We go hands on with the E3 build of one of this yea'rs most anticipated sequels. For Queen and Country!
Posted | 0 comments | By Joe Robinson
There's really only one game where proposing in chicken suit seems as natural taking a stroll down the street and farting on the first person you see, or seducing two separate women and bringing them back to your place for some three-way goodness. Peter Molyneux seems to take a certain pleasure out of poking fun at the accepted social conventions of society, whilst also leisurely pushing the boundaries of what makes a videogame, and nowhere is this more potent then Fable III.
You will all know about Fable franchise by now. In hindsight, the first game seems more like an afterthought, a half-finished, slightly clunky foray into exploring what one could really do with the quintessential fantasy setting. But ever since Fable II, it seems to have evolved into something more - a grand experiment into immersion and storytelling, as well as that crass, sarcastic humour that can only be found in the British Isles. The third title naturally takes the experiment this even further in the realm of kings and the great upheaval that was the industrial revolution.
And make no mistake, it is a 'grand'- Mr. Molyneux himself stops it from being anything else. Read interviews with him on Fable, story-telling, games... there's a reason he's one of the most recognisable figures in gaming, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that Fable III is supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread or something given his vision for it. Still, one has to wonder why, with only three months left to go, we've only been presented with two short segments, and no news on Kinect integration or the PC version of the game. We do of course appreciate the value of secrecy and surprise, but that can backfire so easily. We hope it won't be the case here.
The segments in question were the same that were shown at this year's E3, but reading about it and actually experiencing it are two different things. Since we didn't get to see it at the convention we had to sit back and read about it like normal people, but Microsoft were kind enough to invite us along to their Winter Showcase this week to gets some hands-on with the same build. We had a choice whether to stroll through the town of Brightfall and do some basic quests, or creep though the caves of Shadelight and give the combat a try. After having witnessed other journalists stroll around in a chicken suit, I decided to save my digital dignity and get my bloodlust up instead.
The Redcoat: the very essenve of the Victorian age
The first thing that sprang to mind was that it was all very Fable II. Some improved visuals maybe, and of course the locations are completely different, but in terms of combat at least, nothing felt 'new' or 'different', and the controls themselves were actually a little sluggish, but that could have been the build. Magic, Ranged and Mêlée are still mapped to separate buttons, and you still have different levels of attack and combos depending on what other buttons you use in tandem. All very Fable II, and nothing to write home about. Even the scenario wasn't that great - shuffling through a cave, meeting a horde of enemies that you have to wade through, shuffling a bit more, more enemies, rinse and repeat. Things got a bit more interesting when your companion was captured, and you got to fight some bigger enemies towards the end, but the ultimate message that we got from it was that combat was functional, and that's about it. 'Meh' just about sums it up.
Despite not getting hands on, we did get to view others play the non-combat demo and it's there that you start to see real glimpses of what else in store - but it was still a bit underwhelming. As mentioned above, the demo involved a chicken suit in which you have to go round-up the chickens who have gone AWOL. This shows an almost MMO like adherence to menial quests that I thought Molyneux wouldn't do, but it could be worse. The intentional light-heatedness of the endeavour is reflective of the wider tone of the game and is classic Molyneux, I still remember Theme Hospital. Again, it all felt very Fable II though, and the biggest change you saw was the more dynamic touch and expression system - nifty, sure, but still not much to write home about.
Despite this however, there's a glimmer of hope that can be described using one of the other truly 'new' things on display - the fact that you can hold someone's hand. Random, I know, but having witnessed others lead their 'date' to a romantic bridge encounter, and also having lead my blinded companion out of the caves and into safety, it shows an attention to detail that (if applied to the whole game) will help make the game that much better. It's the little things that can sometimes have the biggest effect on a game: turning a 10 into a 9, or a 9 into an 8.5, and this adherence is certainly refreshing.
Guns don't seem to have changed much in this game, which is a shame
It's still slightly frustrating though to still be shown so little. Ruling your Kingdom, the enhanced social dynamics, the evolving game-world, expanded Co-op... all these things are what separates Fable III from Fable II and without seeing and experience those things for ourselves, it's hard to be excited. Without that experience, then Molyneux's hopes and dreams are nothing but words on a page, passed through word of mouth and hearsay, and are only real in the mind's eye: the very essence of a fable. Granted, we did witness the things mentioned above, including the complete elimination of the traditional menu will which certainly do wonders for the game experience. There is hope, and I'm ever for one to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially Molyneux. Will it live up to expectation? I think so, but it'll need more than a chicken suite to convince us at this stage.
Fable III is due out on the Xbox 360 on October 26th. A PC release is also planned, but no information as to when that will be has been released so far.
Most Anticipated Feature:Actually ruling your kingdom and watching it evolve and react to your choices.