Previews// Fable: The Journey

Posted 18 Sep 2012 20:00 by
Microsoft isn?t giving up on Kinect. It has a good thing going with the Xbox 360 Dashboard integration and kid?s games, but core gamers just don?t seem to be sold on the motion technology. The publisher is hoping that Lionhead?s upcoming Fable: The Journey will do much to change people?s minds on the device.

The question is, will it? After playing through the opening stages of the game an hour or two, I can say that it probably will... for a few people. At the very least, Fable: The Journey seems to be much more technically sound than any previous core game effort on Kinect. The peripheral does a good job of tracking my movements. But there is, as usual, a slight caveat or two to go along with that.

Before we talk about that, though, it?s worth noting that the story in Fable: The Journey is one that intends to be utterly immersive for the player. One obvious reason for this is that you?re directly controlling the actions of protagonist Gabriel, a Dweller who gets separated from his tribe whilst traveling across Albion.

Gabriel is tasked with having to make his own way around a treacherous canyon in order to catch up with his convoy, which is dangerous in itself - but he soon bumps into the seer known as Theresa, and before long he is desperately trying to escape the darkness of Corruption. This dark essence still plagues Albion, even fifty years after the events of Fable III. And Gabriel quickly learns that he is the chosen hero destined to stop it from spreading across the land.

What I noticed from my time with the game was that gameplay (at least, at this stage) is split into two key elements - spellcasting (or fighting) and horse-riding. Gabriel has a trusty steed that will help him travel from one area of Albion to another, and controlling these segments of the game is simple to anyone who?s ever seen someone ride a horse in ye olde days.

You use both hands to work invisible reins. Moving both hands up and down quickly moves the horse to one of three states - from a slow trot to a fast gallop. Pulling one arm back and moving the other forward will allow you to steer the horse left and right, and yanking both hands above your head will bring your ride to a complete stop. At times, you will need to slow down so that your horse doesn?t hurt itself over rocky roads and tricky terrain.

Once Gabriel obtains some enchanted gauntlets later in the story, you can (after a lengthy tutorial which doubles as a calibration test) use your arms as weapons to shoot bolts of lightning and other useful spells. To fire your most powerful attack - the lightning bolt - you need hold up your right hand to charge the spell, and then push forward to shoot it off.

The left hand spell works in a similar manner, but is more of a ?grab? move - by holding your left arm out after connecting with an enemy, you can move your arm across the screen to fling your foe about the landscape and deal damage. Using the two spells, you can perform some pretty fun combination moves. And as Gabriel wanders down a dark cavernous dungeon he will face goblins, spiders and all kinds of creepy crawlies that will need a good zap.

I mentioned caveats before - while for the most part Fable: The Journey is perhaps one of the most enjoyable core Kinect games I have ever played (next to Child of Eden), there still remains an issue with accuracy and calibration. Quick movements seemed to confuse Kinect as to where you wanted to aim, but if you take your time and methodically cast your spells there isn?t so much of an issue. I?m just concerned whether the game gets more frantic in terms of enemies on screen later on - and whether Kinect will be able to handle your input as a result.

The other thing to note is that Fable: The Journey seems to be practically on rails during this early segment. There was perhaps one or two moments on horseback where I had an option to take a high or low road, but these were nothing more than dull forks that merged back into the same road after 30 seconds.

To make travel interesting, there are points where you get to stop on the road and interact with townsfolk. Unless you like jokes and sequences that don?t relate at all to the plot, however, I think you could safely ignore these.

Fable: The Journey is looking like Microsoft?s best chance to show core gamers that Kinect is a technology worth investing time in - and from what I played, it might just fulfil that goal. For the most part.

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