Fable: The Journey Preview

written by Alex ‘Alaric’ Lemcovich on 25.9.12 FableTheJourney_E32012_04_HobbeMine

I’ve played the recently released demo of Fable: The Journey and after having seen how it handles magic casting I’m sure this will be one of the best experiences we’ll have had on the Kinect so far.

It’s not like the good folks over at Lionhead are promising us the world, but I wish people would stop feeding gamers this bullshit line of ‘being the hero’. You’re not a hero, gamer, you’re just sat on your arse waving your hands about in front of a camera device – welcome back to reality.

If you want to think about this in terms of escapism, it hits the mark after you get used to the various gestures you employ to control Gabriel’s magic, with your left hand in control of the ‘force push’ spell – able to sling enemies and items around the playing field, or tear off opponent’s shields – and your right hand acting in an offense capacity – hurling spikes, fireballs, and lightning at enemies. There’s also a guard or shield spell you can throw out to protect yourself from attacks, if you bring across an arm in a sort of half-karate block gesture, and this can also deflect projectiles back to their point of origin.

There’s a stream of articles online talking about other aspects of the Kinnect gameplay we don’t get to see in the demo – your horse and cart being two of them.

Fable: The Journey looks like it’ll be half on-foot action, half racing, with your experience points and rewards based on how fast you can zip across Albion’s roads, and it’s already clear that you’ll have to defend yourself while riding as well.

I’ll give Fable: The Journey credit for being different; I’d never have thought of playing a game this way before, but at the same time we have to look past the spectacle and consider the basic components here.

The story, for instance, is an almost complete departure from the classic Fable game structure where you played as an individual who was literally destined to become a great warrior of their time. Gabriel is NOT a hero of his time; he’s something of a coward actually if you watch the trailers. But his meeting with Theresa – that mysterious seer who was the sister of your character in the original Fable – changes all that and so off we go on another adventure.

I’m almost positive that, gameplay aside, Fable: The Journey retains that distinctly British comedic flavour that made fans love the series, so that’s something we can all look forward to.

The mechanism for this journey, though, has me concerned as someone who played and loved Fables One to Three.

When you sit down and play the demo, after you get used to the magic and the gestures and the somewhat cool fact that you’re not using a controller, you realise that this game is a very on-rails kind of affair. I’ve played enough arcade shooters in my time to know one when I see one and, sophisticated though it may be, Fable: The Journey has all the qualities of an arcade shooter. A damned good arcade shooter with RPG elements, sure, but an arcade shooter nonetheless, and in that we find a departure from the mainstay of the Fable franchise – that you have choices.

And is it me, or do things look a little more child-friendly in Albion?

It’s been revealed to us already that the Corruption – that purple-black ooze that was last seen trying to take things over in Darksiders II – has started to cover Albion’s picturesque landscapes and spew forth monsters of all kinds, in spite of your Hero’s triumph over the Crawler at the end of Fable III. But the creatures themselves look a little less like the possessed or living statues with torture implements attached to them from Fable III, and more like the kind of thing you’d see in Sesame Street if they had a sex dungeon. It’s early days yet and Lionhead has by no means revealed everything, so it’s entirely possible that the darker adult stuff will bubble up to the surface when we play the game.

I’m just saying, that part of Fable III when you get stranded in that ancient ruin with the Crawler’s minions…That was damned good gaming, and I’ll be sorry if something that inspired doesn’t make an appearance in this new Fable.

In the meantime, Fable: The Journey looks and sounds every bit as Fable-y as its forebears even though it doesn’t play like they did, and as long as that core flavour remains intact it could pay for long time fans to let go of what it was and embrace it as something new.

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