Fable III Hands-On

The Road to Rule is paved with important choices, streamlined gameplay, and refined visuals.

Whatever soul-searching design rethinks Fable III has in store, another Fable means another Hero's journey. Once again, you are a youth of heroic descent called on to fulfil your potential and save the historical-fantasy land of Albion. This time, though, you're no tragic pauper orphan but a dashing royal orphan, sibling to the ruthless King Logan. This makes your first choice one between being a dapper prince and frilly princess, their character models the first promising sign of the visual refinement that's taken place between Fables II and III. The decision is your first of many in the early hours of a game keen on binary choices--some crucial, some instructive, and some symbolic.

Your second choice, having been awoken by your John Cleese-voiced butler, Jasper, is between an ornate outfit and a practical one. Then, after a stroll with your border collie through the palace gardens--greeted on all sides by guards and well-wishers--the breadcrumb trail brings you to your winsome royal consort. Your third choice has you decide whether to hug or kiss. Is anything more ominous than an idyllic prologue? King Logan is in a bad mood. Out in the city, a factory worker has been executed. Everyone in the castle is upset with the king; his lowly subjects are no happier. The disgruntled kitchen staff members need to be reassured or told off, as you see fit. One of the many civilians waiting to plead his case with Logan must be supported or mocked. Sir Walter, once the loyal friend of your father and now your combat trainer, knows which way the wind is blowing. When everything inevitably goes south, and you're branded a traitor by your paranoid brother, it's Sir Walter that flees the palace with you, along with Jasper and the dog.

In the palace and beyond, in the bat-infested caves that enabled our escape, and in snowy Mistpeak, our hero's first destination, the realm of Albion has been beautified--or visually refined, at least. Though the characters and the environments are still stylised rather than photo-realistic, the artistic style leans more toward realism than the faintly cartoony, caricatured look of the previous game--although Fable's gently quirky humour is still firmly in place. The character designs are more appealing for it, as mentioned; Peter Molyneux would say the princess looks like less of a "Russian shot-putter."

Holding out for a Hero till the end of the night.

The world, says Sir Walter, has been too long without a Hero, and it will take a Hero to lead a revolution against Logan. The Hero's journey is suddenly clear: unite the disparate peoples of Albion against the king. That journey is not just clear, but it's also neatly symbolised in the Road to Rule: a long, misty path blocked by gateways and leading back to the castle. The road, visited in visions and presided over by Theresa, the blind seer, serves as a progress indicator and talent tree in one. The gates--metaphors for levels--are unlocked by gaining powerful allies. Along the path, between gates, are treasure chests containing upgrades including ranged, melee, and magical power boosts. There are also new spells and new noncombat ability bundles, such as the landlord pack and marriage pack. These are unlocked with Guild seals--points earned in battle and by successfully interacting with the populace on your travels. The Road to Rule is one means by which Fable III strips out immersion-sapping stats and talent trees. Another is the barely-there heads-up display, which is little more than your tally of Guild seals popping up from time to time. And another is the Sanctuary, a gameworld metaphor in the same manner as the Road, but this time standing in for your inventory menus and world map.

A cobwebby, circular chamber with a tabletop model of the kingdom at its centre, the magical Sanctuary is part of your heroic heritage. The start button lets you instantly flip between the game's "real" world and the Sanctuary, where Jasper waits patiently alongside your world map, your armoury, your walk-in wardrobe, and your collection of trophies. The map enables fast travel around Albion (and presumably beyond, later in the game), while the armoury and wardrobe enable changes of gear. The armoury contains magical living weapons, which change to reflect how they are used, among them a sword that can get longer and sharper with use and a hammer that can grow heavier. You can give a name to your visibly evolving weapon, if you like; in the course of the demo, our Mr. Stabby appeared to develop a discreet runic design along its blade.

The Sanctuary's armoury: full of shiny things.

Another room in the Sanctuary provides access to two-person cooperative play, though this wasn't available for our preview. According to lead designer Josh Atkins, that co-op mode allows two players all but free roam of one of their gameworlds, each as his or her own Hero. The two heroes won't be tethered, restricted to the same screen, but both will have to stay in the same wider region to maintain co-op mode. The second player also gets paid, making co-op "one of the most lucrative jobs you can have" and a "pretty great way to make money and level up." And, if you're playing together for less mercenary reasons (or you fancy the 10G achievement), you can marry a co-op partner over Xbox Live as you would a non-player character. For the wedding enthusiast, Fable III even lets you pick a venue and a budget for the big day.

