I’m not a fan of racing games, but Forza Horizon 5 has me excited. When developer Playground Games first revealed the latest Forza Horizon entry at Xbox and Bethesda’s E3 showcase, I was in awe of the sheer scale and detail of the studio’s next entry in the veteran racing series.
Featuring the series’ largest open-world environments to date, allowing players to traverse jungles, deserts, urban sprawls and ancient ruins, and a seasonal, localized weather system, Forza Horizon 5 looks to be the most vast and visually impressive racing game to date.
But it wasn’t simply the gameplay footage of Forza Horizon 5, or its authentic representation of Mexico, that had me exhilarated. Instead, it was the sheer prospect of how Playground Games could utilize these features in its future titles, namely the new Fable.
Changing with the seasons
Playground Games has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to Forza Horizon’s dynamic weather. Forza Horizon 4 featured seasonal weather that saw players drifting through Britain’s snow-clad hills in the winter and through sun-kissed villages in the Spring. But Forza Horizon 5 looks to take this weather system even further.
While the new Forza Horizon will see the return of seasonal weather, the Mexico map will be broken into 11 biomes, each uniquely affected by the seasons. So for example, in the Spring Season, you may experience tropical storms if you’re in the jungle but will only experience light rain in the desert. This seasonal weather also means that during dry seasons you’ll be able to explore areas previously inaccessible in the wet season. Overall, it looks like Forza Horizon 5 will have the most dynamic (and therefore immersive) weather system we’ve seen implemented in a game to date (Sorry, The Sims 4 Seasons).
But imagine what would happen if Playground Games implemented that system in an open-world RPG – something that’s not out of the realm of possibility given that it’s now responsible for Microsoft’s storied Fable franchise.
An ever-changing Albion
Details on the new Fable are thin on the ground right now, but it’s likely we’ll see Fable 4 following somewhat of a similar formula to its predecessors.
Previous Fable games have seen us striving to earn our stripes as a hero in a land of fantastical creatures, nefarious villains and wise-cracking NPCs. And it’s that land (specifically Albion) that is key to Fable. We spend so much of our time roaming Albion, completing quests and exploring every nook and cranny it has to offer. But, given the last mainline Fable game came out in 2010, that land was considerably restricted and nowhere near as immersive as it could have been.
Fast forward 11 years later and open-world RPGs have come on leaps and bounds, and we expect Fable 4 to automatically benefit from that leap in technology. It’ll definitely look and perform better than its predecessors, that’s a cert, but Playground Games has the opportunity to give the new Fable its own stamp which neither previous developer Lionhead, or many other RPG developers, have been able to before: implementing those dynamic weather systems.
Imagine an open-world Fable game where each distinct region within the world (Albion or otherwise) had its own seasonal weather. We’ve seen time progression in previous Fable games, but imagine that the passing of time is indicated by the changing seasons, letting you feel your hero’s progression through the years in real-time – getting all those wrinkles wouldn’t feel quite so bad.
It would also add considerable levels to the immersion and uniqueness of each region, with each region presenting its own challenges in terms of adversaries and weather conditions. And maybe, like with Horizon 5, these changing seasons can present different exploration opportunities. Perhaps a cave is iced over in the Winter, but explorable during the Summer months. Expand that idea to side quests and monsters that grow more powerful with certain weather conditions and the result is a more engaging experience that will have you seeing old environments in a new light.
That said, I’m not saying it needs to work in the same way Forza Horizon 5’s does necessarily, with a weekly rotation. Instead, synching the months with story beats could work – then allowing dynamic weather within those months.
It may seem like a small and insignificant detail, but with Playground Games already utilizing their seasonal weather systems, implementation in the new Fable seems like a sure-fire way to make the world feel alive.
Not just a pipe dream
While you may think this is simply wishful thinking, it’s possible we may see my dream become a reality.
According to a job listing earlier this year, for a Software Engineer at Turn10 Studios, Fable will be built using the ForzaTech engine, which powers the Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon games. The listing states that the team is looking for a candidate who can enrich “the toolset to support an open-world action RPG – Fable” and also add new features like “ray tracing to support the next console generation”.
This seems to confirm that the ForzaTech engine will be used to develop Fable, suggesting that we could see some of these Forza Horizon 5 features, including ray tracing, making their way to Fable. But will the weather system be one of them?
It’s likely to be a while before we know more about Fable 4, but Forza Horizon 5 has me very optimistic for what we can expect from Playground Games – and the future of RPGs.