Expectations can be funny things. Low expectations might make you more easily pleased. High expectations might fill you with disappointment. When it comes to games, there are teams of people devoted to managing those expectations, usually with the goal of getting you to buy games. Sometimes, though, the message gets a bit off track. Few guys have the supreme ability to derail the expectations train like Peter Molyneux can. I had never seem him speak in person about a game he’s working on. Most of my experience had been after the fact, either hearing others talk about his mad dreams or hearing people complain that his promises didn’t make it into the final product. In the wake of the original release of Fable, he claimed that he’d be scaling back and discussing fewer of his lofty visions. But now that I’ve seen him talk about Fable 2 and the things he wants to accomplish, it’s clear that if this is “scaled back,” then Fable 2 has the potential to be absolutely awesome.
Fable 2 returns to Albion 500 years after the original game. The details of Fable have become lore–in fact, a group of kids in a gypsy camp will reenact the legend of Fable as you play, though if you make enough of a dent, they’ll apparently start mimicking your exploits, as well. But first things first, you’ll start out as a simple street urchin, attempting to get by with your sister, who is your early companion. Before too long, you’ll have a dog who follows you about.
The basics of Fable 2, when compared to the first game, sound very much like the things you’d expect to hear about a sequel. According to the paperwork provided to the press, it has “a never-before-seen level of immersion” and “a wider, more complex kingdom of limitless choices and consequences.” But all of that seems designed to serve a wider goal: accessibility.
When talking about the game at Microsoft’s Spring Showcase event, Molyneux talked about wanting to create one of the top ten greatest game stories of all-time. But he also wants to make sure that a wide audience of people actually experience that story. So many of the mechanics in Fable 2 sound like they’re designed to allow anyone to pick it up and play it. Combat, for example, starts out as simple button mashing, and for many players, that might be enough. But as you grow and gain experience, savvy players can expand upon the combat by picking up new, more advanced combo attacks and other enhanced moves. Even getting around the city has been reconsidered. Instead of the typical minimap you’d expect to get in an open-world game, Fable 2 uses a glowing trail that points you in the direction of the next event, and it dynamically updates to reflect your current location. This is the thing that sounds a little fishy to me, as it seems like the sort of thing that might discourage exploration by pointing you directly at your next objective.
Of course, there’s a lot more to Fable 2 than the typical objectives, you’ll also make moral decisions that impact your character and the world, and it sounds like some portion of playing “good” will be about sacrifice, and putting others ahead of your own advancement, rather than making simple “does this innocent person live or die” calls. You can also get married, buy property, and so on. There will also be a full co-operative mode, allowing players to jump in and see the world that the host player has created through his or her actions.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what Peter Molyneux had to say about his desires for Fable 2, for wanting to make a game that anyone can play. Of course, the big worry is that by opening things up for people who don’t play a lot of games, those of us that do might get the cold shoulder. It’s a delicate balancing act, especially with such an ambitious-sounding game, but after seeing the man’s confidence in his product first-hand, I was left feeling optimistic about the results.
Am I just setting myself up for disappointment? We’ll find out for sure this holiday season, when Fable 2 hits stores.