So, I just got out of my Fable 2 meeting. To the delight of the very small audience (about a few of us game journalists), the game was presented by Peter Molyneux, the head of the Lionhead Studios (the well-known development team behind the project).
... It's about how hard you GET hit, and keep moving forward!
Where the hell is everyone?
First of all, Peter seems like an interesting guy. In the very short time I talked to him and listened to him, he's almost like this wonder kid trapped in the body of a 40-something year old guy. I can now fully understand how the press would exploit this side of the guy. On top of being extremely analytical and someone who is studying human character, the guy is like a kid who absolutely loves talking about his games and, yes, even bragging.
This meeting, however, was a little subdued as the PR person was sitting watchfully behind us as Peter was talking.
So what we saw of Fable 2 was a build that's roughly a year away from completion at the moment. As Peter explained, they have "a whole year to polish the product, but most of the structure, the story and the game world is already in place." Encouraging news, certainly (I for one, am pleased with it. Looking forward to this game. - Vader).
Peter took control of the main character, who was, judging by his appearance, still in the early stages of character progression. He took the hero through the streets of Albion, where he'd fight some bandits.
Now this is the interesting bit.
The first topic of the demonstration was combat. And as it usually goes with Peter's crazy ideas, this one sounded ludicrous as we heard it. The entire combat (melee anyway) is centered around one single button - the blue X button on the controller. That's right.
The guiding idea for this was that Peter is actively trying to merge two different camps of the Fable audience if you will - the hardcore and the casual gamers. So, for the casual gamers, obviously, the idea is that it's pretty easy to simply button-mash the X and get through a fight. However, if you are more of a hardcore player, you will soon see that there is more to the X button idea than meets the eye. The skill-based factor (which is something important for bragging rights) was introduced through the power moves in combination with getting the right rhythm and most importantly getting the timing right as you attack our counter-attack against a bad guy. Amazingly, the idea seems to be working, and what's more, it's extremely accessible. The hardcore guys who get very good at this sort of combat will receive more experience points and obviously some other forms of bragging rights.
In addition to the one-button combat system, Peter introduced some other cool ideas. As the fights get more dramatic and filled with more enemies, the rhythm of the music will actually correspond to your actions on screen. This in itself adds more dramatics to the combat - for example, you execute a powerful finishing move, the drums will pick up at the exact moment you impale your opponent, adding a very nice cinematic effect to the experience.
Another interesting thing that Peter introduced in the demo is the death system in the game. He compared it to your typical situation in one of the Rocky movies. Instead of simply dying, you will fall to the ground and the camera will center on you as the bad guys around you continue to hit and kick you as you are down. Now get this, as they are doing this, you will receive scars and the longer you stay down, the more scars you're gonna have on your body. Very cool feature, and it ties in to another feature and that is that you will be able to get up really quickly at the expense of either experience points or gold (Hey, I rather like that moment. Sweet! - Vader).
As you can see, the focus on skill-based combat and accessibility at the entry level, the ideas for the death system point to the fact that Fable 2 will almost certainly have multiplayer mode, and you can sort of see some traces of Blizzard logic as well as their motto "easy to get into, hard to master," creeping their way into Lionhead's design philosophy.
When I asked about the multiplayer, Peter paused for a second and his eyes lit up slightly. I'm pretty sure he was waiting for someone to ask him that. However, under the watchful eye of the PR lady in the back, Peter wasn't able to give a direct answer (The PR guy probably had a gun under his jacket. - Ed.).
Take this as you will. All I know is, the crazy-ass Brit is setting a highly ambitious goal once again for himself and we wish him the best of luck, as some of us are indeed big fans of the original game here.