Fabledom review – a cozy, spellbinding city-builder

Fabledom review – a cozy, spellbinding city-builder
Olivia Rolls Updated on by

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The city-builder genre has largely been defined by widely-recognized cultural giants like SimCity and recent standouts like Manor Lords, but Grenaa Games, Dear Villagers, and Hoyoyo’s Fabledom has proven it’s an underdog worth betting on. Best described as a colony sim, the game spent just over a year in early access, smoothing out gameplay and imbuing its world with an unmistakable sense of magic that will keep players spellbound for hours on end.  

Tasked with building a kingdom from the ground up, Fabledom may not seem like much in the early stages of the game, but your efforts to lead your realm to success quickly begin to bear fruit. Where other city-builders sometimes fail to incentivize the preferential treatment of your populace – no matter how small – Fabledom’s prioritization of its people puts you under a spell, compelling you to create a kingdom befitting the magic of its setting. 

The mundane meets the mystical

Following a storybook-style introduction to your chosen realm, you’re dropped smack-dab in the centre of a small plot of land with a few fablings and beginner-friendly tutorials to get you started. From there, multitasking is chief in maintaining the well-being of your fablings, building new structures, and continuing to expand. Encouraged to repeat the process, industrial development soon becomes second nature with a fairytale twist as you work to install puppet shows, inns, grape farms, and the like. 

Fabledom review: open story book depicting war and love, featuring an ogre ravaging a city and a couple holding hands under an arch.
Captured by VideoGamer

As a Type B city planner myself, I didn’t put much thought into the utility of my starting build, providing villagers with larger yards than advised – and only so much space to work with. Regardless of your settlement’s practicality, laying gravel roads and constructing a labourer’s hut and homes for your residents mark your first steps on the path forward, rewarding you with quick coin and boosts to happiness in the process.  

Forgiveness of well-intentioned missteps and larger failures is a trend that continues throughout Fabledom, which lessens the burden of your position as ruler. On that note, I’d deem the development team’s group effort the perfect pick for players who gravitate toward games that offer cozy, casual gameplay experiences, though Fabledom does feature a healthy number of rough patches to build character and your kingdom.  

Fabledom review: citybuilder interface shows buildings, paths, and a farm. The Blacksmith production menu is open, and various game stats are displayed at the top of the screen.
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Secure your kingdom’s success through love or war 

While the rewards for leading your realm with a kind heart are myriad, Fabledom doesn’t strictly limit its players to a sugary playthrough, providing several outlets for alternative approaches to rulership. In this way, it’s up to you to choose a path of peace or strife, not only for your kingdom but its neighboring territories, too. 

These moral dilemmas begin small, often as requests from hungry beggars. In this case, you can opt to hand over surplus vegetables to feed your visitors or deny their request at the cost of your nobility. Is it better to send the outsiders away with the fruits of your labour or to turn them down? Either way, your decision comes at a price, and even do-gooders may see their efforts backfire as postponing the decision and coming up short of resources will cost you hard-earned nobility. Admittedly, I’ve found it exceptionally difficult to store enough food to share, let alone spend nobility I don’t have, but at least you’re not punished for struggling. 

Fabledom review: top-down view of a village featuring a tree, a thatched barn, a vegetable garden, and various plants and structures along a winding dirt path.
Captured by VideoGamer

Even so, decisions grow tougher with each passing year in your realm. Once I welcomed my hero Fergus to town, I sent him to investigate each of the unlocked encounters that had spawned in my territory. More often than not, choosing to honour my guests has earned me rewards like the Ancient Stone Guardian to commemorate the souls liberated from an abandoned graveyard, though I could have saved my coins and stolen the structure myself if I’d decided to initiate combat. Depending on the encounter, rewards and consequences may be less tangible, resulting in buffs or debuffs that affect mechanics like hunger, happiness, and productivity. Without spoilers, let’s just say creatures like giants and dragons aren’t native to your realm, but their arrival may signal a change in world conditions. 

Fortunately, the pressures of leadership can be softened with help from a like-minded partner. Whether you aim to conquer or befriend the six remaining kingdoms, you can shoot your shot at love or war with their respective princes and princesses. While each of the existing romance options has something to offer, I’d like to see more marriage candidates added to the game. When I chose my map and coat of arms at the start, I described myself as a princess in search of a prince, but I ultimately decided to romance Agnes, the Harvest Princess, once I realized my kingdom’s ideals couldn’t be more incompatible with Sir Payne’s. That said, I’m just glad romance isn’t gender-locked. Otherwise, I’d be relegated to a lifelong struggle with the ick as Ramone’s wife. 

Fabledom review: a medieval fantasy map with various regions, quest icons, and unit details. A sidebar on the left lists a messenger unit's attributes and a knight's status on the right.
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Fabledom’s magic isn’t lost in translation 

As easy as it is to lose yourself in building your kingdom brick-by-brick amid Fabledom’s changing seasons and population milestones, its minor textual errors throughout tend to pull you out of the game and back to reality. I noticed commonly made grammar mistakes from the moment I chose my realm’s map and continued to eye similar fumbles throughout gameplay tutorials and item descriptions. Oddly enough, though, the magic of the game hasn’t been lost in translation. 

Fabledom review: top-down view of a village shows a building menu and information pop-ups.
Captured by VideoGamer

In a world where AI is often used to expedite the publishing process of written media, spotting grammatically incorrect terms in a newly-finished game is a strange comfort, as it alludes to the first-hand labour that’s gone into the project over the course of its development. While you’d certainly never expect to see these mistakes appear in completed work, I’d gladly chalk up Fabledom’s grammatical errors to nothing more than human error. And hey, it’s nothing a new patch can’t fix. No harm, no foul. 

Fabledom isn’t a perfect game, but it’s nothing short of enchanting. Despite small blemishes here and there, I’ve yet to run into any serious bugs or glitches. Well over 20 hours in, it’s clear that the development team at Grenaa Games worked tirelessly to perfect gameplay throughout the medieval city-builder’s early access period. In all, Fabledom has done well to earn a spot in my current rotation of games, and I’ll surely devote many more days off to overseeing my realm. Although I’m looking forward to text fixes and additional content, I’m just as glad to continue my existing playthrough. 

Reviewed on PC

Fabledom review: town scene with colorful buildings, lively characters, and a grand castle atop a hill.


Despite minor blemishes, Fabledom is nothing short of enchanting.
8 Engrossing gameplay Equal parts casual and challenging Forgiving of mistakes Lacking romance options Minor textual errors