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Lionhead Studios

Preview: Bring out your inner child with Fable: Heroes

Mar 05 // Wesley Ruscher
[embed]223170:42934[/embed] Fable: Heroes (Xbox Live Arcade) Developer: Lionhead Studios Publisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: 2012 Twelve characters are available to choose from in what is best described as a four-player co-op beat-’em-up. The drop-in-and-drop-out experience can be played either online or offline in any combination of players, but one thing is constant: there are always four characters hacking and slashing their way through this delightful Albion. As I worked my way through an area known as Millfields, armed with the brute strength of Fable II’s powerful heroine Hammer, smashing hobbes -- no matter how cute they look now -- brought back a nostalgia I hadn’t felt since I played Streets of Rage 2. The similarities to the iconic beat-’em-up didn’t end there. The combat mechanics boil down to light and heavy attacks, an evasive roll, and a special radial attack. This special attack reminded me the most of the Sega Genesis classic, since players must sacrifice one heart from their health to pull off the deadly maneuver. While every character controls identically, they offer many different play styles. Pretty much all the varieties of combat found in past iterations of the Fable franchise are available. And just as in Heroes’ big brothers, each character can be upgraded and customized with around 40 unique abilities. There’s a style for everyone, but it takes a well-balanced team to get the most out of each stage. What would a Fable game be without choice and mischief? Each main area offers branching paths that must be unanimously agreed upon in order for a party to proceed. It’s all for one, or none at all. Where the paths go is a mystery the first time through. I played the demo twice to see both outcomes. One path took my crew to a boss fight with a large queen beetle, the other to a mini-game with some exploding chickens. Treasure boxes fill the landscape and force players to race each other for the bonuses within, such as combat multipliers and gold. In an especially cruel twist, certain areas contain good and evil chests. Players can only open one, but when they do, one of the four players is selected at random to receive the reward or punishment. These can range from coin bonuses to being cursed with a storm cloud that causes one to drop his or her hard-earned money, free for the taking, until the effect wears off. There seems to be a lot of replayability to Heroes. Those who need a holdover until Fable: The Journey arrives later this year will be able to transfer gold earned here into that upcoming Kinect title. If you tend to find Fable games on the easy side, you’re in luck: beyond the three base difficulties, there is an extra Dark Albion mode that should offer the challenge that many fans have asked for. Fable: Heroes caught me by surprise. The series has always been by far my favorite Xbox 360 exclusive, with Fable II ruling as king. But Heroes’ cute visuals, wrapped in a beat-’em-up package and garnished with an sprinkle of RPG goodness, might well make it my go-to Fable experience.
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Perhaps the biggest surprise at Microsoft’s recent Xbox 360 spring showcase was the announcement of Fable: Heroes for Xbox Live Arcade. Built by some of Lionhead’s biggest Fable fans, Heroes pays homage to many o...

