We were plopped down in front of the fruit of Lionhead's effort, handed a controller and wireless headphones, and set loose to see how far we could adventure before they had to pack it up. It ended up being a solid three hours worth of gameplay, and, as Molyneux remarked when he saw where we'd stopped, was "only scratching the surface" of the full experience.
Diving in, we were first and foremost given the option of playing as a male or female character – a choice that the original Fable didn't offer players. After making our selection (it was a boy, for reference) we were in the game world, controlling him following a brief intro cinematic. There was no character creation, of course, since, well, the entire game is one big character creator. One where the hero you end up with is the result of your actions and deeds throughout the adventure.
"Did we hand the bottle to the drunk, or give it to his wife who was pleading with him to give up drinking?"
Our first task was to buy a very special trinket, which, for the sake of not spoiling the plot, we'll only say cost five gold – something that a pair of orphaned kids certainly didn't have. The next 30 minutes or so saw us performing various errands – finding misplaced warrants, ridding a warehouse of beetles, recovering a drunkard's wine – all of which presented us with two moral choices. Did we hand the bottle to the drunk, or give it to his wife who was pleading with him to give up drinking? (We chose the latter.)
"Our dog went as far as to run after blade-wielding enemies, keeping them occupied while we dealt with the ones shooting at us."
We did manage to amass a good amount of experience orbs in our early battles, however, which let us purchase new skills, increasing our combat proficiency through better agility, more damaging attacks, new spells, and more. We took on a mob of bandits and their leader, with Dog pouncing on downed baddies while we took on their still-standing cohorts. Dog went as far as to run after blade-wielding enemies, keeping them occupied while we dealt with the ones shooting at us.
With the local area rid of these creeps and their boss (whose slaves we subsequently set free, much to their relief – although, as Molyneux rather darkly pointed out, we could have befriended them, led them back to the slaver, and killed him in front of them) we headed for town. The road, previously barricaded against bandit attacks, was now open. Immediately upon stepping foot into the square, a minstrel greeted us and asked if he could be our guide. "Sure," we said (with a press of the A button).
This silly guy followed us around, singing about how great we were ... and pretty much everything we were doing. Like taking a job as a blacksmith for some gold to buy new clothes. Or walking into the Cow & Corset tavern, for which he comically didn't have anything that rhymed.
"Molyneux told us that we could eventually buy the tavern, set the prices to 'free,' and watch as the entire town got drunk."
Unfortunately, just as our main quest was about to begin, our time with the game had to come to an end.
Thinking back on the experience, it was incredibly engrossing, and, based solely on what we played, much better paced than the original Fable. The sheer amount of stuff we could do – what with the running of businesses, various jobs, and interacting with, well, everyone with lasting results – had us pulling ourselves away quite reluctantly, but confidently knowing that, when the game arrives in stores next month, it has the potential to be a much more polished and lasting experience than we'd previously expected.