Getting a chance to see and play Fable 3 brought a lot of memories back from when I played its predecessors. For obvious reasons, too, since at first glance it looks and feels a lot like Fable 2. Once you start poking at the gameplay, looking through the menus, and figuring out what you have access too, this quickly changes, and it's apparent that Lionhead is trying hard to create a refined experience that still brings the same feeling from exploring Albion.
You take the role of a child of the hero from the second Fable game, one who has shown no aptitude in the hero department, and who is permanently in the shadow of your older brother, a heartless ruler of the land. Well, that quickly changes as you're taught how to be a revolutionary and eventually tasked with bringing down your brother's rule. Along the way you'll make allies, promises, and, as the person demonstrating the game explained, learn that it's "hard to be in charge". The promises you make as you move along the path to ruler can be fulfilled, or they can be ignored, and option which will alter the plot, the ending, and the choices you must make along the way, though how this will happen would not be commented on.
First, the basics. Unlike previous Fable games, where various types of experience was earned through using that type of attack (for example, sword attacks give you melee experience), Fable 3 is taking a simpler route. Using a kind of experience currency known as 'guild seals', you can progress along a path of unlockables (known as the "Road to Rule", an actual physical road dotted with chests and abilities that require these seals to open), purchasing them to improve your attacks, learn new magic spells, and other bonuses to your character.
Guild seals can be earned in a variety of ways, such as the more traditional form of completing quests and progressing the story. In addition to this, however, Lionhead has tried very hard to integrate the 'sim' aspects of the game such as NPC relationships, marriage, and so forth by rewarding you with guild seals when you complete them. Befriending someone may earn you a small handful, while actual marriage can give a lot more. This looks like it can definitely improve the purpose of the interactions you were given access to in Fable 2, though whether or not it will be a benefit to the gameplay has yet to really be seen.
Equipment takes a rapid departure from the norm as well here. First, there's no 'magic', per se, at least not in the traditional sense. I was shown gauntlets, gloves that grant you magical abilities when you equip them. In addition, you can equip two gauntlets of differing spells (once you've unlocked the ability with guild seals, at least), that can be combined to create a hybrid spell, such as merging a wind and fire spell to create a sort of whirling flaming vortex. The weaponry you pick up and use is also more personalized this time around, as equipment you use will actually change in appearance to fit what kind of person you've become, the way your character would change their physical looks to fit their actions in previous games. This means a simple sword can end up a glowing magical white blade or a spiked, demonic looking thing as you continue through the game. In addition, weaponry can be upgraded to improve its damage-dealing potential.
Co-op gameplay makes a return, though in a much grander form this time around. As the person demonstrating the game said, "Two characters, two dogs, two cameras." Unlike the stilted version of co-op that Fable 2 had, this time around you'll be able to visit a friend's world as your own character, venturing around with them while doing your own thing, with the caveat that you must stay in the same large area. This method of co-op also extends to local gameplay, allowing two people to play two characters on the same screen, though with this mode of co-op the screen is shared and not split.
So far Fable 3 is shaping up to be a humorous jaunt (moreso than its predecessors) through Albion. From what I've seen, it definitely looks to differentiate itself from what came before it, even to the point of having a physical space known as a Sanctuary that you can run around in instead of a main menu, which was jarring at first, but interesting the more I used it. When it comes out, Fable 3 could be quite the action RPG to play for anyone who enjoys the genre.