At San Diego Comic Con 2010, Microsoft held an event to showcase some of their upcoming games. I’ve been excited to play Fable III ever since I met Peter Molyneux at this year’s GDC and, even though he wasn’t there to show it, I felt like this playable build was just another step on the journey. I was one of those players who was completely disappointed in the first game when it came out, possibly due to Mr. Molyneux’s promises, and I didn’t bother picking up the second one (even though Susan Arendt says I should.) All I can say is that Fable III just feels like a better designed game. From the ground up, the design team at Lionhead has concentrated on fixing the worst parts, while accentuating the fun bits.
The demo build had me playing a female main character who was dressed in her mercenary outfit. I’mnot sure why a mercenary looks like a steampunk Joker from The Dark Knight but it worked. Watching my character stroll around the hamlet and interacting with all manner of townsfolk, complete with striped longstockings and a gun strapped to her back, I felt like I was a stranger, but that I could have a profound effect on these people’s lives. Which is kind of the point of Fable III.
I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do at first so I did what any self-respecting gamer would do. I went up to random people and alternately danced and farted in their face. The animations I was rewarded with for these interactions are funny and lifelike. You totally get if people will be into your joke or offended just from the way they move and react to you. As advertised by Molyneux, you can indeed “touch” anyone you encounter, holding hands with them and leading them around, or if they’re mad at you, drag them.
After I exhausted the possibilities of fun there, I walked up to a blacksmith with a sign out front, which told me that the shop was for sale. Luckily, the demo build provided me with a limitless supply of gold and I promptly bought the blacksmith. From the sign menu, I could then set the prices for this shop at one of three levels: expensive, fair, or cheap. After a certain amount of time passed, I would receive gold profits from the transactions in that shop.
Of course, that didn’t give me carte blanche over all of the stuff that the blacksmith had for sale. I still had to buy a huge sword and a long rifle. After they were purchased, I instinctively hit start and was brought into the new 3D menu system. My butler, Jasper, is indeed voiced by John Cleese and his wit and style pervade the menu experience. Jasper gives little hints on how to equip armor or what kind of combat each type of weapon excels. In the clothing section, you can undress to your skivvies and Jasper is sure to notice, quipping that most people choose to walk around somewhat more decently. Not all of the menu options were implemented for this build, but, again, it seems to function much better than previous versions of Fable. I could anticipate spending a lot of time trying on weapons or clothes, just so that I could hear random jokes delivered by John Cleese.
Walking outside the shop, I noticed that there was a golden trail on the ground and I decided to follow it. The trail led me to house of a particularly unhappy couple. The woman was out front and told me her tale: her husband hated her and she wanted out, but her money prevented her from divorcing him. She came up with a dastardly plan on the spot, since I was a girl, to have me seduce him and prompt him initiate the divorce so that she could keep her inheritance. I accepted the task, even though I had an inkling that her hare-brained scheme would end badly.
I set about ingratiating myself with the man of the house, who was voiced by a suitably officious sounding Brit. Here’s where I hit the only snag in my demo, as I couldn’t seem to get this guy to like me. I mean, come on, I cut a pretty cute figure, even if my eyes are a bit sunken and my face is pasty from me being a scary pirate mercenary and all. I eventually had to call over a dev and he told me that you have to hold down the button corresponding to the interaction until a status bar filled, which made the interaction more potent. Suddenly, my dances and pat-a-cakes took on a whole new level, as evidenced by the more in depth animation. Soon, I had him eating out of my hands and he agreed to marry me and ditch his wife. I did end up betraying her though and shooting her in the face, but that’s a different story. (I did mention that I was dressed as a mercenary, didn’t I? I can’t help role-playing even if this is just an “action” game now.)
The dev was kind enough to boot up the combat demo, and I was whisked away to a cave dungeon. I’m not sure when this event takes place in game but it felt like an early mission. Alone in a dark cave, I was surprised and glad that Fable III has some creepiness to it. A voice reverberates in your head as you wander through the dungeon and I was soon attacked by shades and some kind of monster that oozes up from floor.
Keeping with the trend, the combat feels more fluid than previous Fables. Before, there was a pause as you shifted from magic attacks to melee to ranged. In III, you can seamlessly swing your sword, fire a few rounds from your gun, then switch to a lightning blast. Each attack is mapped to a different button, so there is no holding bumpers or triggers to activate. Like the interations, holding down a specific button charged up the attack and made it more powerful, which was then evidenced through the animation. Combat is intuitive, and did what games like this should, made me want to acquire bigger and better weapons and powers.
I got to say that I was impressed with this build of Fable III. And perhaps it was the gin and tonics, but I felt like the dev who was showing me the ropes was genuinely excited about the game and what it had to offer players. That kind of enthusiasm and passion is what making great games is all about and it certainly shows in Fable III.
Greg Tito has an unhealthy obsession with British girls wearing stockings.