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Fable 3 co-op gameplay preview

Lionhead makes Fable fun-time with friends

Fable has always been hard to pin down when it comes to genre definitions - but the third in the series monkeys around with them like never before.

The starting point is definitely RPG, obviously - but role play conventions have been noticeably toned down.

And with Fable IIIs re-imagined online co-op, we're even starting to see some MMO characteristics and yet players are never removed from the single campaign. It's all one big pot of gaming ambition.

Design director Josh Atkins puts the combination of genres at the forefront when it came to working out a strategy for success with Fable III's co-op mode.

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"Really what that came down to was making sure that the combat worked in two player," he says. "Lots of games do this, it's not an uncommon thing, we play Halo, we play Gears, but what we're going to say is that very few games have ever gone with this level of co-op gameplay in a game that has levelling RPG elements that we've retained even though we're sort of an action game."

When playing with a friend in Fable III then, fighting mechanics, RPG elements and learning to recognise each others strengths and weaknesses all go hand in hand. By levelling up your hero you'll become more powerful in certain areas - enabling a more strategic approach to everything you do with your partner.

"From a design point what we've done is try to make all the attacks work well together and have a benefit against each other," explains Atkins. "So if [player two] is very good at melee and [player two] is very good at spells and range then it benefits both with how the enemies behave and also how you level and the amount of followers you're getting."

Nipping into a friend's world adds a new dimension to his or her play. It's easy enough with a drop-in/drop-out mechanic via a platform in your Sanctuary, which acts as a hub throughout the game.

But co-op isn't about charity. In fact, if anything it's a great way to make a quick buck. "Anything that you earn in the game is shared completely 100% between both players, so there's zero penalty to it," says Atkins.

"However, there's also a slight benefit to the visitor in that they earn a salary as a player. So they'll actually earn gold for coming into someone's game. It's a really unique idea of just going into someone else's game and helping them out and earning money and levelling up, doing all these great fun things."

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER
But it's not all about kicking arse, taking names and earning dough. Fable, after all, is a family franchise and one that people play with their kids, wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends. Lionhead was careful to incorporate relationships and expression into the co-op.

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This is done with a new touch mechanic, which, as it sounds, simply gives players the ability to, erm, touch each other. You can interact in a range of different ways from shaking hands to dancing and even farting (that's how some people bond, okay?)

"When I think about games that I would play with my wife, I can give my wife a hug," Atkins points out. "You can imagine two siblings playing together, just playing around and burping at each other. It seems silly but it's the kind of thing that is actually a unique mechanic to have and just a fun thing to do.

This idea of creating, developing or maintaining real relationships in-game encompasses every aspect of the relationship - including getting married and having kids.

And Lionhead's left no stone unturned when it comes to matrimony. Players can decide where in Albion they want to get married - and how much they want to spend on the ceremony, which will have an impact on reputation and could harm or improve their quest for more and more followers.

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