E3 2011: Fable: The Journey Preview

By Jordan Douglas on June 20, 2011, 1:47PM EDT

Back when Kinect was announced as Project Natal, Microsoft brought out iconic game designer Peter Molyneux to lend his credibility to their lofty ambition of a controller-free gaming experience. Molyneux presented a tech demo, dubbed "Milo", which aspired to create a relationship between players and the little boy on screen. While this project, and the promised Kinect support for Fable III, hasn't seen the light of day, Molyneux finally took center stage at Microsoft's E3 press conference to unveil a real Kinect title, Fable: The Journey.

Set in Albion, Fable: The Journey tasks players with embarking on an epic adventure across the series' vast world. Molyneux specifically mentioned the game takes place shortly after the end of Fable III, although it's not directly related to the Bloodlines trilogy. You play a common dweller, without heroic heritage but with the ability to cast magic, who seems to have little in the world save for a humble horse and carriage.

Fundamentally, The Journey is about the emotional bond between you and your horse. You will cross great distances together, and eventually learn a little about each other. Players can customize verbal commands that the horse will adapt to over time. Movement can also be controlled by making various hand gestures. Either way, players will feel the effects of how they treat their horse. Pushing hard will get you to your destination quickly, but tire the horse. Molyneux hopes that signs of abuse, such as bloody wounds, will trigger an emotional response. If not, eventually your horse will die from this neglect.

A lot was made in the press of The Journey's apparent on-rails nature and how that would constrict player freedom and gameplay depth. So Molyneux went to great pains during our demo to dispel these impressions, stating that players have complete freedom to maneuver their horses across open areas and down branching paths. This exploration wasn't explicitly shown, but it should be noted the game has only been in development since late last year.

One section undeniably on-rails was combat, although Molyneux said this will not be the case in the final version. Players use magic exclusively to deal with enemies in The Journey. By making different hands gestures, various spells will be conjured up. They can be one or two-handed, combined to form new abilities, used to create spears and shields, the list goes on. It's certainly one of the most in-depth uses of Kinect's gesturing functionality we've seen so far, but it remains to be seen how deep it will truly go. Again, Molyneux stressed the combat is versatile enough to adapt with a player's level progression throughout the game.

As usual, Peter Molyneux has initiated a project with great promise and the ability to push Kinect forward. However, there's still many unanswered questions about Fable: The Journey. For the answers to some of them, check back for our full interview with Molyneux.

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