Preview: Discovering the emotion of Fable: The Journey

Mar 05 // Wesley Ruscher
Fable: The Journey (Kinect for Xbox 360)Developer: Lionhead StudiosPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: 2012With the crack of the reins, my journey through the Albion countryside began. Holding my arms out was not required, and instead a simple left-or-right gesture from my hands (that rested comfortably in my lap) steered my gentle steed down the dusty dirt roads towards the unknown. For the most part, Seren obeyed my guidance, but at times, I had a hard time grasping where my hands needed to be to properly control his gallop when evil threats arose. It was during one wild chase that my companion began to act differently in our escape. As I pulled back on the reins, tugging at his bit, we came to stop on a side path that offered some shelter. His canter was one that writhed in agony the harder I pushed him out of harm's way. I could tell he had been injured. As I stepped down from my carriage, I moved towards my brave friend to offer him what aid I could. Three arrows had found their way into his hide. I reached for the first one and pulled it out with short tug, the second sliding out just as effortlessly. Pulling back firmly on the final arrow, Seren jumped in pain. I had been too violent, causing him more anguish, and needed to slowly retrieve the splintered wood with a peaceful pluck.Seren was better, but not at full strength. So with what little magical knowledge I possessed, I placed my hand onto his wounds. A calming, circular caress eased his pain as a warm glow radiated from my palm. The cuts from the arrows began to heal and I could tell that my friend was feeling better. If only I had an apple to give him as a reward, something to show my affection. We were secure for the moment, so I brought out my map to see what possible mystery laid concealed on our course. There’s still an abundance of the unknown in Albion, as the world holds just as many secrets like the fables of past heroes I read about when I was but a child. With this knowledge in hand, I left my resting stallion to explore on my own. Proceeding on foot, I stood in front of a large stone entrance. Locked in my stance, swarm after swarm of insects shot at me like little warnings, begging me not to press on. I reared back my right hand, conjuring a fiery blast. With a ferocious toss forward, the bugs popped in my inferno, but as more darted at me, I realized, a simple flick of my fingers was all that was needed. There was power in my subtlety; something I had not expected.With the door's guardians subdued, all that was left was a simple magical riddle to solve. Five seals rested like locks for me to pick on this granite gateway. Precise flicks released the keys to unfasten the mystery ahead, teaching me that I could be just as selective with my supernatural gifts as destructive. What was beyond the doorway, though, I would have to save for another day. As I made way back to my carriage, the most deadly of threats presented itself. Wild balverines jumped down from the hills, their howls shrieking across my spine. I stood firmly in place, ready for combat. In my right hand burned the deadly flames, but now, in my left, I conjured a whip-like tentacle attack. Bouncing back and forth, the balverines avoided most of my blasts as they anticipated my moves. I threw my left hand forward, trapping one of the weaker warriors in a tentacle, my right followed incinerating the threat. Another jumped towards me, and like a whip I cracked my tentacle, sending the balverine in the air for an easy follow-up. Their leader, with his white fur gleaming, was even more cunning than the rest of the pack. Fire blast, then tentacle, tentacle, then fire blast; he was too quick. I was at a loss, questioning if these would be my final breaths, and that’s when my opening came. As my snowy attacker regrouped himself on a large stone column, I threw my tentacle out towards its base. He quickly jumped to the adjacent column, but it was too late. As I pulled back the column crumbled, crashing into the other, trapping my foe underneath its rubble. I was safe for now. Adventure, exploration, discovery; these are all things I still question. I was just coming to grips with the powers I possessed, but I had not even bothered to see how the soothing or passionate levels of my voice could calm or enrage my spells. What would happen if I clasped my magical hands together ... would they created even more beauty and destruction? There is much left to unravel in Fable: The Journey. How much freedom truly exists? How guided will this adventure be? Hopefully these answers come soon, as my brief travels in Albion have me excited to come back and visit again later this year.
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If it is one thing the controller cannot do anymore, it’s offer a player “that sense of discovery which we had with the early days of games.” That’s what Peter Molyneux, the visionary behind Fable: Th...

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Countdown timer points to Lionhead announcement at GDC


Feb 28
// Dale North
There's a countdown timer on Lionhead Studios' website. It seems that the website will see a refresh in a few days, but the text also hints that "other surprises are coming." Right now it's just a red button (hint?) and a tim...
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Rumor: Fable IV out 2013, probably not on rails


Aug 22
// Nick Chester
I suppose this shouldn't come as a shock, but rumors are now saying that Lionhead is currently working on Fable IV. Peter Molyneux and company are said to be prepping the sequel for a 2013. The rumor comes from the latest iss...
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No melee in Fable: The Journey (because it's on rails)


Aug 11
// Jim Sterling
Peter Molyneux has confirmed that his definitely-not-on-rails game Fable: The Journey will not feature melee combat, focusing instead on projectile-based magic attacks. Not that this is going to be an on-rails shooter or anyt...
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Molyneux: Fable: The Journey demo was only 4 months old


