Fable III: A quite literal hands-on

Completely out of character, Peter Molyneux has been talking up Fable III's new features with a great deal of showboating enthusiasm. Bigger moral quandries. The ability to rule the kingdom of Albion. A chance to reach out and touch its people in a very real, very physical sense. You probably have Molyneux's new checklist burnt into brain like a cattle branding by now.

But what really matters is how that stuff really makes Fable III play. Is it a genuine evolution for RPG immersion? Or is it just Fable II with a couple of extra gimmicks? We'll tell you that right now. Because yesterday we got to play it and, found out just how Lionhead's new epic compares.

The morality is greyer

Following a good or evil path in Fable II was pretty easy. ‘This quest involves burning orphans!’, it screamed. ‘Do you want to accept this quest?’.

Above: To kill 'em all, or not? Either way, it seems Fable III's judgements will be less black and white

In Fable III though, things seems far less clear cut and much more interesting. Take for instance, the early quest we played through. Stumbling upon an unhappily married couple in the midst of a raging domestic, it became rapidly apparent that the wife was suffering an unfortunate personal affliction. Namely an arrogant arse of a husband who was making her life miserable. She asked for our help in getting rid of him, and naturally we obliged.

She wanted help in building a case of divorce, and requested that we seduce her husband in order to help break up the relationship. We obliged, and after much dancing, schmoozing, a date and the resulting proposal (romance still works fast in Albion), we had him ditching his grateful wife for a bright, happy, unfortunately-not-actually-going-to-happen romantic future with our evil female heroine. But then he hit upon a new idea. A dead wife is cheaper than a divorced ex, so would we kindly speed things along a little by killing her?

Above: Despite the new industrial revolution era, Albion's rural bits are as beautifully tumbledown as ever

At this point we had the usual good/bad Fable choice; fulfill the request, or just walk away. But that wasn’t a satisfying set of options as far as we were concerned. We didn't want to kill her, and walking away would surely solve nothing after all of our hard work, so we decided to see if there was another way. So we shot the husband instead. It worked. He died. Though his now-widow immediately freaked out and threw us out of the house, proclaiming that we’d gone too far.

But no matter. The quest was complete, and an epilogue screen popped up to tell us that although we’d been a bit harsh, the guy was indeed an arse, and as such no-one would try to arrest us for his murder. It was a small taste of the moral spider-web Molyneux has talked about in relation to the game’s later leadership phase, and bodes very well for the high-level ethical compromises he’s discussed.

The interactions are simpler

So far, Fable III’s gesture system seems heavily stripped back from the one in  Fable II. Most noticeably, we could only affect one character at a time with our interactions. Rather than having anyone in earshot react to our farts with revulsion and our dancing with lust (or vice versa), we had to press A near an NPC in order to interact with them.

Above: That hat. We want it

We were then locked into an exchange with that character alone, and could choose from three expresssion options mapped to the X, B and Y buttons. It’s unclear at the moment whether this selection will expand to Fable II’s full wheel of real-time selection or whether it will be a case of pre-mapping three expressions of your choice at any given time. Or even if everything will be dictated by the game. One thing that's clear though, is that this one-to-one interaction actually feels more powerful and significant than having a whole crowd of random hangers-on whoop and cheer at your every action, as in Fable II. There’s a smaller reaction, but more personal impact, especially when you realise that…

Touch really is power

It’s strange how such a small addition can change the whole feel of a game. On paper, your ability to lead characters around by the hand in Fable III (via a quick stab of the left trigger) might seem like little more than a glorified replacement for the old ‘Follow’ command. But in practice, it’s incredibly empowering, and completely changes the way your actions make you feel.

Above: Obviously your touches can be a bit more subtle than this...

Take the fart expression. Fable II’s most iconic action was in truth little more than a throwaway sight-gag, a way of getting a few cheap laughs at the expense of a large crowd who were following you. But when performing it upon a specific victim, having picked out a deliberate, singular target, having dragged them right across their village into the town square to do it in front of everyone, and having spent every step of the way listening to their excitable musings on where you might be taking them, the eventual insult is 100% more impacting.

It’s not just Molyneux hyperbole. You genuinely do feel far more responsibility for your actions when you have to physically lead a character in order to carry them out. If you were to say, take an innocent child by the hand, lead them away from home and the desert them, yes, it would be darkly amusing, but you’d also find yourself feeling far, far creepier than you would have expected. Hypothetically, of course. Not that we did that. Ahem.

Trust us, evil acts are not going to be anywhere near as throwaway this time around.

The characters are more believable

Fable has always been a haven of  likeable, funny, lifelike characters, however cartoonish they may be, but Fable III looks to add little tweaks and improvements across the board. Character animations for expressions are now more convincing and full of personality, the emphasis on one-to-one interaction and touch allowing your hero to be more directly involved with NPCs in more overt, more intimate ways. The aforementioned farting, for instance, now ends with you grabbing the hapless villager by the head and pulling their face right down to your enthusiastic gas pipe. Dancing culminates with a showboating Dirty Dancing-style lift of your partner.

Above: The promise of more realistic female heroes has come good. They're more buxom, less bruiser

And on top of the improved interactions, heroes are now voiced. Obviously this should finally create a sense of actually being involved in the major plot points, unlike in Fable II, which forced you to dumbly stand around like a spare part watching other characters discuss what was going, often seeming to ignore your main man (or woman) completely. And simply in terms of basic NPC interaction, the little verbal asides already on show create a sense of real interaction, immediately quashing the feeling of separation that Fable II could occasionally give you, even when performing to a large crowd.

