Shopping gets a similar menu overhaul. When you're ready to dicker with the merchant at the pawn shop, you simply lay your wares out on the table and move from item to item to consider his offer. Stores in the market use a similar system, displaying their goods prominently and clearly. You don't have to remember which stall sells the meat, you just have to look for the big shank of mutton. It can feel a bit limiting at first, but it helps maintain the illusion that you really are an adventurer wandering through the town, as opposed to someone on the other side of a controller.
An offshoot of the streamlined menus is Fable 3's simplified experience system. In Fable, experience came in several different varieties, based on the three styles of combat, and abilities could only be upgraded with their particular flavor of experience or the less common generic kind. This led to players frequently having abilities they never used or experience they couldn't spend. Fable 2 attempted to alleviate the problem by allowing players to regain experience points they had spent in exchange for a small penalty, but the end result was the same - character development that was often unsatisfying. Fable 3 gives up on the different kinds of experience completely, dumping everything into a single catch-all of Guild Seals. Everything you do - killing enemies, finishing quests, gaining followers - ramps up your meter and works towards your stockpile of Seals. At a certain point in the game, you'll be introduced to the Road to Rule - a metaphorical path that symbolizes your journey to take the throne. A series of gates chops the Road into sections, and each section hosts a different selection of chests. Chests contain upgrades like more damage from weapons or the ability to blend spells, but you'll have to pay the cost in Seals before you can open them. Each gate carries a Seal cost, too, but stays open once you've unlocked it, leaving the way open to return to older chests should you want to.
In an interesting twist, you'll have to unlock some chests to regain skills you had from the beginning of Fable 2, like the ability to buy houses or stores. You'll also find chests with various colors of dye, new expressions, and even the ability to raise a family. The cost for these chests is typically quite low, but it's a nice concession to customizability - if you couldn't care less about coloring your hair or buying a shop, you can leave those chests locked for good.
I only got to spend a few hours with Fable 3, and so was forced to leave much of the game's attributes untouched. I didn't get to sample the new take on co-op (but, seriously, it's not like it could be worse than Fable 2's), or try the improved home decorating, or cast any blended spells. Like its predecessors, Fable 3 has a lot going for it, but it has some vexing anomalies, too. I expect to sigh, and shake my head, and look at Fable 3 the way a teacher looks at a brilliant student that could really shine if he tried just a little bit harder. But all of that can wait. For now, I'm just going to appreciate that Fable 3 solved a problem I never even knew I had.
Susan Arendt is curious to know the genesis of Fable 3's obsession with chickens.