Review

Fable: The Journey Review (Xbox360)

As a fan of the Fable series through the good times and the bad, I went into Fable: The Journey quite hopeful, even despite my general apprehension when it comes to all things Kinect. It doesn't put that suspicion of motion control to rest but it does demonstrate how games can be fun with it, even despite its unevenness.

Such unevenness is quite immediately apparent. For some unknown reason, the game starts out with an introductory section that solely consists of controlling a cart and horse. This provides the perfect introduction to Seren, your equine companion and ideal replacement to the dog that so lovingly featured in earlier Fable titles.

Never before have you become so attached to such a gallant beast.


It also gets pretty tedious pretty early on. Controls are relatively straightforward when they work. They're natural and the tutorial is hardly needed thanks to a dash of common sense. Hold the reins of the horse with both hands, crack them towards the screen to speed up while pulling back to slow down. A tug to the left or right dictates direction. In theory, it works perfectly and much of the time it does. Unfortunately, human nature means you'll remember the difficult times more than the easy riding times. The introduction also happens to outstay its welcome a little too long.

Holding your arms in front of you can get tiring. There's little let up, other than the odd brief cutscene, during this early stage and, despite only having to sit in front of your console, Fable: The Journey provides a perfect reminder as to why you need to work on your upper body strength. This is all the more apparent when combat comes about but something surprising happens. Suddenly, Fable: The Journey is great fun. It's still limited by Kinect's failed attempts at being something wonderful but Lionhead, quite sensibly, appreciated this and ensured combat doesn't suffer too badly for it.

Ever played the Harry Potter Kinect games whereby you throw your arms around in order to hit things with magic, except it's nowhere near as much fun as it should have been? Fable: The Journey implements the same kind of thing and does it well. The dominant hand controls magic such as electricity or fire while the other hand masters a push attack. Combinations can be formed whereby you push an enemy off a bridge or cliff while also flinging electric bolts at another foe.

The hollow men are still here and there's an Achievement for taking one apart.


At times, it's awkward to line up a shot just right and it's clear that Kinect isn't quite up to lag free inputs but Fable: The Journey compensates for that with a homing style manoeuvre. This is reinforced by the presence of aftertouch, ensuring that as long as you're vaguely close to hitting something, you'll manage it successfully.

As the game progresses, more delightful touches emerge, making up for that dire early beginning. New spells become available, along with a rudimentary upgrade path. It might all be a little like rock, paper, scissors in terms of what works, and it's far from challenging but that doesn't matter because it's fun. Puzzles also present themselves. Echoing combat, they're far from challenging but there's a tactile sense of satisfaction when manipulating things, even if at times the controls might falter. Even Seren the horse comes into her own once you're given the opportunity to warm to her with small moments where you can feed her or brush her coat, even pull arrows from her body.

It's this sense of humanity and warmth that keeps Fable: The Journey from languishing as a sub-par Kinect title. It tells a story and an interesting one at that. It doesn't challenge earlier Fable titles exactly, given that it is entirely on rails with no ability to change the fate of the world or anything lofty like that, but it offers fans more of an insight into the land of Albion and its inhabitants. The typical Fable humour is still there, too, right down to achievements for juggling Hobbes or roasting a chicken.

The world of Albion is as luscious as ever.


Retreat to the Arcade mode after completing the 8 hour story and you'd be forgiven for noticing Fable: The Journey's many control-based flaws, mostly thanks to its reliance on accuracy to gain higher multipliers and thus bigger scores. Score chasing isn't really the point of the game though, it's merely a distraction from the main course.

There's a sense throughout Fable: The Journey that it has been designed to be a sidestep away from anything like the main Fable series. Much like side-scrolling slash em up, Fable Heroes, Fable: The Journey is an experiment by Lionhead to see what else can be garnered from the Albion universe. Is it as successful or as ambitious as something like the original Fable? No, not quite. It still manages to be like nothing else out there, however. It's a game that, unlike other Kinect titles, can be enjoyed alone, just as much as it can be enjoyed with the family at Christmas time. It's a rough beginning and the horse riding does grate after time, but Fable: The Journey offers just enough variety that in the end, you'll be smiling. And aching. It is a Kinect game, after all.

Top Gaming Moment: The small touches. Earning new spells, looking after Seren and executing new skills successfully during combat.

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Comments

By nocutius (SI Elite) on Oct 17, 2012
nocutius
At first glance the guy in the picture looks a little bit like Schwarzenegger so at first I though it's something to do with Conan.

I'm guessing this wont be made for PC with that much Kinect integration, I doubt enough PC users bough the PC version of it.