Chickens seem to be a big deal

Yes, having been cruelly booted around in Fable II, the poultry are back with a vengence. They can still be kicked for fun and profit, but an animated chicken silhouette now takes pride of place on the loading screen, and we even saw a full-blown chicken suit available in another mission. Expect Fable IV to follow the full life-story of a small feathered peasant, from egg to McChicken Sandwich bun.



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  • pokemonboy111 - November 6, 2010 4:25 a.m.

    why is it when i was searching "fable 3" i didn't get anything yet when i searched "fable III" (yes 3 i's) this poped up instantly?!
  • austinyoung - July 19, 2010 3:38 p.m.

    i hope it is going to be better then the first 2
  • GeNeRaL - July 18, 2010 5:08 a.m.

    This game looks very nice and im looking forward to it , dose it come out in Australia in October ?? GeNeRaL HiLl OuT ...........................
  • shadowarrior99 - July 16, 2010 7:27 p.m.

    Thank you Thuperman, that is what Fable two was missing! We only had weapon stats (and the basic ones, no armor), it felt less like a rpg without the defense stats. The clothes were okay but the armor is a must; i'm not sure what compelled him to take it out. The game was great overall, but when the dog died it made me angry (i didn't bring him back), because i couldn't get the Completionist since the dog was dead (i also thought the dog was a great addition), so i had to start over. But i never got ALL the expressions for completionist, but still got it, which was weird. Fable three is looking good so far.
  • Thuperman - July 16, 2010 6:31 p.m.

    I loved the first two games so i cant wait for this one, i hope they make the co-op better, and even though i doubt it will be there, id like actual armor to return from Fable 1...i didnt really like the clothes in Fable 2 @Tronto13 Dude calm down, just like with every popular franchise, there are people who like them....and people who dont. And Molynuex DOES over-hype each game about how it will change games forever.
  • g4m3rk1dd - July 16, 2010 3:07 p.m.

    i hope that fable 3s co-op will be split screen...sharing a screen sucks
  • rafoca - July 16, 2010 12:42 p.m.

    Best part is: Fable 3 co-op will be awesome!!!
  • Joshin69 - July 16, 2010 12:16 p.m.

    One of the few games on the 360 I wish were available to the PS3. Hope it is as good as it should be
  • TheGuy0526 - July 16, 2010 5:37 a.m.

    DB1331 - Dude he aint butt-hurt, hes disgusted with how ridiculous you're being. If you've never liked the game then what the hell are you doing reading the article? You knew what was gonna happen n we dont wanna here you complain about not liking it because of that. Butt-hurter =p Hot damn man I loved the first one but wasn't the biggest fan of the second. Im hopein this'll redeem the series for me. Lookin forward to it.
  • Psylockerules - July 16, 2010 12:13 a.m.

    i enjoyed fable 2 loved the english humour, just hope theres more things to do, more places to go, more big bads like the trolls and less godamned glitches! and a yorkshire terrier dog breed :)
  • JADENkOTOR - July 15, 2010 8:05 p.m.

    @Tronto 13: Couldn't agree with you more... The first two in the series were awesome... Great story and setting, Deep character evolution, Deep accessible inventory, Fluid gameplay, Great moral compass, Stunning graphics... you would be hard pressed to find many flaws in either of the first two games. You are also right that it has become the cool thing to do to rip Monyluex after anything he says. Hes a little out there and hypes up his games quite a bit but for good reason... They are good. As for the next installment in the series there is no reason to believe that it won't be just as good as the previous two. Haters keep hating and go mindlessly play God of War or something.
  • db1331 - July 15, 2010 7:39 p.m.

    @Tronto13 Here's a frightening bit of advice for you: Don't get butt-hurt when someone has an opinion about something that is different than your own.
  • jollyroger50 - July 15, 2010 7:26 p.m.

    fable and mass effect are the only real reasons i own a 360, so im looking forward to this, :) the border collie in the picture looks just like my dog, :D awesome
  • oufour - July 15, 2010 7:16 p.m.

    please let this game sell horribly and be forced to port to PS3.
  • RebornKusabi - July 15, 2010 7:09 p.m.

    Sorry, but I honestly only liked the first Fable game and even then, it was still not the ground-breaking game all of the reviewers said it was. It was the last game I pre-ordered simply because that game taught me a lesson that I have learned to live by from here on out: rent a game and try it before you buy it. Did it for the second one and after playing through it's mediocrity, I moved on and guess what I'll be doing with this one? Rent it.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - July 15, 2010 6:25 p.m.

    HypeTrain: The dog is present and correct. I didn't get time to make much use of him, so I can't tell you how his behaviour may or may not have changed yet, but he's definitely there.
  • Tronto13 - July 15, 2010 6:22 p.m.

    Looks like hating mooleneux is now the new "cool" thing to do amongst the gaming community. Its about time people stopped following the herd. I loved fable 1 and loved fable 2 even more, @db1331 you clearly dont care about the fable series so heres a frightening bit of advice for you: dont read articles about Fable if you dont like the game! This will save you both time and the need to troll the comments section.
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - July 15, 2010 6 p.m.

    David, what about the dog from Fable 2? Did Peter mention that at all because you couldn't get him to stop talking about it leading up to Fable 2 and how it was going to revolutionize the gaming industry.
  • Tomsta666 - July 15, 2010 5:50 p.m.

    Best way to enjoy the new Fable is like this. Ignore the bullshit hyperbole that spews out of Molyneux's mouth, and play the game as if it's something you've just discovered on your own. I did this with Fable II and had a blast.
  • SoutheastSam - July 15, 2010 5:45 p.m.

    This seems a lot better than Fable II at this moment. If it keeps me interested in the game for more than a couple hours I'd be impressed. (Fable III) > Fable I > (Fable III) > Fable II > (Fable III) only time will tell