You need to know who your friends are before playing Fable 2. One of the best new details revealed at the Game Developer Conference, online co-op, quickly became one of the more terrifying during the demo: Peter Molyneux invited a friend to join his game, only to see him kill his spouse.
Admittedly, it wasn't a very warm family scene to begin with. The Molynator (actual GamerTag) was playing a female adventuress who hadn't been home for six months, so he wasn't receiving a warm welcome. His six-year-old son laid on the guilt, "Don't ever leave us alone again!" and the husband was gearing up for a more extended whinge when the henchman became bored and slayed him. And started pointing and giggling.
It was an impressive demonstration both of the co-op and the emotional potential of the game, which Molyneux ranks as two of the three main features. Co-op can be joined or left at any time, and is simply a case of inviting a friend in (using a different profile on the same console, although he didn't deny that you'd be able to do it over Xbox Live) and dragging a slider to decide how much XP, gold and renown they get from your adventures. But don't worry about them taking all the cash, because it isn't something you just pick up off the ground: you have to work for it. Sort of.
While he wouldn't reveal all the details, Molyneux did say that you can work as a blacksmith, barman or assassin -and that you actually earn money through co-op play, as a paid "henchman". If that doesn't sound like your idea of fun, how about online gambling? During the Microsoft GDC presentation, Molyneux revealed an Xbox Live Arcade game, due to release before the game proper, that you can use to gamble and win money to spend in the world of Fable 2.
Molyneux had amassed enough cash to snap up a house in the country - he admitted to a bit of property speculation on the way - which was now going to lie empty while his son was carted off to an orphanage. Apparently he could see him again, but "he won't be very happy."
The third "big feature" was the combat, which Lionhead have designed to be as accessible as possible while still having enough depth for more experienced players. Just mashing the X button will suffice for basic sword-flailing, but if you want to be a bit cleverer you can hold it down to deliver a knockout blow, while true Errol Flynn fans will be able to pull of outlandish swordplay by pressing it in a certain rhythm.
It's a definite contender for RPG of the year; we'll have more info next month.