When I heard that there was a new Fable coming out I was very excited, but along with many other fans of the franchise I was a bit nervous about the fact that the game is completely controlled using Xbox 360’s Kinect motion sensor. Having had some good, bad and terrible experiences with the Kinect, I was very concerned that the franchise was going to be ruined. I was pleasantly surprised, however, and very relieved at the end result.
Before continuing, though, I need to make it clear that Fable: The Journey is not the next instalment in the franchise storyline but it is a parallel story set approximately fifty years after the events that took place in Fable 3. You should also be aware that this is a Kinect only game and, unfortunately, comes with a limited set of actions that are quite clumsy. This means that things don’t always happen when you want them to. I have my Kinect pretty sweetly calibrated now but even so, I sometimes catch myself gesticulating wildly trying to perform a certain action.
The story of Fable: The Journey follows the adventures of Gabriel, an ordinary dweller who is destined to do extra-ordinary things. As part of a nomadic tribe, living in wagons and wandering the beautiful land of Albion, Gabriel leads a somewhat boring life. After falling asleep ‘at the wheel,’ however, he finds himself left behind by his tribe and is eventually separated from them when a bridge is destroyed by some errant weather. He embarks upon an adventure to take another path than his tribe and ultimately meet up with them. Of course, in Albion, nothing is ever as simple as it sounds.
There are two distinct game playing parts to Fable: The Journey, the first of which is driving your cart and guiding your trusty steed, Seren, through the various roads and pathways on your way to meeting up with your tribe. You must be very careful to conserve the energy and health of Seren otherwise your journey is destined for failure.
The cart is guided by ‘holding’ on to the reins, controlling the speed at which Seren walks, runs or gallops, and collecting experience along the way. There is also experience to be gained at rest stops along the way and caring for Seren. Admittedly, I found some of this a bit boring but my kids loved it and there is enough action to distract you from getting too bored.
The second part is controlling Gabriel when he is on foot. Early on in Fable: The Journey, Gabriel meets up with Theresa (the ‘seer’ who Fable fans will recognise from previous Fable titles) and she helps him (manipulates him? tricks him?) into taking ownership of a pair of magic gauntlets that allow him to cast spells. Unbeknownst to Gabriel, Theresa is currently engaged in a desperate battle with an enemy known as ‘The Devourer’ and he is soon to become an integral part in the battle for the future of Albion (Albion sure does manage to get itself into some bad positions).
I found this second part of Fable: The Journey very exciting. Apart from the clumsiness of the gauntlets, I found the action very exciting and well thought out. The action scenes are tense and exciting and really had my adrenalin pumping. All the baddies are back from Fable III (a game that I loved and have played through quite a few times) and there are a few more baddies that show up to make things exciting. The clashes with The Devourer are epic!
My favourite parts of Fable: The Journey were the battles that you engaged in from your cart. The Hobbes have become a bit more organised since our last encounter with them and the running battles are very exciting. Using the combination of spells at your disposal is great fun and I especially enjoyed using the ‘Push’ spell to flip the bad guys all over the place (especially off bridges and over cliffs). The targeting system is a bit imprecise but the game isn’t as difficult as it could (should?) be so you are given a few attempts to makes things happen.
Once again, the developers at Lionhead Studios have delivered a breathtakingly beautiful game. The scenery, lighting, texture and quality of the game are fantastic and the world of Albion really takes hold and makes you feel a part of it. The richness of the graphics is coupled with some very good voice acting and the story is interesting and well thought out. Fable: The Journey is easy to play, easy to learn and a whole lot of fun.
There were a few negatives to Fable: The Journey but nothing that stood out and would have prevented me from buying the game. As previously mentioned, the Kinect controls are clumsy and you often have to repeat actions to get the desired result. In saying that, I think that this is the best Kinect game I have played and didn’t feel frustrated and worn out after a gaming session.
Another thing that I thought the could have done better was the difficulty. There is no difficulty setting and, quite frankly, the game is a bit too easy. At no point did I feel that I was in danger of losing and the enemies didn’t do enough to threaten, either. I would have expected a lot more from the Balverines, especially, but coupled with the clumsiness of the controls, perhaps the game was made deliberately easy? I think a difficulty setting would have been great, though.
I really enjoyed Fable: The Journey and I know my kids enjoyed it as well. The game does have an age restriction of 12 and features mild violence and mild swearing (I didn’t notice any swearing though – maybe I’m immune). I sat with my kids whilst they played and I think they are becoming Fable fans – just like their dad.
I would highly recommend this game as a ‘must have’ for fans of the Kinect, and even if you’re not so sure about the Kinect, this is, in my opinion, still a title that is worth having. I know I am going to enjoy a lot more time with the game and I know my kids are too.
Here’s a hint though: If you are going to playing Fable (or any Kinect title for that matter), it’s always a good idea to keep your gaming sessions short and action-packed. Playing too long tires you out and makes you grumpy and frustrated. I noticed that if I played for an hour, and then relaxed for an hour and so on, I enjoyed the game a lot better. Your arms will get tired but that’s just part of the fun!