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'Fable: The Journey' preview: Three hours with the Kinect adventure

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Fable: The Journey screenshot - River Crossing

© Microsoft Games


Fable: The Journey is a new direction for Microsoft's celebrated role-playing series, swapping out melee-based combat and third-person dungeon exploration for a Kinect-controlled adventure directed from the first-person. We sit down with the game's opening hours to evaluate the ways it uses the motion controller ahead of release next month.

Set a few hundred years after the events of Fable 3, the world of Albion is one where magic and heroes have become legends rather than day-to-day occurrences. Gabriel, a bumbling daydreamer who still believes in monsters and the mystical, becomes separated from his tribe after snoozing while on guard duty.

A run-in with series regular Theresa - a seer that has shaped the destinies of heroes from previous games - sees him entrusted with powerful magic gauntlets against his will, and is tasked with the weighty goal of saving the world of an all-devouring force, and eventually, finding his way home.

Fable: The Journey screenshot - camp prism

© Microsoft Games

Fable: The Journey screenshot

© Microsoft Games



Fable goes first person

Fable: The Journey is split into two types of experiences. One is guiding your horse and cart through Albion's vast, wonderful landscape from the first-person perspective. As you hold imaginary reigns in your hands, a crack will see your horse dart forward, while raising your hands to your chest or over your head will see her slow or stop respectively. Turning, meanwhile, is a simple tug of your am on the desired side.

'Fable: The Journey' screenshot
These controls proved not only to be very easy to understand and functional, but often really good fun. Cracking the reigns is a surprisingly satisfying action to perform, and turning works more subtly than you think. While at first you're making large, over-the-top movements, the game soon tells you to relax and rest your arms on your thighs between turns, and from there even sliding your arms back and forth works very well.

Although these sections are linear, taking you strictly from one area to the next, there are a few things to keep you busy. Experience orbs are lined up along roads, with various colours requiring you to adjust from a docile trot to a full-on sprint in order to pick them up. Roads sometimes fork off into two, giving you the option of collecting increased riches at the risk of taking on high winds or more rocky surfaces that could incur injury to your horse.

Elsewhere, optional stopping points give you amusing cutscenes with roadside characters, representing the best of Fable's trademark humour. Others see you briefly go on foot to open a chest and grab collectable cards, before battling back to your cart and going on the road again. These, at least in the early game, both seem to be short-lived diversions instead of rich side-quests you might expect.

Fable: The Journey screenshot - Destroyer

© Microsoft Games

'Fable: The Journey' screenshot

© Microsoft Games / Lionhead Studios



Magic in the palms of your hands

Once Gabriel gets his hands on his magical gauntlets, you're able to defend yourself as you explore caves, forests and villages on foot. Your right hand flings orbs of energy which can damage the resident Hobbes and Balverines of the world, while the left catches them with an electric whip, allowing you to throw them to the sides with a swift fling of an arm.

Fable: The Journey screenshot - Hobbe Mine
Movement and progression forward in dungeons is handled for you - making these sections reminiscent of arcade light gun games - but certain parts allow you to lean to the sides to avoid damage or get closer to enemy waves.

While combat is at first fairly simple, it grows in complexity as it combines enemy types, such as Hobbes that fling bombs that require quick blocks or carry shifts that need to be whipped away - and rewards a stylish and varied approach to combat with bonus experience.

Again, Kinect's detection here works well. After calibrating the sensors (we had to do this a few times to get it just right) you can fling orbs at the screen with surprising accuracy. While there's some degree of auto-aim, you need to always actively think about where you are aiming in order to land your targets, ensuring that combat is engaging.

While it worked the majority of the time, now and again we would come across an object or enemy we just couldn't hit, even after a dozen flings. These moments were obviously baffling and frustrating, and we hope a final spot of polish before release will remedy this particular problem.

Fable: The Journey screenshot - hills

© Microsoft Games



Exploring Albion's various riches

Laying out the controls and establishing the story means that the opening hour or so is a slow, plodding one, but we'd say that Fable: The Journey is a slow burn that becomes better as it progresses, gradually trusting you with the mechanics and grows in complexity without ever being too unwieldily.

It's also impressively paced, too, never letting the respective magic and horse riding sections go on for too long, and intercepts them with high speed chases as a dark force swallows villages and forests, encounters with towering trolls and plunging you into minecart rides where you're surrounded by countless crossbow-wielding Hobbes.

There's also some enjoyable subdued moments; camps allow you to rest and perform a number of cute animations, from picking apples and stroking your horse to heal its wounds, through to filling a trough with a hand pump.

While the campaign's progression means you're continuously going from one area to a next, an Arcade Mode lets you revisit previous sections and attaches leaderboards, adding an increased pressure to combat as you string together kills for higher scores. And for the less competitive types, there are hidden scarecrows to find and also the lure of extra achievements to unlock.


Fable: The Journey engaged us with responsive, fun controls and, once it got going, some impressive momentum behind its campaign. While the controls aren't perfect, they're both subtle and don't push Kinect in directions where it doesn't work - the recent Steel Battalion was an example of too much ambition outstripping technology.

It's important to note that the early reports of Fable: The Journey being on-rails are not completely unfounded, and some key elements of the franchise - morality, character customisation, world-shaping decisions and deep side-quests - are swapped out for a more character-driven story and directed experience.

It's clearly a more guided adventure, then, but the franchise's heart, soul and humour all remain intact, and it looks to be one of the more robust and fleshed-out Kinect games released this year.

Fable: The Journey will be available on October 9 in North America and October 12 in Europe, and a demo is available to download now.

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