After many fans were disheartened by the Fable: The Journey demo at E3 2011, Lionhead went back to the drawing board, essentially starting from the ground up, and this year's fully playable hands on demonstration has far exceeded all expectations. Fable: The Journey is an entirely motion-based game for the Kinect. This means rather than the open-world RPGs of past games, The Journey has a specific narrative played out on rails with light RPG elements. The game is designed for sit-down play and is said to be 15 hours long, the first Kinect game I've encountered that can boast either claim.
The basic modes are traveling and combat, which occasionally combine. When you are traveling, you control the speed and direction of the horse with your arms, avoiding obstacles and falling off cliffs. Though the game is mostly linear, you get to decide which paths to take during these segments. Each path can offer different mini quests, puzzles and treasures.
Combat is where the game really shines, though. Fable veteran Therese gives your character, Gabriel, some good ol' magic gauntlets, which means you get to cast SPELLS. The mechanics of the motion control here really make you feel in control of the magic and are so incredibly intuitive that at times, I was developing my own strategies before the development team could instruct me. There are five different types of spells, not including the shield or force push, activated with your left arm, or healing, which I didn't get to see, and each of those spells has 3 level ups. In the demo, I got to play with a standard attack magic, a fireball spell and a javelin spell. Somehow, the spell gameplay has the exact same addictive, all-consuming feeling that spells had in Fable 2, before they were streamlined in Fable 3. In no time, I was force pushing an enemy with my left hand as I blasted him with my right, every so often pulling his his limbs off until he was swiftly finished. Fable: The Journey empowers the player by putting the control square in our hands and only our hands. The game even accounts for poor aim, with "after touch," a feature where by swinging your right hand down, you can pull the magic back in with it, hitting the missed target.
This road movie meets fantasy game that takes place 50 years after the events of Fable 3 also looks quite beautiful. Its linear, rather than open-world, structure allows the development team to put more energy into sharpening the visuals. The characters are all completely motion-captured. Expect a lot of story-heavy cutscenes, which also give your horse-steering, spell-weaving arms a needed break.
I got such an unexpected adrenaline rush playing Fable: The Journey, I hated when the demo was over. I already feel like the spell-casting has become second nature. This game is truly what Kinect Star Wars wishes it was. Star Wars never made me feel like I was controlling the Force, but Journey was able to convince me that I'm a powerful wizard. I never once found myself getting frustrated and feel fairly confident that the quality shown in the demo will carry over into the full length gaming experience.
Fable: The Journey comes to Xbox 360 for the Kinect on October 9th of this year. Aside from the main campaign, there will be an arcade mode featuring specific sections of combat that become challenge, the results of which can be posted on a leaderboard for all of Xbox Live to try and beat. And yes, there will be a full 50 possible achievements, because Fable games rule like that, even when they only take 15 hours instead of 60.
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