Ars Fabulae is a beautiful and surprising narrative-driven adventure that mixes a wide variety of game genres as you live out the long forgotten stories of an old abandoned theater.
When you first load up Ars Fabulae you feel like you’re in for a beautiful, if fairly straightforward, narrative-driven walking simulator set within a near photorealistic recreation of an old abandoned theater. The visuals are gorgeous and it’s an interesting experience exploring the theater that’s filled with the memories of years of storytelling. And then you put on a mask and everything changes…
Each mask you find and put on makes you the star of a long forgotten play that was once told in the theater and also fits into the overarching story. Photorealism is replaced by equally beautiful, but strikingly different painterly styled visuals and the gameplay is dramatically different depending on which masks you put on – in one you may become a bird that soars through the sky and in another you may end up the adventure of a little broken robot that yearns for freedom.
The Ars Fabulae demo build takes around 45 minutes to play through and features the main theater area and two mask adventures. Both mask adventures are very different, with the first seeing you controlling an actor who manipulates shadows and light to alter the game world, and the second involving puzzle platforming and controlling two robots simultaneously. They’re both extremely well crafted, but the second story is particularly touching.
It’s a wonderful experience exploring the theatre of Ars Fabulae and relieving its long forgotten stories. The closest thing it resembles is What Remains of Edith Finch, but the secondary stores are much more fleshed out and the inventive gameplay mechanics in each one could easily be the basis of a full standalone game. This remarkable abandoned theater still has some stories that are well worth telling. Highly recommended.