Now that Peter Molyneux has flown the coop it's time to see just how much of an influence he had over at Lionhead Studios with its first Fable release without the often outspoken gentleman.
Let me just start this review off as we all now come to expect, Fable The Journey is a Kinect game, there are some great points and there are some bad points and just like every other Kinect game, the bad points are all down to the Kinect itself. What is pleasant though is that Lionhead Studios have taken the familiar restraints that the Kinect offers and either worked around them or just didn't bother to utilise, creating possibly one of first Kinect games where I actually wanted to play more.
Set again in the fantastical world of Albion we join a convoy of caravans as they make their way through its lush green lands; always at the back of the pack is our reluctant hero Gabriel and his faithful steed Seren, who following falling asleep at the reins finds himself cut of from the convoy in the middle of a heavy storm. Ordered by the convoy leader to attempt a different route, Gabriels luck changes for the worst, not only coming across Theresa, a mystical blind lady, but also struck by more bad luck as Seren manages to get severely wounded by a mysterious and violent force called The Corruption. Theresa then leads our troubled twosome to a safe haven, offering Gabriel an ultimatum, he can save his horse Seren, but at a great cost. So begins a huge quest, travelling the many sights of Albion, battling many of the hideous creatures that lurk within the shadows and confronting The Corruption.
Rather than the free roaming exploits of a would be king this is more like an on rails shooter, but even then that description does not quite cut it. It's best to think of Fable The Journey as a huge interactive fantasy movie, the story will continually plod along with you making sure nothing bad happens to either Gabriel or Seren, restarting a chapter if you fail.
The gameplay is split into two major areas; whilst in your caravan view the Kinect requires you to use reins to control Seren by means of some easy to use and logical gestures. Sitting on the edge of your sofa with a straight back and keeping your hands close to your lap you can steer Seren left or right; though as I mentioned earlier this is a very linear game so whilst you are not free to travel where you like you are mainly dodging hazards and collecting the many experience gems that litter the tracks. You can also make Seren go from a canter to a gallop and even a sprint or if in serious trouble, raising your hands above your head to bring Seren to a quick full stop. Just by keeping it simple and similar to real life actions Lionhead Studios have overcome most of the Kinect's downpoints, making these parts of the game a wonderful experiance.
The same can even be said once Gabriel gains his powers from his gauntlets, jumping off his caravan and casting spells to ward off the many baddies of Albion. Using both hands you are able to cast a range of magical powers that allow for attacks, defence and even a small element of puzzle solving. With your right hand you initially can cast a bolt of electricity that has the ability to be manoeuvred after casting with a swift swipe of your hand. Your right hand is more about defence and manipulation, with you crossing your chest deflecting attacks and charging magic by holding your hand at shoulder height and then pushing forward, creating a push spell that again you can manipulate with a swipe, sending foes flying all over the place. Alone these magical powers work well, but once you start earning more powers and start getting into larger fights and try to create makeshift combos the Kinect does have a little trouble in keeping up, resulting in a few unnecessary and frustrating deaths.
Even with the general art direction of the wonderful world of Albion being splendid in all it's beuty, it's the people that make this world even more-so and though a lot of the humour has been lost this time around, the ability to stop at certain parts of the track to listen to locals or the general banter between Gabriel and Theresa keep it very real. To add a little responsibility to the gameplay you again have a very close relationship with another species, this time your horse Seren. Though on the majority of the areas you only really see her backside, at certain areas of the game you can dismount in a safe area and almost like a virtual pet, groom and tend to Serens wounds. It's a nice touch, adding a nice little break from battles and chases.
A huge departure from the rest of the Fable games but at the same time managing to keep its essence in tact Fable The Journey is a great single player game. In the end what is most suprising is the final score for a Kinect enabled game, I had personally written off that sad set of robotic eyeballs staring blankly at me every day, especially with games like Dragonball Z for Kinect that just replaced a controller for hand gestures, this shows that if done correctly there can be some decent motion controlled games out there and with this shock realisation it's just as well I can sit down whilst playing Fable The Journey.
Words by Ash Buchanan.