Fable: The Journey is an on-rails adventure game from Lionhead Studios that puts you in the shoes of Gabriel, our unlikely hero, as he must use magic to protect Albion. Unfortunately, it's hindered by poor Kinect controls that ruin the experience.
- The world of Albion is captured really well.
- When the action works, it's pretty cool throwing magic projectiles and tethering enemies.
- The Kinect doesn't work properly all the time, making it hard to play the game.
- To recalibrate the sensor, you have to leave your game. That's just silly.
- There are plenty of sequences that seem entirely too long.
Fable: The Journey Review:
Fable: The Journey might not be your typical 20 hour Fable epic, but it takes the wonderful setting and visuals from past Fable experiences and gives the spinoff the character that it needs to avoid falling flat. Kinect hasn’t done well for experiences like this in the past, but Fable: The Journey might just be what Kinect needs to turn things around, for better or worse.
You play as Gabriel, a young-man who is separated from the rest of the soldiers through a series of unfortunate, but predictable circumstances. Luckily, he comes across Theresa, a seer who leads him to discover his powers. It’s all a bit silly and weird, but it fits for the series, so it’s not too out of the ordinary. You’ll spend a good amount of time throughout the game –and a good majority of the first hour– controlling Gabriel’s horse, Seren.
Control of Seren is pretty simple, requiring you to hold your hands like you’re holding reins and shifting your hands forward and back. This doesn’t mean that it’s the most ideal situation, as it doesn’t always work as it should, often making it hard to dodge the dozens of obstacles that are put out in front of you when you’re in a hurry, but it’s better than unresponsive controls. You can also control the horses speed by cracking the reins, with a walking speed and running speed. You can also whip the reins while at the top speed to boost, using some of the horses stamina. It’s good to go faster, but makes it exponentially harder to control the horse at that point.
Throw fireballs? No big deal.
Of course, the biggest part of Fable: The Journey is the use of magic. Gabriel is equipped with magic powers when he acquires magic gauntlets while trying to save his horse. This grants him magic powers that he can use to take down Hobbes, Hollow Men, and the other enemies that he encounters along his journey.
Powers are equipped to each hand, making it easy to chain together attacks using each of the different hands. With your left hand, you can use Tether, which allows you to grab onto enemies or objects and throw them. It works well for crowd management and makes you feel like a Jedi, throwing enemies across the ground. Since it only works on objects and people, the aim works pretty well, making it the most accurate part of Fable: The Journey.
The same cannot be said for the right hand attacks (and some of the other unlockable attacks) though, as I had trouble getting them to work reliably even under the best conditions. Now, normally this would be a consequence of the environment, but everything else seems to work reliably, no matter the lighting conditions (of which I tried many) or distance from the Kinect. According to the calibration, it is recognizing me perfectly.
Baddest Wizard in Albion
Thankfully, it worked well enough 60-80% of the time to get through the heavy action areas. Using your magical attacks is relatively straight forward. You move your arm toward the screen from your shoulder with your palm facing toward the screen. It’s like you’re shoving the attack onto the screen. When it works, it works spectacularly and really conveys the action well, making you feel like the baddest wizard in all of Albion.
It’s easy to switch between the attacks with the voice controls, but can take some extra time when changing using the motion controls. It just isn’t recognized the first time, so you spend the time and effort of redoing the motion multiple times. When utilizing the voice controls properly, it’s simple to juggle between powers, which you’ll need to do to take down larger enemies and bosses. It’s as simple as calling out the name of the power, so there’s not that much to remember.
You can use Aftertouch on your abilities too, which allows you to bend your magic projectiles around cover and objects. It works extremely well for taking out enemies that are hiding behind cover or a piece of the environment. It’s surprisingly effective and easy to control as well since you have direct control over the projectile, you just wave your hand toward the enemy.
Don’t upgrade that Horse!
As you progress through the game, you’ll level up and earn upgrade points that allow you to make your spells or horse more powerful. I wouldn’t recommend putting any points into the horse though, unless you have severe trouble controlling it. Your points are more beneficial to put into your powers, allowing for more shards or powerful projectiles. It is key if you plan on playing through more than one area of the game at a time, otherwise you’ll tire out too easily.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Fable: The Journey is that the technology still isn’t there. So much time and energy is wasted by redoing motions until the Kinect finally recognizes them. It usually happens in an action-filled moment when you’re frantically trying to get it to work, so it often leads to unfair damage or even death. At times, it just won’t recognize basic movements and that's unacceptable at this point in the Kinect's lifecycle.
Kinect breaks this journey.
With the rich Fable ascetics and humor, it’s a real bummer that The Journey didn’t work out. It’s an unfortunate circumstance that the game was limited by the hardware and the unpredictable variables that surround it. Despite what Peter Molyneux might want you to believe, Fable: The Journey is an on-rails adventure, but that’s okay. It works to its advantage and makes for an extremely cool setting and adventure, that’s sadly brought down by uncontrollable elements. Fable: The Journey is a great idea, but when it doesn’t work most of the time, it’ll quickly frustrate you and remind you of the worst Kinect experiences.