Fable: The Journey
For all its best efforts, Fable: The Journey is a nice idea often hampered by its only method of control – the Kinect. Lionhead’s Albion is a fantasy world still rich with character and lore explored further here, but the limitations inherent to the motion-based camera can’t always afford The Journey the technical prowess it needs.
The Journey plants you in the boots of Gabriel, the typical reluctant hero whose chance meeting with Fable mainstay, the mystical seer Theresa, sets off an all-too familiar tale of fate-of-the-world-hanging-in-the-balance proportions. Although the story itself is nothing to shout about, the characterisation of Gabriel and Theresa as well as the cast of folk met along the way is certainly well done. Everyone is well-voiced and the lighthearted humour interspersed between all the melodrama is corny, but in a fun kind of way. More importantly, characters have backstories worthy of the time spent on them, even though the threads pulling everything together along the way aren’t too engaging.
In the translation to a Kinect title, there’s not much else beyond The Journey besides its setting and surrounding narrative to differentiate it from the most notable parts of the main series. All of the familiar fantasy trappings adorned by Fable in the past remain as stand-out as ever, including its quirky and often humorous appropriation of “ye olde” Britain – accents and all. The game itself however is quite different as the entire experience is played from the first-person perspective. And despite what you may or may not have heard, it is largely on-rails.
As a result, the majority of the combat sections thrust you from point to point in the shooting gallery sense, only moving you on once an area is empty. At the core of The Journey’s combat are spell attacks, which are triggered by unique motion prompts key to each defined spell. Your two most basic spell attacks, a magical bolt attack and a sort of force power which allows you to push and pull objects and enemies, are assigned to your right and left hand respectively. Bolt essentially acts as your assault rifle, offering dependable offense against the swaths of enemy hobbes, balverines and whatever else Albion has to throw at you. As things progress you gain access to few more moves, such as a fireball activated by waving with the right hand, and a throwable shard which requires to pull your arm back back and then fling it forward like a javelin. On top of other options like the ability to counter enemy attacks by raising either arm up as a makeshift shield, there is a decent variety of powers and manoeuvres at your hand(s) to consider when faced with battle. There are some light puzzle sections sprinkled throughout as well, but they’re merely simplistic motions to go through before the next plot-point comes up.
At times, specifically at points nearer the final chapters and once you’ve been bestowed with more powers and better upgrades, the action opens up in some fairly interesting ways. Using your spells drains a unified meter, so you can’t just spam a load of bolt attacks at once and fudge each encounter that way. However, the greatest obstacle to overcome is the Kinect itself. During more hectic battles, only about half of your attacks register in the direction you want. There are times when you hit your target by sheer luck alone; other times you veer so far wide from your chosen mark that you wonder why the Kinect even bothered inputting your gesture at all. It’s a very inconsistent system which deserves to work more efficiently than it does. Even though it’s all essentially a light-gun game with a colourful fantasy wash, it’s actually a pretty satisfying feeling when it works and you start stringing together your powers in creative ways. The big problem is that those moments don’t happen nearly enough.
The other half of your journey is spent horse-carting Gabriel’s BFF Seren. Handling Seren and the caravan you spend a considerable time perched on isn’t particularly difficult, but it sure is boring. Along your travels you pick up different types of gems which all tally up to your next aforementioned upgrade. There are different kinds, too – green gems can be gotten at any speed, whilst red gems require you to crack the whip on Seren to speed up and blues can only be acquired by slowing down to trotting speed. It’s never really worth slowing down to collect the blue gems as you gain enough from blazing through paths to get an ample amount of both green and red gems. Your accumulated points can be spent upgrading your powers as well as you and your horse’s health. Seren can be hurt, so you can also mend your steed of any wounds suffered at these stops and others – a deed as utilitarian as it is kind-hearted. There’s also a score-based arcade mode to run through finished levels should you so desire.
When the Kinect is sober enough to reveal the better parts of The Journey, magic can definitely happen. But even if Fable The Journey worked flawlessly, it wouldn’t be the most exciting or daring game to ever come about. Sadly, even though the identifiable Fable charm found all over The Journey lends much-needed character to the proceedings, the Kinect’s technical blemishes can too often account for more motion-related headaches than you might be willing to put up with.
Have you downloaded the latest issue from GamerZines yet? Check it out here!