Jun 28
// Jim Sterling
The E3 demo for Fable: The Journey didn't look all that compelling, but it's okay -- Peter Molyneux admits it! The snake oil salesman of gaming has said that the demonstration was flawed, but it was only four months old. He P...
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Peter Molyneux shits on Fable III to look humble again


Jun 27
// Jim Sterling
We've talked about the Molyneux Cycle before, and I'm thrilled to report that it's back in full effect once more! With Fable: The Journey coming up, Molyneux has continued his tactic of downplaying the last overhyped game in ...
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Molyneux: Kinect has some problems (lol on rails lol)


Jun 21
// Jim Sterling
Designer and snake oil salesman Peter Molyneux has dared to criticize Kinect, admitting that it has some problems as an input device while still making sure to heap oodles of praise upon it.  “I’ll admit that...
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E3: Fable: The Journey cinematic trailer


Jun 06
// Jordan Devore
Better watch out for those foreboding clouds! Here is the CGI trailer for Fable: The Journey, which looks much more appealing than the on-rails Kinect experience the game ultimately appears to be. I'm sure some of you will care enough about Fable to want this game, right? Fans like you exist, don't they? They have to.
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E3: Fable: The Journey is a Kinect rail shooter


Jun 06
// Jim Sterling
Fable: The Journey has been revealed, and while Peter Molyneux calls it an immersive Fable experience, it looks pretty much like a rail shooter. The demo shown at the E3 press conference revealed a guy pulling off some pretty...
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Lionhead: Used games worse than piracy


May 17
// Jim Sterling
Developers love to make silly statements about secondhand games, and drawing parallels with piracy is a popular way of doing it. Far be it from Lionhead to be outdone, however, with Fable III's combat designer going so far as...
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Fable III PC coming to Steam, pre-orders detailed


Apr 21
// Nick Chester
PC gamers looking forward to exploring the world of Albion and Fable III won't be forced to leave the house or using Games for Windows Marketplace. Microsoft has announced that Fable III will also be coming to Steam. The game...
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Right before I looked at the new Fable III: Traitor's Keep DLC yesterday, I played around with Fable III for PC, as well as the mobile game Fable Coin Golf for Windows Phone 7. Fable III seems like a pretty straightforward po...

Hands-on: Fable III: Traitor's Keep DLC

Feb 25 // Max Scoville
Fable III: Traitor's Keep DLC (Xbox 360 [Previewed], PC)Developer: Lionhead StudiosPublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosTo Be Released: March 1, 2011 (Xbox 360)/ May 17, 2011 (PC)MSRP: 560 Microsoft Points I spoke with Microsoft rep Patrick Perkins and he gave me the lowdown. Traitor’s Keep takes place a few years after Fable III, and you -- your character -- is happily ruling his or her lands. However, your life of luxury has become a bit boring, and you miss going on adventures.  Luckily, some vicious criminals break out of the nearby prison, Traitor’s Keep, and make an attempt on your life. So, being an exciting video game hero/heroine, you embark on a quest to get them back behind bars. Or kill them, whichever. Traitor’s Keep features three new regions to explore. They are Ravenscar Keep, Clockwork Island, and the Godwin Estate. Of course, like any good DLC, Traitor’s Keep also includes some sassy new outfits for your character, a new breed of dog, and new enemies for you to hit with things until they are dead. I got a chance to play a bit of Clockwork Island, and I’d love to tell you about it, but my reflections might contain mild spoilers. So, be forewarned.  Clockwork Island is home to a crazy inventor, who is one of the would-be assassins you’re in charge of tracking down. The part of Clockwork Island I was exploring was “The Neighborhood of The Future,” which is basically a warped steampunk version of a suburban cul de sac. Clockwork robots were milling around in front yards, watering flowers. Y'know, suburban robot stuff. It should also be noted that my dog was a robot dog. I don’t know if there’s any story behind having a robot dog, or if players’ dogs are magically transformed into robots in the beginning of the new region, a la Secret of Evermore. Either way, robot dogs are cool. At the end of the robot-filled cul de sac, I found a large gate leading to the inventor’s factory. One thing led to another; the gate became electrified, and the robots went all Itchy-and-Scratchyland on me because apparently this inventor fellow is a total ass.  After fighting the robots, I broke through the gate. The inventor came out in crazy steampunk power-armor, and I fought him. That was the whole demo. I was told that this DLC is slightly more difficult than Fable III. The idea being that if you’ve beaten the whole game, and you’re playing the DLC, you probably know what you’re doing. Also, I’ve received confirmation that there are unfortunately NO new prostitutes in the DLC. Fable III: Traitor’s Keep will hit XBLA on March 1st for 560 Microsoft points. A PC version will be also be available for download on May 17th, the same day as Fable III’s PC release.
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At the Microsoft showcase yesterday, I was put in charge of checking out the latest Fable III DLC pack, Traitor's Keep.  First, I have to make a confession: I haven’t played any of the other Fable games for more than twenty minutes, so I can’t give you the most expert analysis. However, I will gladly give you my two cents on what I saw. Read forth!

