Fable III Update - Combat and Scary Ghost Things

We wind up shipwrecked on a new continent against an army of creepy spirits.

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When we met with Lionhead's Peter Molyneux at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year, he had a simple question for us: Which Fable III demo would you like to see? The two options highlighted Fable's two main sides. As an action role-playing game, Fable III features traditional RPG elements like stat-building and engaging with the world around you to help shape the story, while also dropping you into situations where there's no choice but to fight your way to safety. We elected to see the role-playing elements at E3, which you can read about right here. But now that Fable III is on display here at Comic-Con 2010, we got a chance to see what that combat demo was all about.

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The demo began with the main hero going on a trek through dark, dank caves alongside a bearded fellow named Walter. This friendly-looking guy is actually your mentor throughout the early stages of the game. He's the one who takes you under his wing and shows you what's going on in Albion in terms of King Logan and the disastrous effects of his tyrannical rule. Through his teachings, you begin a quest to overthrow the ruler and assume the role of king for yourself. It's probably the luxurious, flowing mustache that makes Walter so trustworthy.

On a journey to the neighboring continent known as Aurora, the pair wind up shipwrecked and somehow find their way inside this creepy cave. Aurora stands as a marked departure from the generally bright, shimmering world of Albion that we've seen in previous Fable games. Aurora seems to be a windswept desert wasteland with a brown color palette that should contrast heavily with those parts of the game set in Albion.

Inside the cave, the pair encounter a series of jet-black ghost spirits whose glowing eyes stand out eerily from the dark backgrounds. Fable III carries over the previous game's one-button combat, mapping magic, guns, and bladed/hammer weapons to a single button each. Lionhead has striven to make the combat experience flow more smoothly between these various forms of fighting, which now surfaces in the ability to quickly halt your giant hammer swing in order to whip out a gun and shoot an enemy sneaking up behind you. Overall, it seems more quick and adaptive, really taking advantage of the dedicated buttons in a way the previous game didn't.

After taking care of dozens upon dozens of these black spirits, we ran into a boss creature seemingly made of dripping black ink that took Walter hostage. This led to a boss fight that we won't spoil for you, but the result was that we freed Walter from his clutches only to find that being held captive in the ethereal darkness had robbed Walter of his vision. So we took Walter by the hand--an interaction new to Fable III--and gently guided him toward the cave exit, a poignant moment amid the otherwise creepy cave atmospherics. When you're outside, a cutscene plays where you try to convince Walter to follow you to safety while he demands you leave him behind in order to save yourself. That's where the demo ends, complete with a cutscene that lays out the option before you and asks which path you'll choose. It's a tough option: Do you leave your friend behind, or hurry back to Albion to save the citizens from Logan's tyranny?

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The demo was brief, lasting no more than 15 minutes overall. In that small time, it was hard to get a good picture of how combat will shape up, but if nothing else, the demo proved that the enemy design and new settings will at least add to the tension of combat even if the game maintains its relative simplicity. Either way, we're looking forward to getting more hands-on time with Fable III as we draw closer to the game's October 26 release date.

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