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Review: Fable: The Journey

by Blogger ‎10-26-2012 09:48 AM - edited ‎10-26-2012 09:56 AM

Since the Kinect was released, we've had some high hopes about motion control peripherals and how they could benefit our gaming experience.  Hopes of creating more immersive gameplay on the Kinect have fallen short, with very few developers actually taking that creative leap.  Balanced gameplay is another factor that's oftentimes missed resulting in broken, unplayable games, regardless of how compelling they may be.  Maintaining that fine balance between creativity and playability may be one of the biggest challenges, but also one of the most beneficial.  If the motion control game market hopes to thrive, developers need to peak interest while offering a quality experience -- easier said than done.  

Lionhead Studios, known for their work on the Fable series, has decided to take that plunge with their first motion control game, Fable: The Journey.  This game puts you in the shoes of Gabriel, an unassuming young man reluctant to become the hero he's destined to be.  As you progress, you gain the ability to cast spells like Push (thrust your left arm forward to fling objects and enemies), Bolt (thrust forward your right arm to fire neon blue missiles), After-touch (redirect Bolts in mid-air), a dodge ability where you tilt your body left and right, and a shield which deflects attacks when you raise a hand to your chest.  These abilities can be linked together for some pretty cool combos, it's all a matter of experimenting with your arsenal.  

Unlike most Kinect games, Fable: The Journey is meant to be played sitting down.  This came as both as a surprise and relief for me since I wasn't too keen on the idea of standing throughout the entire game, and gave me the chance to really relish the experience.  It's one you'll want to experience for yourself too, and has proven itself to be one of the most promising Kinect games to be released yet.  
Keep in mind, the game does have some typical flaws. primarily calibration. Fiddling around with the setup is downright frustrating, and it doesn't help that the setup period takes about 5-10 minutes because of all the different spells, dodges and counters you learn in the game. This wouldn't be a problem if the initial calibration worked, but it's one you'll probably have to fiddle with several times before you get it just so.  Luckily, you can freely change it throughout your adventure if you start to realize your spells aren't moving in sync with your body movements. For me, it took a few until I got my motion controls properly aligned (otherwise I'd be flailing around mindlessly), but once I got past those bouts of frustration I had little else to really worry about. Is it worth calling a flaw?  In my opinion, yes, but it can be helped.  
Despite what you might have heard, Fable: The Journey isn't entirely on-rails, and offers two different exploration modes: walking, which is on-rails, and riding in your wagon.  While you still have a fixed destination, you actually get the chance to take the reins and control your horse, Seren, by flickng the reins right or left depending on what direction you want to turn, flick both reins to pick up speed, lifting the reins to your chest to slow down, and over your head to stop completely.  Steering can be really sensitive at times, especially when trying to outrun a foe or other danger, forcing you to steer around obstacles.  If the sensitive controls weren't enough, Seren has a health meter so you have to be extremely conscious of her energy levels as well as your surroundings during these fast-paced sequences.  I've never died during these sequences, but they are extremely frustrating when you feeling like you're losing control of you wagon, it's a good thing they aren't a pivotal part of the game. 
Tackling areas on foot might not seem nearly as fun as steering your wagon, but because these sections of the game are on-rails, it's much easier to take control of Gabriel, even during heated moments.  Unlike the steering on horseback, these movements are far easier to read, especially when your calibration is exactly how you want it.  Spend some time tinkering around with the calibration and you'll be pleased to see just how fun a full-blown Kinect adventure can be.  
Fable: The Journey isn't perfect, what we may aspire to do with motion control technology is still far ahead of us, but it is a step in the right direction.  You might not have as much freedom of choice as past Fable titles, but this is a very different experience altogether, but still worth your time and attention. It's hard to say other developers will follow suit, but I think Lionhead has definitely set an example for what could be done on the peripheral.  
If you'd like to purchase Fable: The Journey, you can check it out at Future Shop!

SKU: 10172162

You are the controller and the hero. Powered exclusively by Kinect for Xbox 360, Fable: The Journey is a whole new way to experience the deep storyline, heart-pounding action and picturesque world of Albion that fans have come to know and love about the Fable franchise.

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