Lots of video games end with the player becoming king and living happily ever after. “Fable III,” an upcoming action/adventure role-playing game for the Xbox 360, will take a look at what happens when you become king, then find out that happiness in the “ever after” is anything but guaranteed.

During a half-hour presentation of the game to journalists at last week’s X10 event in San Francisco, Peter Molyneux, creative director of the European division of Microsoft Game Studios, showed off parts of the latest game from his development house, Lionhead Studios. Unlike “Fable II,” which essentially ended with the main character on top of the world, “Fable III” will put the main character, the child of “Fable II’s” protagonist, on the throne about halfway through the game. The second half of “Fable III” will have players trying to reconcile all the deals they struck on the way to the top with cold, hard political reality.

Molyneux’s latest “Fable” accomplishes this aim by shaking up the experience system that lay at the heart of “Fable II” and just about every other role-playing game ever created. In “Fable III,” instead of earning experience points that push you toward higher levels and new powers, you’ll start the game as a friendless rabble-rouser and earn followers as you try to grow in stature enough to take down the evil tyrant currently ruling the land of Albion, loosely modeled on Dickensian England. To gain followers, you’ll be undergoing a series of missions you might find in other games. But you’ll also have opportunities to gain huge numbers of devotees by making what amount to campaign promises. One example Molyneux gave was ending child labor in a world where children as young as 5 are forced to toil away in factories.


Obviously, ending child labor is good, right? But every political plan has its practical downside. Molyneux didn’t say what it was in the child labor example, but it wouldn’t surprise me if inflation ran rampant or the economy ground to a halt after such a bold move, as Albion’s cheap labor transitions from factory to orphanage, draining public coffers in the process. But just as you earn followers by making bold promises, you’ll lose devotees if you can’t keep them happy.

In short, “Fable III’s” the perfect game for the modern American voter. We want our leaders to fix everything that’s broken, but nobody’s willing to pay for it, or deal with the ramifications of having made tough choices. A lot of Californians will tell you the state could solve its financial problems if it simply quit spending so much money, but the vast majority of those people have no idea how the state spends its money. “Fable III” aims for you to run smack into that reality. “We’re gonna make you feel great, then (claps his hands), bring you back down to earth.”

It’s easy to see how Molyneux, who’s gotten in trouble in the past for promising more features than his games ended up delivering, could end up creating a game that illustrates the trouble of keeping your word. I’m looking forward to this mechanice when the game is released this fall.

I’ll post a little more on other features we can expect from “Fable III” come Monday afternoon/evening.