Available on Xbox 360 with Kinect
If Lionhead’s quest with Fable: The Journey was to fashion an Xbox Kinect game that resonated with the more traditional, hardcore gamer, then it’s a quest that ends in failure. While it uses characters, creatures and locations from the Fable universe, and has a similar visual style and sense of humour, little of Fable’s gameplay has survived the transition to Kinect. This isn’t an RPG or an adventure. There’s no freedom to explore, no way to build a reputation or create your own hero. It’s an on-rails experience with chase and shooting gallery sequences, and the games it has most in common with are those visually spectacular but only semi-interactive experiences we first encountered in the early days of CD-ROM.
We'd best get over it. Fable: The Journey isn’t what we really wanted it to be. The question is whether it’s all that good at being what it is. Here there’s good news and bad. It’s a stunning looking game with high production values, likeable characters and a decent story, and there’s enough Fable lore and Fable charm to interest fans of the series. However, it’s a game that can also feel lazy, repetitive, boring and frustrating. Most of all, you can’t help feeling that Fable: The Journey started off as someone’s vision for a Kinect-based adventure, but has ended up as a game built less to celebrate the strengths of Kinect, than hide its weaknesses.
Fable: The Journey Storyline
Here you play as a young nomad, Gabriel. Separated from his tribe, Gabriel becomes entangled with the struggles of the Fable saga’s resident seer, Theresa, as she battles against dark forces threatening Albion. With Theresa’s aid, Gabriel finds and dons a pair of magic gauntlets, and so begins your classic hero’s journey, taking in a grand quest through the more scenic parts of Albion, fights against Hobbes, Hollow Men and Balverines, and assorted temples, abandoned villages and ruins where further powers may be uncovered, and further dangers revealed.
In practice, this actually means a handful of basic activities. For a start, there’s a whole lot of cart driving, involving shaking the reins to speed up, pulling back to slow down and moving your arms forwards and backwards to drift left and right. These sequences are enlivened by (non-interactive) conversation, different types of ground and experience gems to collect, some of which can only be gathered when moving at specific speeds. This is, at best, gently diverting, with the experience only made enjoyable by some magnificent scenery, and by the odd moment where the route branches, and optional stopping points where you might find a fight or a puzzle, and usually a treasure chest as some reward.
Occasionally, though, just driving transforms into a proper chase, with the forces of corruption narrowing the path, and heavy objects falling from the sky. These sequences are spectacular, but it’s questionable whether they’re actually that much fun to play. The least that can be said is that the game is fairly generous with health and checkpoints, so you’ll usually get through without grinding any teeth down.
As you’ll invariably take some damage in the first two activities, you’ll also find your share of rest stops, where you can care for your cart-horse, Seren. First, Seren needs to be calmed down with calm words and gentle gestures, and then it’s a case of pulling out any splinters or arrows (a nice, smooth pulling motion works best), then using your magic gloves to heal the wounds. With Seren taken care of you can then enjoy the sheer thrills of, erm, pumping water into a trough, picking apples from a tree, giving Seren a nice rub down and opening the handily abandoned chest. This is exactly as exciting as it sounds.