Although it never came to the PC, Fable II was a refinement in almost every area over the original RPG. Fable III on the other hand has taken the role-playing rule book, soaked it in petrol, set it alight and then launched it over the battlements on a giant catapult. It's hardly surprising Peter Molyneux has become uncomfortable with giving Fable III the RPG label as it has taken shape.
For a start, the lists that hardcore role-players snuggle up to for comfort have been ditched. Molyneux reckons that most people are overwhelmed by the number of inventory items in RPGs and only end up using a small proportion of the thousands of objects included in those games, because it's not worth developing RSI in their mouse wheel finger. As a substitute, Lionhead has swapped the information traditionally found behind a game-pausing menu and turned it into a physical space.
Hit a key and you'll be transported to your guild chambers, where you'll have a butler, voiced by the inimitable John Cleese, to guide you through your weapons and wardrobe while delivering some wry commentary. Apparently Cleese's character won't just be a series of canned comments, he'll be a fully fleshed out personality who'll comment on your adventures and decisions throughout the game.
There's also a war room with a living map that lets you observe the routines of the subjects in your kingdom.
Did we say kingdom? Yes, we did. Halfway through Fable III you'll ascend the throne to rule over Albion, and be presented with some tough choices as part of that. During your rise to power you'll be forced to make the kind of promises that wily politicians make in order to gain support.
Once your royal buttocks are warmly ensconced on the throne, you'll have to start deciding how many of those promises you're prepared to live by. Similarly, your subjects will approach you with Judge Judy-grade quarrels for you to rule on, and it'll be completely down to you whether you release the accused or demand the forcible separation of their head from their body.
Adding gravitas to this interaction is what Molyneux calls the 'touch system'. Physical contact between characters is going to be an important mechanic in Fable III. If you send someone to the executioner it won't just be a case of waving your royal wrist and having the guards take them away. You'll be the one physically dragging them, kicking and screaming, to the chopping block. Of course the touch mechanic can be used for positive things - relationships between players and other characters will, apparently, take on a new more meaningful dimension as a result of these extra ways to interact with each other. Not only can you drag someone to their death, but you can hold your daughter's hand as you walk through town.
Things step up with the introduction of an entirely new continent and one that, from the hints that have been dropped so far, won't be friendly towards Albion. We've only had scant glances at Aurora so far, blit it looks like a cross between Morocco and the Middle East - a stark contrast to the Ve Olde Englande vibe that Albion has grown from.
That's not to say Albion hasn't changed, there's a much more Industrial Revolution-inspired aesthetic this time. Similarly the people have changed. Fable II was a very impressive society simulator, and this is set to be true for Fable III. When you begin Albion is ruled by a tyrant, so the people are downtrodden and oppressed. Depending on how you rule, you can make fundamental changes to the world, such as closing factories and opening schools, and the people around you will reflect those changes, for good or bad.
This sounds awfully pretentious, but Fable has evolved beyond an RPG, to become a virtual society, ne that you'll have a profound effect upon. Add to that a fluid fighting system and moral choices (and resultant physical changes) and you have what promises to be a fascinating adventure. It was something of a surprise that a flagship Xbox title would arrive on the PC during a console war, but based on what we've heard so far we're glad to have Fable back.
Playing With Mates
Correcting the Xbox's mistakes
One of the additions PC players have missed since Fable last appeared on the noble maths cruncher is co-op. Fable II on Xbox 360 did include a co-op mode, but it was a bit bum. Not so with Fable III.
Introduce another player into your world and they can become an integral part of your story, to the point where you can get married to your buddy and even have children with them. (Something that might get a awkward if your co-op partner is your best mate, Jim.) You're not bound to become romantically entangled. Many people will play in an arrangement that Molyneux likens to a king and his favourite knight, and there's also the option to go into business with each other.
Whatever happens, the session's guest will always play second fiddle to the host, though that might be little consolation when your Lancelot flounces in and sleeps with your wife. Ho hum.
Download Fable 3
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP