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Gaming Review

'Fable: The Journey' review (Xbox 360): A journey worth taking once

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Released on Sunday, Oct 14 2012

'Fable: The Journey' screenshot

© Microsoft Games / Lionhead Studios


Release Date: October 9 (North America), October 12 (Europe)
Platforms available on: Xbox 360
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Adventure

Kinect adventure Fable: The Journey's voyage started with an on-rails E3 demo that was later described as a "mistake". In the time since, gameplay mechanics have been, gone and come back again, while studio co-founder Peter Molyneux left development to start his own company.

After a rollercoaster ride, Fable: The Journey is finally here, and despite proving somewhat limited in some aspects, organic storytelling and beautiful visuals make it an engaging, immersive adventure.

Set 50 years after the events of Fable 3, Fable: The Journey takes place in an Albion where magic and mystery has been replaced by the humdrum of everyday life, where adventuring takes place only within the pages of books and through tales told around the campfire.

Fable: The Journey screenshot - camp prism

© Microsoft Games

Players take control of a traveller named Gabriel, a slightly lazy and bumbling lad with a good heart and active imagination, and whose primary concern in life is taking care of his horse and staying awake at the reins.

Proving far easier said than done, Gabriel nods off in the seat of his carriage and is separated from his tribe by the length of a collapsed bridge.

Alone and forced to take the long road back to camp, he soon stumbles upon Fable mainstay Theresa, who is wounded and being pursued by a dangerous entity called The Corruption. It's a classic tale of good versus evil, with destiny and courage playing a huge role in the quest to save the world.

Played in a first-person perspective and without the need for a game pad, Fable: The Journey's control scheme increases the connection with the environment, despite the odd Kinect glitch. Time is spent either using magic while on foot, or controlling Gabriel's trusty steed Seren. Controlling the horse is a simple matter of pulling the reins left or right, cracking them to speed up or lifting them to slow down.

The relaxed, seated method for directing your horse might take some getting used to, although in truth, it's actually very easy and responsive when you know how. Some sections are best played at a gentle trot, others force players to crack the whip, all the while avoiding debris and collecting experience orbs.


Work your horse too hard or fail to avoid dangers and it will grow wounded and tired, leading to sections within camps where players must tend to Seren's wounds, feed him apples and give him some water. Forming an emotional bond with your horse is a big part of the game, and something which Lionhead executes to perfection.

The magic system is just as intuitive, albeit equally prone to lapses. Players begin with a lightning bolt, block and push/pull move, unlocking additional spells as the game progresses.

Casting magic feels very natural, requiring little more than a forceful hand gesture or two, while blocking is achieved by bringing the left arm across the chest. Sometimes the Kinect sensor incorrectly registers magic instead of blocking, while aiming at specific spots is very much a trial and error affair. More often than not, however, commands are simple enough that players can recover in time should a spell go awry.

Unfortunately, as with many an on-rails release, Fable: The Journey ultimately suffers from repetition. When you break it down section by section, players are only really ever performing two different tasks.

Fable: The Journey screenshot - River Crossing

© Microsoft Games

The development team has made the best of a bad situation by pacing the game so that you're never on foot or in the cart too long, something which is helped by roadside distractions and occasional rest stops. Boss battles and horse chases further break up what would otherwise prove a very shallow game.

The story is told through a series of cutscenes and conversations between characters. The voice acting is superb and the script is excellent, factors which ensure a naturally flowing narrative.

Where previous games and rival releases see players unlock pages of text about the environment and its inhabitants, the world of Albion is instead brought to life through stories told by the lead characters while galloping through country roads, abandoned villages and murky caves. It's a much more organic way to deliver information and really helps immerse players in the game world.

The game's excellent visuals also help to paper over the cracks brought on by its repetitive gameplay. Albion has never looked as good as it does from the back end of a horse. Players will visit a wide variety of vibrant locations which are wonderfully brought to life using the Unreal Engine 3.

Coupled with a great script and slower pace of play, there are times when the imagination takes hold and you forget that it's just a game. Lionhead has certainly done a remarkable job of playing to their strengths to cover up for Kinect's weaknesses.

On reflection, Fable: The Journey is a somewhat shallow on-rails experience with lots of repetition. The pacing, environment and storytelling goes some way towards offseting this problem, however, resulting in a game that shouldn't fail to captivate players who are there for the ride.

For all of its faults, Fable: The Journey is undoubtedly an experience, and one of the better single-player Kinect games on the market, even if it is a journey you're unlikely to make more than once.


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