We go hands-on with this swashbuckling addition to Fable III at Microsoft’s February Games Showcase.

Fable III’s magical world of Albion has never had a shortage of mischievous miscreants to fight. There are plundering pirates in need of a good stabbing, howling wolves tempting your trigger finger, and ambushing outlaws desperately seeking an elemental strike. If you veer down an unrighteous path, you may even take the life of an innocent citizen and carry with you the repugnant stink of a willful murderer. But never in all of your many travels have you had an army of mechanical men to square off against. In Traitor’s Keep, Fable III’s first downloadable content offering, you finally have a chance to point your musket toward the metallic face of an evil robot. At Microsoft’s February Games Showcase, we got a chance to briefly resume our role as king in a short demonstration. The full experience is available for download on March 1 for 560 Microsoft points ($7).

With the thorny crown of absolute monarchy comes a brigade of ready enemies eager to challenge authority. That dynamic is explored in Traitor’s Keep, battling foes across the land who want nothing more than to knock you clear off your throne. The DLC picks up immediately after the events from Fable III have concluded. The monsters of pure evil have been vanquished from your peaceful cities, and you can see how the choices you made impact the world around you. If you decided that a little extra money was more important than a pristine lake, or figured a brothel could provide a better service for your citizens than an orphanage, you have to deal with those consequences.

The bulk of the experience does not force you to dwell on your previous choices, though. Rather, you venture to entirely new lands in search of adventure and a chance to finally swing the balance of power entirely in your favor. The demo placed us in a town called Clockwork Island. Ruled by a brilliant eccentric known only as the Inventor, this anarchistic village has smiling robots instead of the woebegone humans you would expect to populate any community during this era. There is a very good reason for the cutting-edge technology on display. As you open the gates to this steampunk-inspired world, you are told to behold the streets of the future. The town has been modeled on a vision of what Albion will look like 15 years in the future, a transformative leap from the modern world.

From an architectural standpoint, Clockwork Island looks like any other village in Fable III. Modest wooden homes line the streets; a pleasant grassy oasis resides in the center; and cobblestone pavement lies underfoot. It’s only when you get a close-up look at the townsfolk that you realize something is not quite right. A waving robot welcomes you, and when you click on him, you find out that just one gallon of gasoline produces 37 waves. A little rough on the environment, but it’s worth the excess pollution for the friendliness that exudes from this metallic body. Robot citizens aren’t the only things in Traitor’s Keep that have been given a technological makeover. Your furry pooch has been replaced by a steam-powered canine that happily wags alongside you as if it’s a living, breathing animal.

It’s only when you approach the fence that separates the town proper from its eccentric ruler that things turn sour. The Inventor knew you were coming all along and has equipped his malleable robots to deal with troublemakers. Waving hands are quickly replaced with punching fists, and the robots’ friendly demeanor quickly turns to one of hostility. In a flash, you’re surrounded by an army of unfeeling automatons, and they set out to attack you with an unrelenting determination. Combat hasn’t changed a peck since Fable III. Your rifle, sword, and magical powers are controlled with separate buttons, and you determine the strength of your attacks by how long you hold down each button. The enemies are much harder than those you faced in Fable III, though. No longer can you dispatch entire groups of enemies just by casting a few area-of-effect spells. These dastardly devils teleport and strike with hateful relish, and you need to roll and block just to stay alive.

By the end of this frightful encounter, the Inventor has been defeated, and you have the choice in how you want to deal with his treacherous acts. The demo ended right after we chose the evil path, but it’s clear that the same morality system from previous Fable games is in place in this newest offering. Other than that, it’s hard to say what to expect. The steam-fueled robots are a step in an unexpected direction, and there’s no telling what other crazy critters will surface during the rest of this quest. If you’re curious how this latest adventure turns out, you can download Traitor’s Keep on March 1. Keep your eyes on GameSpot for more information on this content.

By Tom Mc Shea, Editor