Review by horror_spooky

"There and back again"

Lionhead stirred up controversy when it was revealed that the next chapter in the Fable franchise was not going to be a traditional game that righted the wrongs of Fable III, but instead it was to be an on-rails adventure game that used Kinect for all of its control input. Traditional Fable fans were outraged at this change in direction, and while Fable: The Journey is a rough adventure, I think those disgruntled Fable fans may be the ones that will find the most to like about this game.

Fable: The Journey is dependent on its plot. It is an on-rails adventure game, and as such, the characters and story are necessary to keep the player invested in the action on screen. Thankfully, Lionhead knows character, and they know plot. The game is oozing with charm, with that trademark Fable art style resulting in eye-popping visuals, showcasing the gorgeous graphical design of the game. The main characters are all likeable, and the twists and turns of the plot result in genuine character development and a satisfying conclusion to the story arc that began with the original Fable on Xbox.

Gabriel is the main character of this game, but he's no hero. The hero lineage in the other Fable games has died out, except for Theresa the Seer. The stories of old are dismissed as childish fables, and Albion has forgotten all about magic. However, a powerful evil looks to return to Albion and destroy it, and when Gabriel winds up separated from his tribe, it is almost fate that he meets Theresa, the puppet master behind many of the events in the previous Fable games. Gabriel shortly thereafter acquires magical gauntlets, and he finds himself on a quest to save Albion.

Throughout the course of the game, Gabriel deals with many deep personal issues and dilemmas that arise and shape him into a completely different person. The Gabriel at the beginning of the game is happy-go-lucky, a goofy dreamer that is obsessed with fables. By the end of the game, he's much more jaded and serious. Gabriel deals with sacrifice, horror, death, and many more obstacles on his own personal journey.

Fable: The Journey is named such to reflect both the aforementioned character journey Gabriel experiences, but also the core gameplay. Players spend the bulk of the game on Gabriel's wagon, steering his horse out of the way of obstacles and cracking reigns on her back to make her fun faster. Gabriel's horse is named Seren, and she serves a similar purpose to the dog in Fable II, in that players are meant to grow attach to her and care for her in a way that transcends her role as a character in a video game.

This is accomplished by interacting with Seren at campsites. It is here that players are able to hold their hands over her wounds to heal them, feed the horse apples, clean her fur, and pump water for her trough. All of these actions are performed using Kinect, and admittedly, the Kinect controls manage to be clever a few times. With motion controls debuting way back in 2006, it's rare that a game with motion control capability can still force a grin out of me, but Fable: The Journey is one of those games.

The rest of the game is spent solving puzzles and fighting enemies. Combat in the game is immensely satisfying, and requires strategy from the player to use spells in an effective manner. Learning the best combination of spells is crucial to surviving the tougher battles in the game, and the result is a surprisingly deep combat experience. Environment interaction also comes into play during these sequences as Gabriel is able to use his spells to solve puzzles, blow up explosive barrels, and walk around the environment by "leaning". These are the best parts of the game that truly drew me in to the adventure.

Unfortunately, when Kinect doesn't work properly, Fable: The Journey is akin to a train wreck. I see all of these good ideas wasted and destroyed in a blaze of despair while I struggle for twenty minutes to do something as simple to open a treasure chest. Spell accuracy was almost always off, despite multiple calibration attempts, and the game devolved into a sort of flailing contest during the more hectic sequences as a result. It pains me, because if it wasn't for these issues, Fable: The Journey would've been the strongest argument for Kinect. It just seems that Lionhead did not have a good grasp of how to handle the peripheral before starting development on the game.

I have been a huge advocate for Kinect's voice commands. In Mass Effect 3, voice commands changed the game completely, resulting in more fast-paced combat while still allowing me to be strategic and tactical during the game. It's hard for me to go back to the older Mass Effect games without that added Kinect support. Unfortunately, Fable: The Journey makes minimal use of Kinect's voice command capabilities, but when it does, it works, as expected, near-perfectly. Voice commands are used to transform the Bolt spell into a fireball, as well as navigate the menus and equip other spells. Besides these and calming down the horse (which I found had little to do with actually speaking to the beast), I feel that the voice command capabilities of Kinect were severely underutilized in this game.

Fable: The Journey is a short adventure, clocking in at about five to six hours if one sticks to the main path. Of course, there is an Arcade Mode that is actually quite entertaining as well as achievements to unlock. Optional side areas can be explored while trotting down the path too, but they rarely lead to anything worthwhile, and are still very linear in nature. That being said, Fable: The Journey is not a very lengthy experience, but due to its nature, it really shouldn't be.

I want to recommend this game, but it is difficult to do so. There are so many things that it does right, but it has one major flaw that can, for some, make the game virtually unplayable. And that is with the game's poor use of Kinect, which results in frustrating gameplay and wonky sequences that could've been fantastic if Kinect worked as it should. Fable: The Journey has a storyline that is probably the best in any Fable game yet that ties a nice pretty bow on the current Fable storyline while leaving the door open for even more memorable adventures in the land of Albion. For this reason, I think that the disgruntled diehard Fable fans should give this game a shot if they can withstand the motion controls that don't always work.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 10/17/12

Game Release: Fable: The Journey (US, 10/09/12)

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