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New Fable III add-on in March, PC release in May


Feb 24
// Jordan Devore
After a considerable amount of teasing, Lionhead Studios has settled on a date for the Windows version of Fable III: May 17 in the United States. This release will support Nvidia's 3D tech and include an exclusive hardcore mo...
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Peter Molyneux is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award


Jan 19
// Maurice Tan
Peter Douglas Molyneux is to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement award at the Game Developer Choice Awards during GDC. He will be handed this award in a ceremony hosted by none other than Tim Schafer. Moreover, Mega64 will...
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Fable III 'Dog Breed Pack' DLC announced


Dec 16
// Jim Sterling
Still playing Fable III? Really? No ... like, really? Wow, okay then. If that's the case, you might be interested to learn that Lionhead's latest is getting some new breeds of companion dogs to keep things vaguely interesting...
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PC version of Fable III still happening


Nov 17
// Jordan Devore
I wouldn't fault you for not knowing there even was a PC version of Fable III being made. There hasn't been a lot of talk about it lately, to the point where Lionhead had to come out and reassure everybody that it is, in fact...

Review: Fable III

Oct 25 // Jim Sterling
If there's one word that categorically defines the Fable series, it has to be "promise." Fable has always been a franchise with promise, made by people who do nothing but promise. Each game is always pretty fun, but consistently falls short of its own goals, and always carries with it the glimmer of that unfulfilled promise.  Perhaps one day, the Fable series will finally strike the chord it's been grasping at for all these years. Today, however, is not that day.{{page_break}} Fable III (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PC) Developer: Lionhead Studios Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios Released: October 26, 2010 MSRP: $59.99   Fable has always been about telling an epic tale of humble beginnings and grand conclusions, and while the beginning is less than humble this time around, the conclusion aims to be grander than ever. Fable III casts players in the role of a prince of the realm who finds himself starting a revolution to depose his tyrannical brother and, ultimately, become king.  It should have been the ultimate realization of everything the franchise has built towards, as players finally get a taste of true power. So what went wrong? Why is it that Fable III, in its attempt to be bigger and more powerful than ever, is actually the least significant and weakest entry in the series yet? First of all, Fable III does absolutely nothing to expand on its own formula. Even though you're royalty, you'll still spend most of your time farting at people to win their approval and performing mind-numbing QTE minigames in order to earn cash. In fact, once players do finally become king, the game devolves even further, becoming a glorified choose-your-own-adventure book as you sit listening to a "Good" and "Evil" proposal and decide what to do, with only the occasional short quest to break things up. That's as much as I can say without providing spoilers, but suffice it to say, it's not good to be the king. Perhaps Lionhead was trying to make a statement with that, but if it was, it's a clever statement that was nonetheless made at the expense of player enjoyment.  Even worse, the game hasn't bothered to fix any of the previous game's problems. The glowing trail one uses to find important locations is still broken, freaking out whenever a player switches direction or just randomly disappearing altogether. Your faithful dog still has zero intelligence whatsoever, and will often jerk around in spastic circles instead of leading you to the treasure it insists is there. In fact, AI all around is completely worthless, with enemies that provide no challenge and NPCs that will constantly get in your way. These were very apparent problems in Fable II and the fact that nobody thought to fix them is really unacceptable.  As if that wasn't bad enough, Fable III suffers from some unbelievably poor design choices that take the previous game's ideas and makes them more awkward and tedious. For a start, there are no real menus in the game. Instead of going to a menu screen to equip items, select quests, and check character progress, pressing Start now takes you to a "Sanctuary" full of rooms that you must manually enter in order to do anything. If you want to equip a hat, for example, you have to load the Sanctuary, enter the clothing room, walk to the mannequins, find the right mannequin, select the mannequin, select the hat, and then finally wear the hat. Apparently it was too convenient to just hit Start, select the clothing option, and put on the damn hat.  