Fable III is more than just bigger swords, bigger farts and more blood, says Lionhead Studios lead Peter Molyneux. It's about touching people, kingly responsibility and... OK, it also has bigger weapons and more vicious wind-breaking action.
Molyneux says that the third entry in the Xbox (and PC) role-playing game series is going to address, in his words, the "messy, horrible, atrocious mistakes of Fable II". In Fable III - set 60 years after the events of the previous game - there's a less obtrusive HUD, less reliance on digging through menus, and a greater focus on action than RPG, trading the raw numbers of experience points for "followers".
As you form and foster relationships with people by performing quests for them, they'll become your followers in the second half of the game, when you overthrow the current king, becoming the ruler of Albion yourself. That's the questing option.
The grind option for gaining followers to carry into the game's second half can be accomplished with the Fable III "expressions" system. This expanded gameplay mechanic from Fable II lets you dance with, marry or get drunk with any of Albion's citizens. Get them so drunk that they'll becoming violently ill if you choose. Fart viciously directly into their faces for an uncomfortable length of time.
Respect you or repulsed by you, Fable III's citizens will follow you.
Molynuex showed us a quick demonstration of one of the game's numerous quests that occurs during the revolutionary half of the game, focusing on the combat of Fable III. There was still the same emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, mixed with gunplay and spells. Fable III's new magic gloves let the player cast elemental spells, among other things, mixing and matching them for a variety of effects.
We got a chance to poke around the land of Albion, not using a paper map, but with a magnifying glass, zooming in and out of its forests, mountain ranges and plains in a Google Maps-like view.
Later in Fable III, as the king (or queen) of Albion, you'll have the option to behave as you like, benevolent ruler of selfish son of a bitch. Either keep your promises to your followers or not. Turn the backbreaking factories of Albion into schools for children or raze the land and do with it as you wish.
Paint your royal castle pink, if you like, Molyneux says, or throw a weeks-long party in the style of Henry VIII by draining Albion's coffers of their wealth for frivolous endeavours. Kings and queens can go to war with Albion's neighbouring continents, like the nearby land of Aurora. Can they rule that land as well? Molyneux wouldn't say.
Fable III also improves how a player can make himself or herself look, thanks to the addition of the Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary is your prettier replacement for the game's start button. No longer will players delve into layered menus to alter their appearance or choose their weapons. In Fable III, they'll enter a virtual dressing room, guided by the butler Jasper, voiced by John Cleese. This is where players can customise their clothing, hairstyles and armaments.
Women, Molynuex says, will look "as a woman should", in Fable III, less like slightly different looking men. Better wardrobe options and better hairstyles await the fairer sex in this Fable.
There's much more to Fable III, including a much improved cooperative gameplay system for online and local play, and still-unspecified, still-unconfirmed support for Xbox 360's Kinect camera. With the game planned for a release in the fall of 2010 on Windows PC and the Xbox 360, we'll know much more about what else Fable III brings to the series soon.
Until then, catch up on our other big Fable III preview from X10 for more.