And so our story begins…
Fable: The Journey takes place 50 years after the closing events of Fable 3; you play as a young traveler called Gabriel who has an unfortunate habit of falling asleep whilst riding aboard his wagon, pulled by his trusty steed – Seran. Yes folks, Lionhead have given us another animal companion to care about and grow emotionally attached to but I’ll talk about Seran soon enough. Whilst travelling, Gabriel falls asleep at the back of his convoy and loses track of the group. Struggling to catch up with them, he is beseeched by a vicious storm which was previously concentrated around The Tattered Spire, this forces Gabriel to travel through harsh and unknown areas to reach his friends in the convoy.
During the first part of this journey Gabriel meets Teresa – our faithful blind seer who we have literally seen grow up throughout these games, Teresa has been injured by an unknown malevolent force called The Devourer which then proceeds to attempt to attack both Teresa and Gabriel (oh, and Seran too) That’s essentially the first few minutes of gameplay wrapped up and will give any Fable fan more than enough reason to want to buy Fable: The Journey. Putting aside any potential technical issues that may cloud your judgement about this game for a moment – Fable: The Journey is a wonderful return to a much loved gaming universe filled with a unique sense of humour, excellent lore and more loose ends than a mangled Cheese-String.
It was also mentioned during development that Fable: The Journey would read previous Fable 3 save data to change the world of Albion, presumably to best capture your previous choices and the consequences of them, but there was no obvious sign of this in game – no ‘Reading Previous Savegame Data’ which has graced recent titles such as Borderlands 2 so whether or not this actually made it into Fable: The Journey is currently unknown.
You control player movement in Fable: The Journey by simply sitting still because regardless of what Peter Molyneux may or mat not have said in whichever interview it was, Fable: The Journey IS on rails – granted the horse riding sections do allow you to turn by twisting your body and control Seran’s speed by ‘cracking the reigns’ (by performing an action which resembles shaking out wet laundry) but when you can’t do a 180 degree turn to pick up that experience orb you just missed it’s more ‘suggested rails’ than ‘House of the Dead’ rails and I suppose House of the Dead is a good comparison for Fable: The Journey and the only thing that really separates it from other generic rail shooters is Albions enchanting backstory and the repetitive Rest Stop sections.
Throughout the game you have to stop at one of the numerous rest points at which time you can choose a number of Classic Kinect mini-games like Brush The Horse – where you gently move your hands around like you’re searching for your keys in the dark. There’s also Heal The Horse where you simply hold one hand out to heal Seran’s many wounds which were mainly inflicted from not understanding which way to turn on our adventure and walking into trees. Also making its debut to the Kinect is Hand-Bicycle-Water-Pump where you fill a trough of water by, well…you get the idea.
During the rest of the game controls are pretty straightforward, you use your left hand to controls your Push ability which (if you thrust you hand forward) will knock an enemy back and (if you thrust your hand forward, hold it there and then move it to the side) you can grab enemies with a lasso type move and then drag them aside. Your right hand is used for all of your offensive spells: just pushing your right hand forward will fire a Magic Bolt but you also obtain other spells such as the all powerful Fireball!
Lionhead have spruced up Fable: The Journeys graphics to a near mirror shine and employed some absolutely superb voice actors for this iteration of the series, some people might not fully ‘get’ the quintessentially British accents in Fable or fully understand its humour but it’s these aspects that make Fable, Fable! and The Journey does this better than any previous Fable game.
Unfortunately though, you eventually get past the excellent voice acting in the cutscenes and witty back-and-forths between the rebellious Gabriel and smart mouthed Teresa and you make your way to the full body motion control fighting sections. It’s not all doom and gloom though as there is a huge level of forgiveness in Fable: The Journey’s design, allow me to explain…
When in the midst of virtual combat you find yourself either not aiming in the right direction through honest confusion, therefore missing you target completely or having the Kinect not fully recognise one of your actions – Blocking was my least favourite move to perform – holding my left arm across my body always simply armed my Push spell for some reason – but when you do make a minor mistake such as aiming too high the game allows you to hit the target even though you see a tiny residual ‘ping’ mark where you actually aimed was a fair amount away from the intended target. This allows the game to be a lot more enjoyable and far less frustrating than it otherwise could have been.
Boss battles are a keynote for Fable: The Journey and one that are handled exceptionally well, bosses will usually have a set routine which they cycle through allowing you to either dodge attacks by physically leaning left or right or setting up some slightly more elaborate environmental situation to defeat them.
If you focus on what Fable: The Journey gives you rather than what it doesn’t give you you’ll be happily trotting around Albion for literally hours just enjoying the scenery with the occasional Time Crisis gun-fight thrown in for good measure. Get the right set up, with everything in the right place and you’ll feel like Gandalf on Steroids Get one aspect wrong (Kinect position, lighting, seat orientation – take your pick) and you’ll be swiftly reminded that you’re sat in your front room slapping the air whilst your cat looks at you like you’re an escaped mental patient.
The Journey is a successful step for the Kinect and one that I’m proud to say makes me feel like I’m physically exploring one of my much loved gaming worlds, soaking up the story and atmosphere like I never left. It’s a game which forgives your mistakes and whilst definitely being hampered by some of the Kinects inherent flaws and problems – does work well. Fable: The Journey isn’t the muddy cash in that I was expecting; it’s more ‘Albions Greatest Holiday Locations’ than a copy of ‘Albions Greatest B-Sides’
Microsoft provided Slimgamer.com with a review copy of Fable: The Journey