You have to do this for quests as well, visiting the Sanctuary and then activating the map before finally getting access to the various quests. You know, there is a reason why we've had menus in games for over twenty years. They work. It boggles the mind why Lionhead eschewed them, as a studio that routinely streamlines its games to make them more fluid and easy to use. This arcane system totally goes against that philosophy.  Similarly cumbersome changes have been made to the socializing system. In previous games, you could emote in various ways and the surrounding NPCs would react to you. In Fable III, you can only emote to villagers one at a time, performing the same tedious animations for them until they like you. You also need to perform a stupid fetch-and-carry quest for every single person you want to befriend. The old system wasn't very realistic, but it was quicker and far more respectful of one's time than this. There was no reason to change it, and the change has only been for the worse. It seems Lionhead "fixed" things that didn't need fixing, and refused to touch anything that was legitimately broken. The rest of the game is just Fable II, but far less epic in scale. Fable II felt like a real adventure across all of Albion, while Fable III feels incredibly limited. You visit only a few places, and fight only a fraction of the types of enemies that Fable is known for. Even the final battle is a short and dull hack-n'-slash section followed by an unimpressive boss fight. So unimpressive, in fact, that it feels no different at all from any of the other fights in the game.  Even the leveling and item system has been scaled down. Your leveling system is now governed by Guild Seals that are earned by fighting enemies, finishing quests and interacting with people. They essentially equate to a form of currency that is used to open up treasure chests on the "Road to Rule." This road contains chests for clothing colors, social interactions, combat stats and minigame enhancement. In short, everything has been bundled into one place, leaving nothing to discover in Albion itself.  This lack of focus on being in Albion permeates the entire game. Much less emphasis has been put on buying property, starting families, or even exploring. The number of stores and blacksmiths has been reduced, and there's far less to do overall. The Albion of Fable III is less compelling, less rewarding and less interesting in every way possible. That is not to say that the game doesn't have its moments. The emphasis on choice and asking whether the end justifies the means is impressively done, and while the game offers very clear "Good" and "Bad" moral choices, the reasons behind those choices run far deeper than before. There is an intelligent narrative buried in Fable III that borders on political commentary, but never gets preachy or overbearing.  The game's vocal cast steals the show, with the likes of Stephen Fry, Simon Pegg, John Cleese and Bernard Hill, among many others, putting in a surprising amount of effort and making one feel proud to be British. Sadly, the game's sense of humor doesn't do the great performances justice, still focusing as it does on fart jokes and appropriated Monty Python quotes. Much of the dialog is far below the talent of the people performing it, making it even more impressive that each actor does his very best. As for the rest of the game, it copies the Fable II mold without apology. The single-button combat system is still in place, with one button each ascribed to melee, ranged and magic attacks. It's still a lot of fun to customize your character and make them look as impressive or silly as you like, and the general atmosphere of Fable has remained intact. The very bones of Fable are in place, unchanged, and still as average as ever.  Co-op makes a return, and while it is currently offline at the time of writing, it appears to work in very much the same way. Players can now own properties together, get married, have kids, and help each other in combat, but again, the total lack of anything fun to do in Albion makes it a far less compelling option. I stress that I have not had access to this option yet and if it makes a significant difference to the game, you shall know. But given that there really isn't very much to do for one player, let alone two, the chances of it impacting the adventure aren't favorable. Fable III isn't a bad game; it's just very disappointing. Lacking the sense of adventure of the previous games and making the most simple of elements more awkward and overdrawn, it feels like a step back for the franchise. It's a shame, because its narrative goals are truly outstanding and there's still a lot of simplistic role-playing fun to be had. These positives are outweighed, however, by a downsized sense of scale, cumbersome attempts at innovation, and a total neglect when it comes to fixing some important problems.  Not only has Fable once again failed to live up to its promise, it's gotten further away from it than before, and that's an incredibly frustrating shame. 
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If there's one word that categorically defines the Fable series, it has to be "promise." Fable has always been a franchise with promise, made by people who do nothing but promise. Each game is always pretty fun, but consisten...

