Fable III – Hands-On
Say what you will about Lionhead’s Peter Molineux and his talent for hyperbole, but there’s no denying the sheer level of ambition that resides within the busy walls of the development studio. You also can’t fault its ability to turn heads, be it through a showing of the latest Fable or a mind-blowing, if somewhat creepy demonstration featuring a ten-year-old boy and his pre-set reactions. Milo may have been absent from the Eurogamer Expo (and if recent reports are to be believed, cancelled entirely) but Fable 3 was present and accounted for, allowing us some much-appreciated time to see just how much Albion has changed since 2008’s acclaimed outing.
The game is set fifty years after the events of Fable 2 and the land is now under the thumb of a tyrannical ruler. The first half of the game focuses on your journey, or rather your ascent to dethrone this despot and claim the crown for yourself. It’s at this point that things will supposedly take a different turn, giving you the task of guiding Albion into an era of light or pulling it back into darkness depending on how you wish to play. While we have yet to see this particular mechanic in action, we put in some good questing time with the adventuring portion of the game. It’s classic Fable, so fans will be able to settle in and immediately feel at home with this third instalment.
Combat is just as you might expect, only with a few tweaks here making for a more fluid experience. You have the standard melee attack, ranged attacks via gun or crossbow and – now much more interestingly – magical techniques that can be combined and are generally more useful on the whole. Our ice attack was particularly devastating and when you couple this with the ability to move lithely with a sword then fire over your shoulder, your character should become a real force to be reckoned with. Gamers who absolutely despised the combat system might be disappointed however, as it’s still very similar to before – simple and accessible, yet perhaps not as deep as some might like.
One mission we tried entitled ‘Table Top’, was touted to us as one of the most enjoyable quests in the game. Without giving entirely too much away, we’ll say that our character found himself on a board, completing criteria set by a group of cloaked nerds overhead. It might sound utterly bonkers, but it really was good fun. With mischievous foes, superb pacing and a humorous script, exploring the area was a joy and seemed considerably more varied than what was found in Fable 2. The other mission we tried wasn’t nearly as much fun, but was entertaining all the same; re-enacting scenes from a play by dressing up in ridiculous outfits then selecting the demanded expression, we moved between stages to entertain an audience of spirits. It all seemed a bit too simple, but when the dialogue and voice acting is as strong as it is, you may forgive the occasional turkey.
We only attempted a couple of jobs in the town in which we were placed, hoping for a more entertaining affair than the non-descript button-stopping events of before. What we found were button-pressing mini-games; they were dull, uninspired and thoroughly disappointing. You can mingle with the townsfolk with a variety of actions and expressions like before, complete with cute animations and AI reactions. Some of the more vulgar options should amuse for a while, though given our experience with the game’s predecessor, we expect this to lose its appeal over time.
Presentation is one of Fable 3’s strongest points. The world of Albion is undeniably darker than before, but it’s beautiful all the same. The graphics are a major step up, with that patented fantasy style serving to help set the tone. Environments are lush and detailed and it’s all too easy to go off the beaten path to find any number of the secrets that lay hidden within the land. You can expect to lose many hours just wandering around with your trusty mutt to find that extra item to add to your collection, taking in the sights before deciding to move on to your next mission. The music is every bit as stirring as before, ranging from the subdued calm that punctuates the more welcoming locales to the ominous and creepy score of a tense situation.
As a Lionhead game, you know to expect a high-quality adventure in Fable 3 that is both engaging and replayable. The presentation is much improved and there seems to have been a greater emphasis on diversity this time in the gameplay department, but it seems unlikely to succeed on every front, especially if the rotten jobs are anything to go by. Instead, the greatest leaps forward involve the script, witty and well-performed dialogue as well as the interesting characters littered about the world. Regardless of any niggling issues we might have, we just can’t wait to uncover what the rest of this charming title has to offer and with good reason – roll on the end of October!
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