Fable: The Journey Preview (Xbox360)

I’ll be the first to admit that, when I first heard about Fable: The Journey, I was all but ready to dismiss it out of hand. An on-rails Kinect-only product is the epitome of the ‘spin-off’, the side merchandise to support a main product line. But that’s what you do, right? It probably wasn’t going to be for me, and I thought little of it since. Having actually sat down and played it however, I’m still of the opinion that it’s probably not for me (the fact that I don’t actually own a Kinect notwithstanding), but I can see the love and care that’s gone into this game, and so I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for the moment.

If The Journey is anything, it’s incredibly charming. The character you play as, Gabriel, is kind of endearing in a oh-my-god-what-a-plonker kind of way, and the familiar general Fable tongue and cheek magic pours through in all the right places. The story is set five years after the events of Fable III, and we’re told that the title is supposed to detect save files from the previous game and make subtle alterations to the game world to reflect what happened, although we’re not sure of the specifics right now.

All of the monsters are recognisable from past Fable games.

With regards to the actual Kinect controls… well, it’s hard to say really. In theory, everything seems straight forward – during Horse segments you hold both hands in front of you, and do a pushing and pulling motion with alternate hands to steer one way, or the other. You can do a whipping motion to speed up, pulling the reigns to slow down. During segments where you are on foot, all movement is handled for you so it’s just about the combat, which revolves around two enchanted gauntlets you pick up very early on. To start with you only have simple abilities like push/pull, and you can fire lightning bolts at enemies, but more abilities unlock over time. You can also do fancy moves like firing a bolt one way, then using hand motions to get it to move mid-flight to go another.

The controls are fairly intuitive, although we had some aiming issues with the lightning bolts. Perhaps we just sucked at the calibration and/or hand movements, but there were some difficulties in getting attacks to go where we wanted, especially when at speed. Also, as intuitive as everything seems at the moment, there is a sense that you could easily suffer from Wii-fatigues younger brother, Kinect-fatigue: sometimes you just don’t want to flail your arms about constantly. Saying that, on the horse-riding segments at least, there is a function where, if you just drop your hands, the horse will then simply auto-steer. That means though that you may not pick the special experience orbs that are dotted along the track.

Combining spells and using the environment can help get you more experience.

There is a bit more to The Journey – collecting the aforementioned experience orbs will eventually allow you to level up and gain skill points. Like any tried-and-true RPG system, spending these skill points in certain areas will help improve your characters in those areas. You can increase either yours or your horse’s health, increase your horse’s stamina or your mana bar, and so on. As well as picking up experience orbs along the road ( some require you to go at certain speeds), you can also gain experience when you defeat any monsters that attack you, with bonus points available for ‘style’.

For a Kinect game, Fable: The Journey seems to have everything you need – meaningful gameplay powered by logical, uncomplicated body movements. The fact that you can play this game sitting down is, in my mind, the best thing about it as trust me, you’ll get tired. We’ll have to see what the late game will be like – what advanced features and skills you can perform – to ultimately decide what kind of longevity this will have. One’s thing for certain though: it won’t be the narrative that lets you down. Fable: The Journey is due out on Kinect for Xbox 360 on October 9th 2012 in North America, and October 12th 2012 in Europe. Most Anticipated Feature: I’m just glad to find out what Theresa has been doing with that tower all this time.

Most Anticipated Feature: I’m just glad to find out what Theresa has been doing with that tower all this time.

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