Fur­ther read­ing

Myth world This com­pen­dium of con­cept art reveals a rich new vi­sion for a fan­tasy game that may never come out

ImagineFX - - Reviews - Author Martin Robin­son

The Art of Fable Leg­ends; Movie Posters Re-imag­ined; The Anatomy of Style: Fig­ure Draw­ing Tech­niques.

The lat­est in the Fable se­ries of ac­tion role-play­ing games for Win­dows and XBox, Fable Leg­ends was highly an­tic­i­pated. How­ever, in March Mi­crosoft Stu­dios an­nounced that Lion­heart Stu­dios, the game’s maker, was to close. That most likely means the free-to-play, co-op­er­a­tive game set in the fan­tasy world of Al­bion, will not be re­leased.

That would be a huge shame, as, un­usu­ally, a richly pro­duced art book had been re­leased be­fore the game. It reveals a rev­o­lu­tion­ary back-to-ba­sics move for the se­ries, in aes­thetic terms at least, and had se­ri­ously whet­ted our ap­petite for the game. With no game, the book is even more of a treat now.

Fable Leg­ends was in­tended to be a pre­quel, set in a time be­fore the Heroes’ Guild, in an older, more me­dieval Al­bion. Small towns and vil­lages nes­tle among wood­land in­hab­ited by dan­ger­ous mag­i­cal crea­tures. This lav­ish hard­back is full of sump­tu­ous, full-colour il­lus­tra­tions of the evoca­tive fan­tasy pe­riod.

It’s the heav­ily stylised char­ac­ters – heroes and vil­lains, hu­mans and an­i­mals – that are the real stars of this stun­ning book, and who dom­i­nate the bulk of its 196, large-for­mat pages. But there’s no dan­ger of monotony: with art by Billy Wim­blett, Claire Hum­mel, El­liot Up­ton, Lau­ren Ni­chols, Mike McCarthy, Pa­trick Martin, Ross Dears­ley and Sarah Mor­ris, there’s a huge va­ri­ety of ap­proaches on show.

We’re par­tic­u­larly ex­cited by the enig­matic yet sin­is­ter look of the pucks – pan-like crea­tures who flit be­tween the sides of good and evil – and the be­guil­ing Lady of Rose­wood, a floaty, malev­o­lent pres­ence drawn in the style of Czech Art Nou­veau painter Alphonse Mucha. Both il­lus­tra­tions high­light how much depth and orig­i­nal­ity went into the de­sign of this game, rais­ing it far above genre norms.

For each char­ac­ter or crea­ture, we get a game screen­shot, a full-colour il­lus­tra­tion and a 3D ren­der in greyscale. Pen­cil sketches-in-progress are dot­ted through­out, plus sec­tions on tools and en­vi­ron­ments, and de­tailed com­men­tary by the art team.

The lat­ter pro­vides in­sight and back­sto­ries for the game’s char­ac­ters – though there’s not much men­tion of art tech­niques em­ployed. None­the­less, any­one who works in the games in­dus­try, or has a pass­ing in­ter­est in the fan­tasy role-play­ing genre, will find this fas­ci­nat­ing and in­spir­ing.

“Ster­ling falls in love so eas­ily, but the next morn­ing he has got to be a hero,” says the game’s di­rec­tor David Eck­el­berry.

The idea here was for a feel­ing of the build­ings be­ing so an­cient their ori­gins are un­known.

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