by Joseph Barron
previewed on X360
Ever since the original Fable was released on the Xbox, Lionhead’s seminal RPG series has been striving to set new standards of emotional character development in Role Playing Games. Fable II came close to achieving this, but If you have followed the press surrounding the Fable series you will no doubt be aware of the eccentric promises Peter Molyneux tends to make. This year we will see the release of the third entry in the Fable franchise and perhaps this time, Molyneux will finally realize his vision of the world of Albion.
Throughout the series so far players have been able to influence the game based on their good or evil actions. Returning to areas where you have behaved honourably would show citizens happy to see you and responding to you as friends, but evil behaviour would result fearful civilians. Fable III though, is promising to go much further. In Fable II good or bad actions affected the appearance of the main character, making them beautiful or ugly based on your behaviour, but in the upcoming sequel this will expand to the world itself, creating an even more immersive fantasy setting. The character morphing has also become far more in-depth. Killing innocent civilians will cause your weapon to constantly drip with blood and by levelling your character up, you gain access to what Lionhead are calling “extreme e-motes” which allow a good or bad character to show their true power by sprouting either angelic or demonic wings, of course determined by your behaviour during the course of the story.
It is Good to be the King
It has been revealed that, during the course of the story, you will become the King of Albion and being King of course comes with a whole lot of responsibilities, even more than being a spouse or a parent in Fable II. Not only do you need to consider the needs of your family alongside your normal RPG questing, you now need to take care of an entire kingdom and decide what sort of ruler you want to be. Will you rule Albion with an iron fist to maintain order? Or will you earn your people’s trust with good deeds? As the ruler of Albion you will have to enforce the law and keep an eye on the day-to-day activities of your subjects. Your options are so varied that different approaches to certain scenarios can result in vastly different results for different players. One such incident, referred to by Peter Molyneux, involved deciding what to do with someone who had not paid their taxes. One player might send them to a trial and have them locked up, another might choose to send an entire army after them. Choice has always been a seminal element of Lionhead’s games, but the scale of what is possible in Fable III is actually much more similar to a “god game” like Black & White, which is also from Lionhead, rather than a traditional action RPG.
Along with choice, “touch” is another element of Fable III which is being greatly expanded. You can now lead NPCs by the hand in a variety of different scenarios. You might be leading a friend down to the pub for a drink, or dragging an unruly character to be locked away in a dungeon. Like everything in the Fable III universe though, touch can be abused. Lionhead have shown one example where the hero befriends a homeless person. A good player might lead the man to a clothing shop or a pub for a drink and meal. But a bad player might lead the poor man to a factory and sell them into slave labour. As the player takes the man towards the factory he is even intelligent enough to realise what is happening and attempt to wriggle free of the players grasp.
Menuless Menu system
Fable III’s other big innovation comes in the form of its menu system, which isn’t really a menu system at all. A common complaint with most RPGs, including the previous Fable games, is that the menu systems for upgrades and equipping characters are often very poor, with many options buried within multiple screens and with far too much text, forcing players to spend too much time reading lists and not enough time playing the game itself. In response to this Peter Molyneux and his team have designed Fable III without menus. When you pause the game your character appears in a fully interactive 3D home, within the normal game engine. To change clothes you enter a dressing room for example. Shops in the game will also have items laid out on shelves for you to choose from, in a style almost similar to the clothes and weapons shops in Grand Theft Auto IV, rather than the traditional RPG method of walking up to a shopkeeper and selecting items from a list.
We know what you are all really asking though. Yes, you still have a dog. Your faithful companion will return in Fable III. Of course it wouldn’t be a Fable game without a cameo or two from a few English national treasures and Fable III is no exception. John Cleese of Monty Python voices your loyal butler and Stephen Fry is returning to reprise his role as Reaver. You can also expect to hear several other famous voices as you travel around the kingdom as King.