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The movies that inspired the Fable series


Oct 06
// Maurice Tan
Peter Molyneux held a talk at Eurogamer Expo last weekend and suffice to say, it was about Fable III. Thankfully it was not so much about the new game's features or some kind of PR presentation, but more about what influenced...
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Fable III's all-star Hollywood cast detailed


Sep 28
// Nick Chester
Ridiculously, Fable III will be the first time that actor Sir Ben Kingsley has voiced a videogame. For whatever reason, developer Lionhead Studios was the first to tap into the talents of the actor, who will voice Sabine, th...
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Rumor: Project Milo shelved, Fable Kinect game coming


Sep 23
// Nick Chester
Lionhead Studio's "game" that was probably just really always a tech demo anyhow, Project Milo, has been shelved, according to a source speaking with Eurogamer. Word is that the project was shut down earlier this week, with 1...
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What you can do with your houses in Fable III


Sep 22
// Conrad Zimmerman
When I play Fable, I have a tendency to buy absolutely everything on the map as soon as I possibly can without resorting to killing everybody in a town (that usually comes later). And while I liked owning the properties and ...
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Watch Peter Molyneux's Milo demo from TED


Aug 19
// Conrad Zimmerman
Last month at the TED Conference, Lionhead CEO Peter Molyneux showed another demonstration of Milo & Kate. During his presentation, he speaks a bit about interacting with Milo and how no two people will create the sa...
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Fable III screenshots for looking at


Aug 17
// Jim Sterling
Usually, Lionhead only gives us between one and three screenshots, and we're supposed to be grateful. I have no idea what we've done to deserve this veritable bounty, but the latest batch contains a full ten images, making th...
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Peter Molyneux is 'bored' of uninspired pre-order bonuses


Aug 05
// Jordan Devore
I think many of us will agree, most aspects of pre-order bonuses straight-up suck. We could get into how having multiple retailer-exclusive offerings is terrible, and how the entire system needs to go away, but for today, let...
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No Kinect functionality for Fable III at launch


Aug 05
// Nick Chester
While Lionhead's Fable III may support Kinect sometime in the future, don't expect it when the game ships this fall. Speaking with Joystiq, Lionhead studio boss Peter Molyneux has confirmed that whatever support was originall...
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Here, watch Fable III's opening cinematic


Aug 04
// Nick Chester
If you're the kind of person who thinks that seeing the entire intro cinematic to a videogame is a "spoiler," don't watch the above video. Why? Because it's the opening of Lionhead's Fable III in its entirety, as released by...
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PC gamers waiting a bit longer for Fable III


Aug 03
// Nick Chester
Originally scheduled to be released alongside the Xbox 360 version of the game, Microsoft has confirmed that Fable III for PC won't be seeing release on October 26. "The console and PC versions are now on different schedules ...
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Fable III gets an online 'Villager Maker'


Aug 02
// Nick Chester
Tired of farting at the same old villagers? Lionhead and Microsoft have revealed the "Villager Maker" for Fable III, a pre-release tool that will allow you to create your own personalized character to import into the game. Th...

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