Choice and consequence. These are the hallmarks of the Fable franchise and is one of the reasons I enjoy the series so much. One of my first E3 appointments was a chance to see Fable 3 demoed for me by the inimitable Peter Molyneux and once again, choice and consequence play a huge part in the player experience Yet, Fable 3 takes the concept of the original two games and expands on it, creating an entirely different experience entirely for the player.
Fable 3 brings you back to Albion and once again you are "The Hero," but this time, instead of straight up adventuring, you will work to become the king of Albion and then rule it. If you are fortunate enough to have a Fable 2 saved game on your hard drive, your hero will be the son or daughter of the hero you played in that game. Parts of the story and game will also be influenced by the final decision you made at the end of 2.
For the first half of the game, your main focus will be to gather enough followers to eventually overthrow the evil Logan who rules Albion with an iron fist, turning the once beautiful land into a miserable, industrial wasteland. Logan also happens to be your brother.
What Lionhead has done here is taken the gestures and of the original games and given them purpose and meaning. These gestures, good or bad, will have en effect on the way people react to you and whether or not they want to follow you and join in your revolution. Followers can be gained by threats and manipulation or by kindness. Marrying into society can gain you followers while pushing children down in the street can cause people to not like you so much. Threatening people can also bring you followers albeit more out of fear than of love.
Once the kingdom is under your control, the second half of the game becomes all about ruling your kingdom. How you decide to rule is your choice but don't forget all the little people who helped you along the way. Remember that promise you made to that farmer to give him a tract of land if you become king? Well he didn't and eventually he'l be back to claim his stake. Are you going to make good on that promise, or leave him to his fate? Whichever you choose will have a bearing on how your subjects perceive you, so rule carefully.
One question that has been on many minds around this site is the inclusion of same sex marriages. The answer is yes, same sex marriages will still be in place and you can rule your land as King and King or Queen and Queen if you so choose. You will also be able to adopt children from the local orphanage, but be careful: get a divorce and the little ankle biters may end up back in the orphanage. In a little twist on Fable 2, you can once again invite other players into your Fable world, but this time you can actually marry them (and have babies with them as well)! And in a much needed mechanic, the multiplayer aspect will be played via a split screen so both players may explore the world as they choose.
One of the main improvements of the game is a complete overhaul of the menu system, what Peter called "The worst 2D GUI ever made." When pressing the pause button you are no longer taken to an endless number of lists and words. Now, everything is visual and action based. Pausing will take you to your sanctuary occupied by your butler, voiced by John Cleese. All clothing and the various weapons are now chosen from a room full of statues, each bearing a different item. You can mix and match parts if you choose, but no more running through lists and cards. This is undoubtedly a huge improvement and one that needed to happen long ago. From here you will also be able to access an updated and much easier to navigate map system that will allow you to find your family and other towns much easier.
Weapons in the game have changed as well. Upon picking up a new weapon, it automatically begins morphing itself to your fighting style. Once you have used a weapon for a while you can feel free to sell or trade it to someone online and then perhaps buy it back again later once it is imbued with all the things someone else has put into it. It sounds a little confusing and I'm not exactly sure how the weapon will change other than visually, but it is an interesting concept that I am anxious to see in action.
Another exciting feature is the ability to pull off multiple weapon attacks by using button combinations. Fable has always prided itself on the one button attack system, but this addition is most welcome. Similarly, you can now dual wield your magical powers via gauntlets worn by your player. As in Bioshock, you can actually combine your magic abilities for a real one two punch. Is that whirlwind not quite doing the trick? Add some fire to it and you'll be sure to send the enemy running.
Fable 3 looks to be much improved in gameplay as well as graphically over Fable 2 and it's good to see Lionhead thinking beyond the scope of solid adventuring. Don't worry, there will still be plenty of questing involved, but the chance to rule an entire king and all that entails is quite intriguing and I look forward to seeing how it all plays out when it launches on October 26, 2010.