STAFF REVIEW of Fable: The Journey (Xbox 360)

Monday, November 19, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

Fable: The Journey Box art I’ll admit, I was among the majority of gamers that was disappointed when Fable: The Journey was first announced last year, being shown as an on-rails Kinect game rather than a fully realized RPG much like the past three main Fable games. Then we were assured that Fable: The Journey was “not on-rails” so I waited with cautious optimism on faith. In Fable: The Journey you’ll be using your hands to cast magic spells against your enemies, but for the majority of the game you’ll be steering your trusty horse Seren throughout the campaign. Here we are a year later with a Fable spinoff game solely for Kinect; so is it on-rails and does it live up to the quality the franchise has brought so far that I’ve loved for years?

Taking place half a decade after the events of Fable III, you play as Gabriel, a normal guy travelling with his tribe and due to falling asleep when he was told specifically not to, is then separated from his friends and must take quite a long detour seemingly across a vast majority of Albion simply because a single bridge was destroyed. Gabriel comes across a woman running from something and reluctantly decides to help her when she utters out his name. This woman is Theresa, the same one from each of the previous Fable games and will take you on a journey to battle an evil darkness simply called The Corruption. It’s the tried and true tale of a reluctant boy who doesn’t want to be a hero but eventually accepts it once he realizes his destiny. It’s a shame that Gabriel is a whiney kid who isn’t all that likeable, tells bad jokes, and is clearly way too affectionate about his horse. The same goes for the pacing of the game that just repeats the same order of travelling on horse, get to a new dungeon, clear the enemies to get upgrades and repeat.

For being a full length Kinect game (roughly eight or so hours), luckily the decision to allow sit down play (well, actually force as there’s no standing up play) is the only option here. So be prepared to flail and thrust your arms all over while sitting on the couch (while sitting straight up if you want a chance of Kinect to even attempt to recognize your intended movements).

Easily half of the whole game is Gabriel driving his cart from place to place while attempting to not only gather experience orbs but to also try to not steer your horse into objects with Kinect fighting you the whole time. You need to virtually hold the reins with your arms outwards, pulling one arm in to correspond with what direction you want to try and turn. Once you see how slippery the steering controls are, you might wonder how many ales Gabriel knocked back before setting off on his journey. There’s one major flaw with having at least half the game being horse riding though; it’s completely boring. Sure it may be fun at first to try and collect all the experience orbs on your path but when the game even tells you that you’re able to drop your hands and have Seren autopilot, there’s really no reason to put any effort into these sections other than whipping the reigns to make it go faster. There will be times where you get to brush Seren and feed her apples to help her regenerate health, but as you can imagine, these sections are not all that exciting either.

When you aren’t busy steering Seren for half of the game, the other half is the combat against enemies with your magic gauntlets. Your right hand is your main offensive spell, Bolt, and is cast by holding your hand shoulder level palm outwards and then thrusting it forwards in the direction you want to cast it…in theory. Your left hand is used for your Push spell that can be used to stun enemies and manipulate objects in the environment (though my left hand spells never ever seemed to work)…in theory. Once you realize that none of your spells are going anywhere remotely close to where you’re intending them to you can recalibrate the Kinect, though not mid-battle, meaning you have to restart at the last checkpoint every time you recalibrate. It’s very deceiving though, as your spells seem to work for the most part in the training and calibration section, but once in the wild your spells will miss so badly it’s as if there’s a magnetic field bouncing them away from your target. The biggest problem is there is no targeting reticule so you never know where Kinect thinks you’re trying to aim as opposed to where you’re actually attempting to.

It’s almost common knowledge that most Kinect games simple work or fail quite hardly at even working somewhat correctly. This game falls into the second category and in my experience, is simply broken when it comes to controls. You’ll steer Seren into countless walls and obstacles and miss nine out of ten shots with your spells, but hey, at least the horse grooming section works like a charm. I was honestly very surprised that Lionhead turned out a product this broken when other games like Dance Central are the epitome of how to do a Kinect game properly. When you’re stuck on the tutorial section for over a half hour because your spells don’t register properly, frustration kicks in quite quickly and it’s hard enough to keep motivation to continue playing when half the game is a horse carriage simulator, never mind fighting with the controls the whole time.

Every loading screen is a reminder of how to properly sit, as if to try and make you think that’s going to help in any way. Sadly you’re simply at the mercy of Kinect and with the many frustrating hours I had trying to pull in the reins, I can’t recommend it, even for the Fable diehards like myself; there’s simply too many huge failings to overlook.

Reflecting back I was trying to see how this fit into the Fable lore and gameplay, but the more I thought about it, the more it didn’t seem to fit at all. Sure it takes place in Albion and includes Theresa, but there’s no moral system, no marriages, no sword or arrow gameplay, no becoming a king or having children, no choices to really be made, no house buying, and most importantly, there’s no chickens to kick. That’s what makes Fable…Fable. Instead we’re given a horse racing game with some magic gauntlets that shoots a spell.

You’re force fed this relationship between Gabriel and his horse in an attempt to make you really care for Seren like you did your dog in the past two Fable games but it doesn’t work and feels so forced that it’s almost embarrassing. I understand Gabriel loves his horse, but it’s almost at times as if he LOVES his horse. I never thought I’d play a Fable game I didn’t enjoy, but when so little effort is done to make it work as intended or make it feel like a real Fable game, this is the result. Simply put, unless you want a horse and carriage simulator, it’s just not that fun in the slightest. Oh, and whomever told us all that it wasn’t on-rails to appease us; they lied, it is on-rails completely.

Overall: 3.3 / 10
Gameplay: 1.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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