The Fable universe is something special. Lionhead Studios has created a living world with all of their titles that is unique, memorable, funny, and fun to adventure in. Unfortunately for them the critics and gamers are always a little too harsh on them for not being the most unique, memorable, funny, and fun to play.
A lot of the blame falls on Peter Molyneux who is the head of Lionhead. Molyneux is a big voice in the game industry and more than that he is a dreamer. He always concocts innovative features and hopes that some of them are revolutionary. When he speaks he pulls you in wanting more and by the time he finishes you want to get your hands on whatever game he is working on. The game though never quite lives up to the ideas that he talks about, but I will never fault someone for being a dreamer.
In spite of all of this the Fable series continues to be popular and still offers a unique experience that no real game compares to. Players enter the world of Albion in each new installment, enjoying the improvements, seeing how the world has changed, and most of all getting ready to enter a new fairytale.
This is the biggest part for me. Lionhead is the only studio out there that makes it feel like I am an adult fairytale, it is the equivalent of Shrek in my books. Offering both a wonderful, interactive, fun world yet being rude, dirty, and mature.
Breaking away from the normal third-person adventure though is Fable: The Journey. This game utilizes the Kinect and puts players into an on-rails gameplay experience.
Unlike the series you are not your own hero but instead you take control over Gabriel, a member of a gypsy caravan, who stumbles upon Theresa a classic Fable character who guides you throughout the game to help save the world of Albion.
Theresa who is an oracle helps teach, train, and turn you into a hero. With the power of a pair of gauntlets you battle your way through the Albion landscapes of forests, towns, caverns, et cetera.
By pulling your dominant hand to your shoulder and throwing it in a direction at the screen you will cast lightning, by doing the same with the other hand you can force push enemies – even lassoing them and throwing them into explosives. As the game continues on you learn more spells like fireballs and even a magic javelin that you throw…like a javelin.
A great RPG element added in the game which is usually non-existent in a Kinect title is their version of a skill tree. Players can make decisions between using skill points to raise health, increase the mana in their gauntlets, make their lightning hit multiple enemies, use force push on more enemies at once, and more.
The downfall of this though is that I was having a lot of trouble with accuracy. Now it was recommended that I was 6 feet away from the sensor, have the Kinect at least 2 feet above ground level, and all that jazz but my current living arrangement but me slightly out of that range. I was roughly 5 feet from the sensor and it was about 1.75 feet off the ground on a stand that my TV was placed on.
At first I was completely unable to cast spell higher than the middle of my TV, then I could only hit my spells on the lower quarter of my TV, and then finally I wasn’t able to accurately hit anything. I had to adjust my calibration, move things around the room, and use the Kinect Tuner to adjust the angle to make it playable.
I found this strange because whenever I had to ride my horse around (you ride your horse between mission areas, getting story details, and picking up experience orbs) it was very fluid and reacted perfectly. Even when I was doing things like placing my hands in a well, healing/brushing off my horse, or opening chests it would recognize where my hands were placed with almost 100% accuracy.
It was annoying and frustrating to keep make adjustments, but I fully realize I wasn’t in the most ideal play setting. If I was back home on a 62″ TV I am sure the issue would have been minor if at all.
Luckily after figuring that out it was pretty fun, as you ride your horse around, watch cut-scenes, listen to dialogue, interact with optional stops, and fight you start getting a feel for the world. When I got the Kinect sensor identifying me correctly it was great to force push a mine cart into a group of hobbes, shooting lightning at an explosive barrel killing foes, and opening chests to reveal collectables like the “Golden Acorn”.
You can’t judge this game as a non-Kinect title though, you have to compare it to other experiences on the Kinect. This is by far the best Kinect title I have played right next to Kinect: Disneyland Adventures. Is it shallower than a regular game would be? Of course, but they didn’t create a “game”. They created an interactive movie that turned you into the main character.
By keeping players on these “rails” they can fully direct the narrative, the settings, and the events. You are there to do the best you can as the leading role in this story. You make your way through the action with background music that rivals what you would experience in a movie, the excitement, the fear, the tranquility all subconsciously move you through the game. You are still given choices and skill points to make it your story, but for the most part you are here to enjoy a new fairytale spun together by Lionhead.
You get to sit there comfortably while saving the world and giving your arms a work out. It sucks that it took just over two years for someone to create a game really worthwhile and didn’t seem like it was trying to cash in on the “motion gaming gimmick.”
Overall the game is enjoyable for longtime fans of the series and kids who are looking for a new Kinect game. Kids will enjoy using their hands to cast spells and also doing things like brushing your horse, feeding it apples, and other fun interactive things to pull you into the world.
This isn’t a flashy final goodbye for Peter Molyneux who will leave (left) after the conclusion of Fable: The Journey, but it really sums up his career and did it justice. The Fable world and games get better with each new title and it is only a matter of time – possibly the next Xbox when this world becomes a little larger than just a two-player co-operative experience, and might get put on a much larger scale.
A review copy of Fable: The Journey was provided to us for review by Microsoft.