"You're going to drive me," says Josh Atkins from his hotel room here in Sydney while sitting in front of the closest to finished version of Fable II the press have ever seen. "What have you seen of the game so far?"
I respond by telling him I've seen and played content with Molyneux
on two separate occasions and that we also had a heady look at the game at this year's Leipzig GC
- and that above all else, we've seen all the fluff and now we want all the grit.
"Give me an example of just how definitively you can change the game-world with a simple choice," I say (clearly thinking I'm not going to see anything dynamic at all). "It has to be something with lasting effect - if that even exists."
"Okay, sure," comes the confident reply and suddenly I'm beginning to get antsy. If Molyneux and co can finally deliver on their years and years of promises, is there a warm place somewhere beginning to freeze over? "We'll look at a choice you make early in the game and the impact it will have on a whole area later on."
I don't want to spoil it for you, but rest assured, a simple collect and deliver quest with two varying outcomes is available to you when you're a child, at the beginning of the game. Give collected items to person A, and you'll see the demonstrated area prosper and become a place of safe-haven; commerce and jovial life abound when you're an adult meaning you made a pretty good decision.
Give collected items to person B, however, and said area becomes a slum; a tainted, horrible place with crime, dodgy characters and dilapidated buildings, carts and more. What's more, this change is permanent. Definitive
Okay, so we're looking at something pretty full-on. A simple quest outcome has a long-term lasting effect on the game-world, and it's all based on a decision made by you. A moral decision, no less. But surely there's less of this in the game?
"Can you go into a town and just kill everyone?" I ask Josh.
"You're really going to make me go and do that?" he responds, heading out on a mission of belligerent chaos even as he seems put out by the idea. "Well, surprisingly you're the first person to ever ask me to do that."
Now it's important I point out Josh had all the powers he could muster switched on in debug mode, so it's likely having the ability to do this in the final release of the game is going to take a long time to accrue. But as promised, my demo-er set out to one of the game's main areas, a Pirate town whereupon he set loose a barrage of magic and hateful attacks against all the unsuspecting denizens of the game-world. Some fled, others turned to fight while others still were frozen with fear. Awesome.
In all, however, aside from the town's children (you can't hurt kids), everyone was slaughtered. And once again, it's definitive
So if you had a wife, friend, potential suitor, employer, etc in the town, they're now dead. Josh did point out that over time new people would eventually come and move in, but that it wasn't a case of the same NPCs simply respawning because ultimately, you just committed mass murder.
Speaking of moving in, during his spree Josh went into a house, killed its occupants (a husband and wife, their little child then crept out very slowly keeping a hilarious eye on you), then bought the home and changed all the furniture within to reflect his evil nature. Doing this dynamically shifts your stasis in town, and usually draws you negative favour among the Albion denizens (lest they too, are evil).
This was a key area of the game Josh seemed to ring home â€“ relationships are as much a part of the game as quests, battle and the environment. And it's also one of the key areas that will dynamically affect your status in-game. To this end, stature and perception are as important as the most powerful weapon or magic ability, and you'll need to exercise your relationships in each town to get the most out of what's on offer.
I also need to stress just how stunning the game is looking. Running up a steep incline on the side of a hill toward a cliff face had the sun blocked off in the distance, but as Josh and his character rounded a bend on the track, the sun's rays struck the immediate view, piercing a rickety old fence set up just at the peak of the cliff. The bloom effects here were really breathtaking, and I couldn't help but let out a "whoa". But Fable 2 seems filled with moments like this. There's still a lot of bug-fixing to do, and I wasn't looking at the absolute pinnacle of code, but given I've been seeing this game in increments over the last two years, I'm happy to say each and every time it looks better and better.
The last thing I asked Josh to show off was how the co-op drop-in and drop-out system would work. It's not nearly as free-form as you might have initially thought, but it's still very impressive. Basically, you'll have the ability to invite anyone into your game-world, these players are then locked to a broadened camera (that follows you and is not independent of them) where they can interact with the game-world. You also have a safety switch you can turn on or off. On means the invited party member can attack - freely
- anyone in the immediate area, while on obviously does not allow them to do this.
The goal with being able to invite other players in is obviously for co-questing, but you'll also be able to barter goods and the like which will likely build a reasonable community of players finding and swapping goodies with others who want/need the better wares you might have come across in your Albion game-world.
Before we finished up, I did ask Josh if that glitch in the Fable 2 Pub Games was actually deliberate or they found it and went and changed the game accordingly.
"Look, we just want people who cheat to know they have," he replied with a wry grin. "Obviously we don't want people coming into the game with millions of dollars, and those that do will have that addressed in the game when they play."
So it seems there's definitely something in-store for the cheaters out there. If you're one of them, be sure to let us know once you've entered the game what your 'punishment' was.
Hit the links at the beginning of the article for our other hands-on sessions with the game and you'll find all related info and media on our Fabke 2 game page