Fable: The Journey Controls
The real point of Fable: The Journey, however, is the action sequences. Some take place on the cart while some take place on foot, but what we’re talking about here is classic light-gun gameplay, as you aim and fire your magic spells with frantic thrusts and waves of your soon-exhausted extremities. The right hand starts off with a handy bolt spell, with a neat aftertouch feature so that you can guide the bolts around columns or over barricades.
The left-hand, meanwhile, works to push enemies away, erect a shield with a nifty blocking gesture, or stun and occasionally drag enemies with the assistance of a tendril of magic force. Predictably, some enemies need to be repelled or stunned with the left-hand before you smack them down with the right, and the gauntlets have only so much charge, to discourage you from too much crazed flailing at the screen.
These sequences are entertaining, but there are problems. Despite some very clever auto-calibration features it’s a challenge to maintain accuracy for any great length of time, and the block/counter gesture isn’t always reliably picked up. Some sequences suffer from poor or non-existent checkpointing, and when you combine this with hard-hitting monsters it all gets quite frustrating very fast. There’s also just not that much variety. Like any lightgun game, there are only so many variations on so many scenarios you can do, and while there are some great moments where the challenge suddenly changes, it all gets a bit samey after a while.
At times, Fable: The Journey threatens to bloom, with some interesting dungeon sections that mix puzzle-solving through manipulation with the left-glove and blasting in equal measure. Things also improve as you grow more powerful and gain more spells, though charging up a fireball isn’t always easy, whether you do it by waving your hand or by shouting ‘Fireball’ in a way that’s guaranteed to annoy your entire household. When all is said and done, though, there’s just not that much to the game. It’s lengthy and it all looks very lovely, and the story works reasonably well. There are slightly pointless collectibles to discover and an arcade mode which reframes the action sequences from the game, and it’s all very slick and very polished. It just makes you wish that there was a way motion controls could have been incorporated into a more genuinely interactive game.
One interesting comparison point is that the Sony developed Sorcery; a game that was far from perfect, but which combined PlayStation Move based spell-casting with more conventional navigation controls to make something that felt like a meatier, more satisfying quest. Sorcery fell down through its lack of imagination, but Fable: The Journey’s imagination is all in its story and its visual design. The feeling overall is that, rather than work out what Kinect could add to Fable, the team spent more time working out how Fable might work within the limits of Kinect. The result is fabulous-looking and occasionally quite entertaining, but not all that satisfying to actually play.
Fable: The Journey Verdict
Rather than sell Kinect, Fable: The Journey does an efficient job of highlighting its weaknesses. For all its visual beauty and engaging story, it’s not anywhere near as interesting or interactive as the series it stems from, and the repetitive gameplay loses its allure after a while. Throw in some of the usual frustrations of Kinect controls, and you have a game with a certain amount of appeal, but little in the way of real satisfaction. It’s neither a great Fable nor Kinect’s finest hour.