It's not very often that a game courts a huge amount of controversy before it's even released, but that's exactly what Fable: The Journey did when it was announced at E3 2011. Criticised for its gameplay, or lack of it, many were unsure if the game would be able to deliver on the promises that Lionhead were making. It was something that irked Peter Molyneux, so much so that he instigated the famous signature wall. But now we have it in our hands and it certainly does offer a new way to experience the Fable universe.
Set 50 years after Fable III, Fable: The Journey depicts a time when Albion is being taken over by The Corruption. This is where Gabriel steps in. He's a young man who, through a series of happenings, ends up on a journey to save Albion by helping Theresa restore her power.
After having his trusted steed wounded in these series of happenings, Theresa leads him to a sacred temple in the hopes that it can be healed. This allows him to acquire a powerful pair of gauntlets, which let him cast spells, but also grapple.
The gauntlets you acquire become the core focus of the gameplay in Fable: The Journey. In many ways, it does feel as though Gabriel's actions are reflective of what you're performing in your living room and this is to Microsoft's credit. You'll be firing lightning bolts out of your hands and even casting more complex spells by combining different movements and gestures.
There's also a spell crafting mode, which allows you to draw items and use them as spells. It means there are quite a few different ways to tackle the foes the game throws at you, but only if it works properly.
Despite having some decent, and rather complicated mechanics for attacking in different ways, how the attacks perform is a different matter entirely. Despite your best efforts, lightning bolts and other spells you fire are never that accurate - something which can be rather frustrating. When things work, the game is enjoyable, but it doesn't happen often enough. It's something that seems to be quite systematic with many of the more serious motion controller titles.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, and perhaps rather embarrassingly, the game is also on-rails. Much of the pre-release debacle was about how this wasn't the case, but while you are able to guide your horse (Seren) around the screen, there is a set path and it's a little bit disappointing.
Despite all of the promises, this causes Fable: The Journey to be a rather limiting experience, something which is made even worse when compared to the other Fable titles. Gone are the trademarks of the series, the deep morale choices and classic humour. Instead, everything feels rather watered down.
Perhaps the only element where this isn't true, is Seren - she isn't just a weak plot device. Fable: The Journey helps to introduce a rather unique bond between you and your trusty steed. Despite only being a virtual entity, anyone with empathy will feel a connection, especially when Seren takes damage and struggles on. Some of the damage can be rather brutal too, and you're tasked with patching Seren up by using healing spells or even removing spikes.
From the perspective of presentation, Fable: The Journey is a decent looking game, but that's about it. Many of the elements look too compressed and despite being a game that's released towards the end of a console generation, and a first-party title at that, it doesn't really shine in any way. The music isn't that memorable either, leading to the presentation of the game to be decidedly average.
Fable: The Journey does little to convince as one of Microsoft Kinect's more "core" titles. It offers up a decent premise and the gesture-controlled spell casting is an interesting concept - it just doesn't deliver. There are some engaging moments, but they are far and few between. Even if you're a fan of the Fable franchise, it's probably worth giving this one a miss.
|» The relationship that builds with Seren.|
|» Spell crafting mode adds longevity.|
|» Gesturing to cast spells can feel quite cool.|
|» Inconsistency with the spell casting.|
|» It's on-rails.|
|» Poor presentation.|