As with marriage, interactions with your co-op partner and with the citizens of Albion have much in common. You can extend most of the same gestures to each with Fable III's much-touted, touch-based system of expressions. A pull of the left trigger has you hold hands with them, or you can tap the A button to enter a kind of interaction mode, offering the relevant choices. You can shake hands, for instance, dance together, or give money. As in Fable II, expressions can be extended--successfully pulling off a basic handshake turns it into a knuckle bump. A similar mechanic allows interaction with your dog, offering options to pet it, play fetch, or tell it off.

As in the previous Fable, your dog can sniff out treasure chests and dig spots, as well as attack enemies once you've downed them. This and much else of Fable III's combat system feel familiar. The biggest change--and a welcome one--is the absence of coloured experience orbs left behind by your victims. Spells still come in area-of-effect and directed forms; melee attacking still offers a charged flourish blow, with some nice animations. In the few hours we had to play, enemy variety wasn't vast. We battled wolves, bats, mercenaries, and skeletal hollow men, with a cigar-chomping mercenary leader as the most plot-significant fight. Here, dodging attacks and mixing up long-range and up-close combat was as effective as in the previous game.

I've got a little tip for you. Get the point?

There was a wider variety of environments than enemies, including the impoverished mountain settlement in snowy Mistpeak Valley, scored with plaintive violin music; Bowerstone's fetid sewers; cavernous underground ruins; and cheery, rustic Brightwall village. In the latter, we encountered Fable III's professions for the first time, among them lute hero (a rhythm minigame, what else) and pie maker. These work along the same lines as Fable II's professions: chain together successful attempts to grow your money-making multiplier.

Peter Molyneux isn't without his critics, but he might be one of the harshest and has been keen to expound the shortcomings of Fable III's predecessor. Changes have been made accordingly--tweaks in some cases, overhauls in others--and the results, from the first few hours of play, are promising. In late October, we'll see whether Fable III is, this time, the game he meant to make.

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Discussion

227 comments
313striker
313striker

@meleekill989 I'd say it isn't true, since fable 3 is for pc but fable 2 wasn't

meleekill989
meleekill989

i read that you play as your character from fable II in this game, so do you have to have fable II to play fable III?

Septagon7
Septagon7

This game looks awesome. Fable 2 was great, but my only complaints were its length and that it was too short. Everything else about it was good though. The transforming weapons and the new graphics look awesome. If they deepened the RPG side a little, made it a little longer and a little more challenging than its predecessor, Fable 3 may be one of the best RPG's out there.

bandarman
bandarman

I also hope that this comes out on PC as well and at the same time... I hate my 2Gs PC treated like a second to some $200 console... @ the devs - if you're cancelling PC to stop piracy... someone should remind you guys of Halo Reach and all the other Halo pre-releases out there... as well as COD too ... and the list goes on and on!

rehatheway
rehatheway

I hope you can still choose to play co-op locally since I want to get hitched with my real wife's heroine and we only play together locally for the obvious reason being that online would require 2 of everything. What ever the case This game is looking amazing and I've got my collector's edition preordered and can't wait to see all of the new stuff they've added and changed. So far good work on the new chapter in the Fable story.

lrac42
lrac42

I can't wait for this game...it looks great!

Linkmaster2010
Linkmaster2010

All i want is a longer main quest line and a bigger challenge! Fable 2 was way too easy and WAY too short. there were a lot of fun side quests, but all-in-all, the game was way too small. It would also be good to have a large open world to explore. no trails constantly reminding you that you have to be somewhere.

Madbane
Madbane

I couldn't play Fable2, because it didn't come out for PC. I hope they will not cancel Fable 3 also for PC.

hotrob2020
hotrob2020

@ Rioresu007 u mean HunterJ27's comment right???

Snafer
Snafer

Looking Forward to this game!! thank god they are releasing this for PC

Rioresu007
Rioresu007

@seto_setari Yes, it is confirmed u can get married and make babies with your friend....... XD

NathanWootton
NathanWootton

i think most dev dont release PC formats cause of Pirates ;)

pucknut68
pucknut68

I absolutely can not wait for this game, and Fallout New Vegas. And COD Black ops for that matter.lol

Lordan007
Lordan007

Thats what i bean waiting for,but there is one problem that anyone knows for PC users,whould be fair to relese Fable 2 first,hurry up boys you have time to do it before Fable 3 is out!!!!

