As a huge fan of the Fable series and one who has grown accustom to the empty promises of Peter Molyneux, I was a bit skeptical about playing a toned down, Kinect version. Fable: The Journey offers an accessible introduction to the world of Albion and showcases some of the strengths of the Kinect hardware – as well as its weaknesses.
The Journey picks up 50 years after the events of Fable III, as your adventure – both on horseback and on foot – takes you along a linear journey through Albion. The main protagonist is Gabriel, a young and audacious Dweller, who grows tired of his mundane life of driving a wagon and longs for a life full of adventure. After a nap, he gets separated from his group and comes to the aid of Theresa, the blind seer from previous Fable entries who can see the future. The Journey‘s story, while not particularly groundbreaking, provides players with a compelling enough reason to move onwards. It also provides some gripping revelations about Theresa and her motivations in Fable 2.
Where The Journey truly shines is in the graphics department as the world of Albion has never looked so impressive. Experiencing this world from a first person perspective is gratifying thanks to Lionhead’s signature atmospheric art direction. As you round corners onto a narrow riverine with a awe-inspiring sunset in front of you, you’ll wish you could climb down and explore your surroundings. The fantastic voice acting of the main and supporting characters are both endearing and charming, bringing the tale to life. The narrative is a meaningful piece of Albion tale that delves deeper into the universe and is overall a fine piece of storytelling.
Using the Kinect, players control Gabriel as he leads his loyal steed Seren across various regions. Surprisingly, guiding your horse while sitting on your couch is an enjoyable experience. Making the motion of cracking the reins and steering with them is simple. You might have some difficulty navigating tight turns or weaving between obstacles dues to the poor accuracy of the Kinect, but those occasions are rare and the punishment for hitting an obstacle is minimal. However, aside from choosing whether to go left or right, collect some experience orbs, or stopping for an optional battle, fans will miss the trademark choices they’ve come to expect from the series. You won’t be able to choose Gabriel’s destiny, no way to decide if he should develop into an evil or good character – you just follow the predetermined path laid in front of you.
His quest is enjoyable at times, but it mainly consists of entering dungeons to obtain new magical powers. The combat is innovative as players use left-handed movements to pull or push enemies and objects, as their right hand controls one of five different spells – like lighting and fireballs. Defensive motions like blocking allow you to deflect projectiles, while a strafe maneuver allows you to lean sideways in order to dodge incoming attacks or peek from behind cover. Unfortunately, as entertaining as casting spells may be, laying waste to Hobbes or Hollow Men gets dull rather quickly and eventually transitions into a glorified on-rails shooter. It doesn’t help that there’s no aiming reticule and no targeting assistance, making it tough to perform precision strikes. Without any form of visual feedback as to whether or not arm gestures are performed correctly, the action can easily become frustrating.
In comparison to your limited interaction with your faithful dog companion in past entries – your bond with Seren will develop into an emotional connection that is strengthened by both the narrative and “physical” interaction with her. During rest stops players will have access to variety of activities like brushing the mud off her body, plucking an apple from a tree and feeding her, or fill a trough with water for her to drink. During intense sequences you will also need to gently remove arrows from her body as well as speak soothing words when she gets frightened. There are positive rewards associated with each action, with experience points unlocking new skills faster but over time players may realize that they are performing these activities because they genuinely care about her well being.
Though it struggles with repetitiveness and hardware accuracy, The Journey‘s wonderful locations, pleasant characters, and companion interaction creates an experience that is unmatched. If you’re a fan looking for the customization and choices that are associated with the franchise than The Journey is likely to disappoint.
Release Date: October 9, 2012 • Publisher: Microsoft • Developer: Lionhead Studios • Genre: Action, Adventure • Multiplayer: None • Achievements: Moderate • Cost: $49.99 • Replay Value: Low