers as there are available positions to fill, this can take some time and effort to figure out. But, to be honest, that’s merely me finding something to complain about. It isn’t all that bad, and I’d be lying if I said that it took a fifteen-step WikiHow to learn how to turn a lump of coal into a diamond.

Aside from its beginner-friendly nature, Fabledom is, quite frankly, a very, very beautiful game, and it flows just as well as its characters’ personalities and traits translate on a page in the storybook of which you’re reading.

Verdict

Town center (Fabledom)

Whilst there’s certainly no denying its cuteness and sheer simplicity, Fabledom isn’t without its one or two drawbacks—its questionably unfair progression walls that tie in with its population density, for example. Sure enough, there are countless ways to overcome such issues with a significant amount of patience, but the fact that a lot of its milestones aren’t accessible due to the ever-evolving nature of the process, in general, it can become slightly difficult to bear witness to a lot of its finer characteristics. There’s a learning curve to it, and it isn’t necessarily something that’s easy to traverse — especially if you’re new to city-building and sandbox games. With that said, it is, in all fairness, a little less challenging than the average game of its caliber. Eat your heart out, Frostpunk.

There’s definitely a good set of bones to this one, and it doesn’t take much to realize the sheer quality of the art and personality that comes with them. Aside from it having fairly generic gameplay mechanics, Fabledom does excel tremendously in countless other aspects—its enchanting storybook art style and whimsical character designs, being two of the standout features of the bunch. The fact that it also includes a rather large selection of puzzle pieces, blueprints, and avenues of play, too, makes it a genuine sight for sore eyes, not to mention a perfect anchor point for anyone with an undying love for the sandbox genre and all of its thematic components.

If you’re new to the city-building sphere, then take it from me: Fabledom is, in all honesty, a fantastic place to plant roots and grow your expertise in the field. If it’s a cozy world-building experience that you’re after, then similarly, you might want to consider giving this one some tender love and care.

Fabledom Review (PC)

A Real Page-Turner

Fabledom takes the basic blueprints for a cute and cozy city-building simulation game and elevates its design to accommodate an elegant storybook art style that, while not always perfect, is always consistent and fun to explore.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.