I had a mixed relationship with Fable 2. Whilst I disliked most of the phoned-in voice acting, simplistic cliched quest objectives and the weak ending, I simply couldn't stop playing it. Naturally I was keen to sample the latest iteration of the franchise to find out what's changed... and was surprised to find out that the answer lies somewhere between nothing, everything and both.
The demo consisted of an action-heavy plot mission set in a gritty and grimy dockyard. Accompanied by a couple of AI allies, I was tasked with killing a selection of corrupt royal guardsman and boarding a boat at the end of the level. Luckily I had plenty of options at my disposal, since Fable 2's accessible three-button combat system is back in force.
Melee is broadly similar to Fable 2... actually, in all honesty, it's identical. Rhythmically hitting X resulted in an organic series of chain attacks and eventual flourishes that could break through an enemy's block. However, automatic finishing moves occasionally kick in after a successful combo- and will result in some truly horrible bloodletting depending on your alignment. As an evil character wielding a massive warhammer, most of my finishing moves resulted in mashing my opponents into a bloody pulp in gratuitous slow motion. Fun, no?
Spells are still charged up by holding the B button, but the addition of the Gauntlet makes for a more interesting magical experience this time around. Each hand can wield a different spell- and charging up magic results in a powerful combination attack that combines the two types of damage. I happened to be rocking a nifty fireball and a Star Wars-esque force push, and the fusion of the two created a massive shockwave that burned enemies to a cinder as they tumbled lazily through the air. This concept is known as Spellweaving and its set to be a neat (if not gamechanging) little addition to the Fable formula. The Gauntlet itself is an organic, evolving device and we assume that it will grow more powerful with continued use.
Pressing Y fired my character's rifle, which could be aimed manually by holding the button down along with the left trigger. Worryingly, however, there was no sign of individually targeting enemy body parts... and since my previous Fable 2 character was a gunslinger, I had to ask exactly why. It turns out that Lionhead decided to exclude subtargeting in order to remove the possibility of decapitations and gratuitous gun violence due to (you guessed it) PEGI regulations. The rep was rather cagey about whether subtargeting would make it into the final cut, but I personally reckon that it was only omitted from the Gamescom demo in order to placate the draconian German government legislation against mature game content. Luckily, frequent and powerful explosive barrels provided a decent way of dispatching tightly-spaced opponents.
I was also able to check out the new menu system and GUI... and it's more interesting than it sounds. Pressing START instantly whisks you into a luxurious room staffed by none other than the inestimable John Cleese. Clothes and weapons could then be easily selected from a selection of racks and mannequins. The lack of loading screens was genuinely pleasing (not to mention pleasantly surprising)- and the system is a huge improvement over the godawful faffery that Fable 2's labyrinthine menus forced us to wade through.
Finally, I had a chat with the rep about the possibility of Fable 2 cross-functionality. Whilst he was careful not to blow the gaffe, he did state that Fable 2 save files will be used to “influence the early game.” Your guess is as good as mine.
Once again, we've got plenty of HD offscreen footage- but thanks to some annoying bandwidth restrictions we'll be putting them up as soon as we're able. Keep an eye on our Youtube Account and for the latest!