Joystiq impressions: Fable 2 'Combat Testbed'

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Peter Molyneux describes Fable 2's combat as "kind of a little bit mad." It's just one blue button; a system that doesn't punish casual gamers (button-mashers), but still satisfies hardcore players. The number of experience points earned in any given skirmish is determined by how skillfully one uses the X-button. Timed button presses, including counters, are worth more than mashing, while incorporating blocking and charge attacks (both accomplished by holding X) will net you even more points to build your hero. The attack button is also context sensitive, as you'll automatically pick up and toss items strewn about the ground if your foes are at a distance, or you'll grab an enemy and shove him into a wall if you're battling in close quarters.

Magic and ranged attacks (mapped to the Y- and B-buttons) will apparently operate in much the same way, but only the X-attack was on display at E3 in Lionhead's "Combat Testbed," a visually-lacking demo not meant to impress, but to arouse curiosity. "I know, it's bloody awful," Molyneux said of the current level of polish, while urging us to focus on more abstract concepts, like the amount of dedication that the development team has put into Fable 2's design. Molyneux is still haunted by his bold claims about the original Fable, lamenting his infamous 'greatest RPG evar' comment, made while Fable was still a rough draft. But the celebrated game designer insists that this -- to be the greatest -- is the goal for Fable 2, he's just not as (publicly) convinced he'll get there.

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As demoed, Fable 2's combat was looking good (but not great). It played like a simplified version of the system Ubisoft has designed for Assassin's Creed; an assessment that Molyneux would likely approve. The danger of being so inclusive is that Lionhead's game will probably end up too easy for much of the core gaming audience. To balance the issue, the team is going to have to work hard on other elements that will hold our attention. Like polish. With much of Microsoft's E3 presentation focused on the near-future, Fable 2, tucked away into a small room on the fourth floor of the Viceroy, is a reminder that there are still some far-off projects worth remembering.

Also at E3: No death in Fable 2; Seafaring nixed, ninjas added?

This article was originally published on Joystiq.