- Kinect Sensor Required
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
- Developer: Lionhead Studios
- ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
- Genre: Action
- Pros: Fable sense of humor; play while sitting; controls work okay; nice presentation; your horse
- Cons: It just isn't fun; sore arms; on rails
The Journey takes place long after the previous three Fable games (see our Fable, Fable II, and Fable III reviews) and the events in those games are thought of here only as myths and legends. You play as a young fellow named Gabriel who, as is the Fable series' way, suddenly inherits crazy magical powers and is tasked with stopping some evil threatening the land of Albion. Accompanying you on your journey is your faithful horse, Seren, who is awesome. I'm not even a "horse person" per-se, but for whatever reason I get really attached to videogame horses like Epona in the Legend of Zelda series or Argo in Shadow of the Colossus. You actually care about what happens to them and worry when they're hurt or frightened. I got attached to Seren in the same way. She is awesome.
An important component of the Fable series over the years has been its, er, less than refined sense of humor as well as its unyielding British-ness. Thankfully, these are still intact in Fable: The Journey. It is still crass at times, and definitely a bit goofy overall, but it is all done in good fun. Other Fable mainstays like the seer Theresa and enemies like Hobbes, Hollow Men, and trolls are also present. It looks like Fable and talks like Fable. So far, so good.
The actual gameplay, however, is kind of boring. The game is split between a couple of different gameplay types where you spend half of your time at the reins of a carriage and the other half in combat, all from a first-person perspective other than in cutscenes. Steering the carriage has you holding virtual reins where you rapidly move your hands up and down to crack the reins and speed Seren up, pull your hands to your chest to slow down, or move your hands above your head to come to a full stop. You steer by moving one hand forward and the other hand back, like you're pulling to one side or the other. It is really quite easy, even when you're running from danger, because a lot of the time Seren pulls you roughly in the right direction automatically, though you do have to steer around downed trees or rocks now and then and you do have to control the speed. The thing is, though, that these sections are boring and generally too long and just plain not interesting to actually play through.
Unfortunately, it is all ultimately pretty repetitive and boring when you actually get down to doing it. The fights are slowly paced and boring to accommodate the Kinect controls. The fights are also rather simple and it all gets repetitive pretty quickly since you just don't have that many tools at your disposal. The game is also ridiculously tiring as well. Yeah, you're sitting down, but all of the arm waving in battle after battle really wears you down surprisingly quickly. Like I said above, it all actually works fine. It just isn't fun to do. There are other moments outside of combat or driving your carriage where you have to brush Seren or pick an apple or something, but the wow factor of "My videogame hands are doing the same thing as my real hands!" has seriously worn off in the two years since Kinect launched, so these moments lack the impact they probably were intended to have.
The presentation in Fable: The Journey is definitely one of its stronger points. The game uses the Unreal Engine for the first time in the series, but don't let that worry you. It doesn't mean everyone is thick and burly and everything is gray and brown. Instead it means that everything is still colorful, but also remarkably sharp and detailed, the lighting is excellent, and that overall this is probably the best the Fable series has ever looked.
The sound is also very well done. Everything has that Fable trademark to it with great whimsical music and excellent sound effects. The voice work is also really great for all of the characters.
In the end, Fable: The Journey is yet another mediocre-to-okay Kinect game to add to the list. It works fine, for the most part, but it isn't especially fun to play, which poses a bit of a problem. Kinect works best when it delivers short, quick, well executed bursts of gameplay. Stretching that gameplay out over 8-10 hours, however, simply leads to tired arms and a lot of repetition because Kinect just isn't capable of enough control variety to keep a hardcore game interesting for that long. Fable: The Journey isn't a bad game, but it just doesn't do anything particularly spectacular to make it worth playing. In spite of that, however, it is still a Fable game and fans of the series can still have fun with it. Also, because it is a bit simpler than the other Fable games, it might be a nice way to introduce the series to your kids (not too young kids, though, there are some scary moments here and there that might be too much for them). In either case, a rental will more than suffice. We can't recommend it for a purchase.