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Fable III hands-on impression

By Janelle | September 28, 2010 at 9:13 am

Fable III‘s demo set the Hero near the entrace to a dungeon set in a ruined temple, or a cave, or a crypt, or something. At first, it felt like Fable III played much like Fable II. The dog was there, the golden fairy dust quest trail on the ground was there, the magic aiming system was there. I started off into the dungeon, rifling through some bookshelves, admiring the scenery and playing with the dog. Eventually, I came to an area that needed a weapon to trigger a switch, so a mysterious voice guided me to open the menu and equip a weapon.

When the menu came up, I didn’t even realize it was the menu. Fable III‘s menus strip out all those bothersome words and lists (apparently because they are clunkier) in favor of warping the Hero into some sort of alternate-dimension mansion called the “Sanctuary.” Sanctuary contains a grand hall to run around in, with many adjoining rooms corresponding to different sorts of things the player can manage (weapons, wardrobe, magic), and a butler named Jasper, who offers tips and advice in-character. The whole thing felt like Pandora’s Box from Terranigma, except not awful. Some rooms were boarded up and covered with cobwebs until Jasper cleaned them up and offered up a tutorial on their contents.


After taking Fable III‘s menus for a spin, it’s tough for me to say whether the tremendous leap in interface design is a good thing or not. The menus seem like they’re designed to get lost in. Not the bad kind of lost, like getting frustrated or unable to do what you want. It’s he arguably good kind of lost, where you wander through each lavishly-decorated room and sift through your possessions and talk to your awesome butler and admire that giant Scrooge McDuck pile of gold in the treasury and tinker with your outfits and then say to yourself “Has it really been nearly half an hour since I opened the damn menu?” For quick adjustments and changes, on the other hand, having to physically run between separate rooms to tweak things is THE VERY DEFINITION of clunky. If Fable III is built in a way that snap menu changes aren’t often needed in dungeons, the Sanctuary will be a fun diversion and menu system rolled into one.
It was either impossible or ridiculously difficult to die in the Fable III demo. In fact, any sort of health bar or indication that foes were doing anything to the Hero at all was absent, so it was impossible to tell how difficult the battles were or how effective dodging and blocking were. Even when I put down the controller and let foes maul the hapless hero, nothing happened. I’m…reasonably certain that it will be possible to die in the full game, so this was a problem with the demo alone.

While the demo crippled my ability to actually judge how difficult Fable III‘s combat is, the combat itself was entertaining and easy to pick up. One of each of the face buttons was assigned to Melee Attacks, Ranged Attacks, Magic, and dodging. Both of the melee weapons in the demo (a sword and a hammer) each had a unique feel and weight, and pressing the button to attack didn’t feel like a repetitive process; depending on the direction of the left stick, different sorts of blows and combos would execute. I feel like it avoided, or at least tried to avoid, the repetitive and looping “Ha-ha-HYUH!” three-hit combos of most action games. Different ranged weapons were available as well, with different firing speeds and power, such as a rifle or pistol. Magic seemed to charge up and aim identically to the way it did in Fable II. I would have liked to smash my way through a wide variety of enemies, of all shapes, sizes and difficulties, but the demo mostly just threw various types of skeletons at me.

For being a demo of a game that sells itself heavily on long-term changes and consequences, Fable III‘s demo did a good job of showcasing the shorter and more immediate pieces of the game. Because after all, if things like fighting and navigating the menu are poorly built, players will never stick around long enough to enjoy the long-term bits.

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Topics: Fallout 3, Previews, Tokyo Game Show 2010