Fable was an ambitious game where you become hero who grows from a teenager to an old man. A brilliant concept, with a generic action RPG combat set up. In a behind closed door meeting Peter Molyneux announced that all of Fable 2’s melee combat can be done with a single button. The first thing I thought of was button mashing through battles, but there is much more to it than hitting X over and over. If you hit X you can do sword slashes, but enemies quickly block your attacks. The key to combat is to press the X button in a rhythm to throw them off. When you hold the X button the hero automatically blocks strikes, even ones behind him by quickly pointing his sword behind his back. If you hold down the X button longer the hero begins charging his sword to do a powerful swipe that knocks soldiers back. The final move you can do with a sword is a killing blow and it’s the trickiest to pull off. You need to watch an enemy’s movements and wait until one attempts to attack you. When you see the lunging of his blade you need to quickly press the X button to strike back and finish him off with one hit.
After watching a demo I got to mess around in a fight with five soldiers in a marketplace. Once the controller was in my hand I got lucky and did a killing blow in the first move. At this point I was button mashing, which was ineffective after a few hits. The remaining four warriors put up their shields and my sword strikes were deflected. During combat the atmosphere of Fable 2 changes, the screen turns grey and the music responds to each sword slash. Fable 2 incorporates something called Crescendo mechanics to dramatize combat and make it more cinematic. Once I got a hang of button timing I started to push the soldiers back and kill a few in the process. The real trick to combat was to block and charge up a flourish attack by holding the X button down. Charged up attacks led to Matrix-like slow motion sequences where the hero came crashing down with his blade on an enemy or a spun around to do a spinning slash. It didn’t seem like you could choose which flashy flourish attack would come out, but charged attacks were the way to go.
The other thing the X button could do was automatically let the hero interact with the environment. If you stood next to bottles the hero would instinctively throw them when you press X. You can also slam enemies into the walls with your fist, if you’re close enough to them and while it was missing from the demo Mr. Molyneux mentioned you can swing from a chandelier while attacking all with just the X button. I only got to do swordplay, but ranged combat will be part of Fable 2. Another button is going to be assigned for bows, guns and spells.
So what happens if you fail to defend yourself? In Fable 2 you don’t “die” and you are not forced to replay everything up until the last save point. When you run out of life the enemies close in on the hero and start beating him up. Each time you’re kicked or punched while on the ground your character gets scarred. Scars in Fable 2 are permanent, but you can avoid scarring by sacrificing some experience or gold. If you choose to give up the fruits of your labor the hero will arise from being beaten with a burst of energy and be ready to fight again. Scars typically have pejorative effects as Sir Molyneux explains “ugly people are the most discriminated people in the world”. Your wife will react to you differently when you come home scarred and villagers will be afraid of you. But there is one place where being scarred puts you in the in crowd, Bloodstone a pirate port. Being beaten up gives you instant street cred with pirates and if you want you can don an eye patch to join the ruffian bunch.