Fable 2 Preview: Condoms, Combat, Domestic Abuse

As I approach one of the many random houses that litter the Fable 2 countryside, I notice the front door is glowing red. So I do what any normal person would do when faced with a glowing red object: I smash it to bits with my sword.

Either it was possessed, in which case I just did the homeowner a giant favor, or the red glow simply indicated it could be destroyed, in which case that person is now aware their cheap door was a security risk. Regardless, I deserve some sort of compensation for my public service, so I poke around inside.

There's a health potion in the cabinet to the left, but that's not enough. I want more. I deserve more. So I venture upstairs, into the bedroom to find the good stuff.

Next to the bed are a pair of fancy gloves. There's an armoire in the corner, but I'm lazy; it's too far away. Instead I investigate the wardrobe across the bed and find a condom.

Yes, a condom. In this case, one that's made out of animal intestines and will protect against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, according to its description. This seems like a fitting payment, so I decide to pocket it.

Evil +5 immediately appears above my character's head, indicating that the choice wasn't all that righteous. I'm not too worried about the consequences. I can do whatever I want, this isn't my save game.

Considering the amount of female villagers I slapped on my way over to the residence, and the large number of guards I had to murder to avoid paying a fine for my behavior, that's probably a good thing.

Then again, the women of Fable 2 have an odd reaction to domestic violence. Sure, I hit her a few times and she runs off to the guards, but she sees me take down a few of those dudes and she's obviously impressed by my combat skills.

To impress her further, I do a little dance using the game's wide array of emotes, and the icon above her head shows that she fancies it. Then I pull a gun on her, and she's unsure of what to think. She doesn't start to run until I fire a few times.

That's when she takes off for the nearest guard, a constant flow of -2 text above her head indicating that she's not exactly thrilled with my most recent action. The guard comes over and demands I pay a fine for harassment and murder. An option for community service is in the menu, but can't be selected. I add another murder charge to my list.

As the guard's corpse drops to the ground, she starts to clap in approval. Women.

The game will allow you to kill pretty much everyone, save for children--though if you want, an option can be enabled to prevent the accidental slaughter of non-combatants. Frankly though, that's boring. It's E3. I want action, I want blood.

Of course, the game's moral choices extend beyond random acts of domestic violence and kleptomania. As Fable 2 kicks off and players are mere children, they will be faced with a number of changes said to greatly affect the future of the its cities.

One early quest gives players the option of turning over arrest warrants to the authorities or to the criminal underground. Others allow them to expose a secret love, help a drunk get into a drinking program, or choose to protect a dude's livestock or just destroy it.

In addition to the surrounding environment, a player's tendency towards good or evil affects their appearance and the way that villagers deal with them.

That means there's a lot of incentive to replay the game and take a different approach--which is good, since a representative from developer Lionhead told me that you can "blaze through" the single-player game in about 12 hours.

While exploring the game's open-world--filled with hoppable fences and broad fields--a glittering "bread crumb" trail appears to guide player along to their next objective. Lionhead has not yet decided if the trail can be disabled, but it's currently considering the option.

As for the game's combat, players have three varieties of attacks available to them--magic, physical, and ranged--each mapped to a face button. It's easy to mash your way through combat using whatever attack type you fancy, but there's some underlying complexity.

For example, holding down the B button charges a magic attack. The longer it's charged, the stronger the resulting attack. But players can easily configure which spell is triggered at what level, allowing them to fast-cast fireballs or charge up a powerful wind attack with a simple button press.

Blocking is handled in a similar manner. Hit X to attack with the sword, and hold that down and press a corresponding direction to block.

With the basics of the game's combat under my belt, I was able to easily rid a haunted cemetery of Wraiths. To celebrate, I played fetch with my ever-present canine companion. In a cemetery. While my slightly-overweight avatar was wearing no shirt and whistling all sexy like at no one in particular.

Suffice it to say, I had a lot of fun with Fable 2. It was enjoyable to just play around and explore with no real incentive in mind. It was fun, and surprisingly easy, to kill guards for trying to take my lunch money. And the way my dog would stay by my side and look at me like I was awesome, regardless of my slap-happy approach to woman and children, was both adorable and horrifying.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to more canine companionship this October.

An Xbox 360 exclusive, Fable 2 is slated to arrive in October.