SpencerPenfold
SpencerPenfold

I hope it isn't so easy to level up, or just bring back some of the spells from Fable 1, Fable 2 spells weren't as good. SO looking foward to this game

manictrooper101
manictrooper101

I will never understand why people thought so badly of fable 2, i just completed it and got every acheiv, and had tremendous fun. My only aggro with it was the bad story, its short, the cruciable lacks all character the arena did, ARMOUR, no world map to free roam happily, no manual anywhere jump (Like WoW for instance) and the dreadful lack of spells. Seriously guys thumbs up if you want Beserk back, i know i do.

soto_setari
soto_setari

It's awesome this game is gonna be released for PC! BUYAH!

soto_setari
soto_setari

@sgotskillz There probably will be, yes.

sgotskillz
sgotskillz

So you can marry each other in co-op play. So I would like to know if there is same sex marriage?

rpg-god
rpg-god

it would look better on the ps3 but i guess they did wat they could

Hoob22
Hoob22

I hope the second half of the game where you get to rule Albion will be good. I liked Fable 1 & 2, although I was a bit dissapointed with the second one. I am really intrigued about how they handle this gameplay wise.

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

Sounds promising. Looking forward to the finished product.

BlackTargetmark
BlackTargetmark

Fable 2 was so damned that it wasn't released on PC. Thank goodness its successor will be released on PC.

Ohaidere
Ohaidere

@ Seanronnie22 I dunno about you, but having played Fable 2 coop, not being tethered to the other player IS a huge improvement.

334750
334750

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

master_06
master_06

juz hoping this one doesnt turn out to be as easy as fable 2

KOBE23IVAN
KOBE23IVAN

awesome game with great ''history''

TLOD
TLOD

@hahnasty Molyneux always says his upcoming game is groundbreaking. I think this time round he was boasting that this one doesn't have a health bar! :O

SUPEReeeGO
SUPEReeeGO

I hope that they show the co-op players actual character rather than having to chose from a pre-set one, and also have more varied enemies to fight because fable 2 got a bit repetitive

evil13killer
evil13killer

yea this year suck in pc games i really neeeeed some fun

hahnasty
hahnasty

I am excited for this game. Even with the somewhat outrageous allegations Peter M. is making about this game, it should be fun.

IrishBulldog93
IrishBulldog93

cant wait just beat the 2nd one a few days ago !!

Un4givingAsault
Un4givingAsault

Last game I was livid because I was on a quest to go rescue a kid and he would disappear every time I left the cave. Had to restart my character, FFFF

snugglebear
snugglebear

I haven't hooked my 360 up for a while. I'm not biased against it, I just have a complicated setup and not enough space for two consoles in my entertainment center. It's a pain in the keister to switch them. For this, however, I will get off my lazy tuckus and brave the 'Haunted Cable Jungle." Then, maybe, to IKEA for a better entertainment center.

DannyC_pt
DannyC_pt

I'm really enjoying everything I'm seeing so far. I like the fact that they're finally going their own way without carrying so much as to wether this is more rpg or more action or whatever. Seems like they have a good story to tell and I'm very curious to see how it's going to be. From what we're seeing, we can expect better graphics, a lot more detail on environment, deeper characters and more complex interaction. Can't wait to see how the economy system works... and what it feels like to rule the world of Albion.

eiadrtr
eiadrtr

fable for pc yeaaaaa

jesuschristmonk
jesuschristmonk

also wanted to say, THAT EVIL CHARACTER LOOKED F'KN BAD ASS!!!!!!!!

jesuschristmonk
jesuschristmonk

@samsungx360 the other thing was the god awful LAAGGG roflmao

samsungx360
samsungx360

there was just one issue with fable 2: it didn't appear on pc

moundye
moundye

fable two was an amazing game, but I had two major problems with it. 1# the 2nd player couldn't do jack diddly squat. 2# they removed the bow from the game(which was included in fable 1 and fable TLC. I have high expentations for this game .

kennythomas26
kennythomas26

oh this is a day one pick up for me, or I might pre-order it soon so I know I will get it.

kennythomas26
kennythomas26

Hey I enjoyed Fable 1,2 and I wil enjoy the 3rd, and to me this game is a action RPG and it is always good to make some changes here and their. peace y'all.

HunterJ27
HunterJ27

You can marry other players eh? I sense true Bromance within this game.

the_blue_hat3
the_blue_hat3

Im excited to play this game but I hope they take the magic abilities back to its Fable 1 roots, they completly massacred it in Fable 2.

KILLROYIIII
KILLROYIIII

im gonna hunt the chef that shot the chicken in the opening cinematic scene

Rainsing
Rainsing

No colorful EXP orbs? Then what is the penalty of death?

wahyudil
wahyudil

Can't wait to play the PC version ... my anticipated game of this few months ...