Fable: The Journey – Review
Motion control cannot be recalled. It cannot be uninvented. But, like the fake plastic guitars of the past, the stereoscopic 3D of the future and all those other tech gimmicks that sizzle in and fizzle out, it will in time be removed from our video games. In that sense Fable: The Journey feels like a line drawn under this chapter in the medium, a chapter that’s involved an awful lot of rearranging furniture and messing with curtains – a chapter of hand-waving followed by hand-wringing as we’ve calibrated and recalibrated the blink-less eye of the Kinect sensor.
That much is true of Lionhead’s latest excursion to Albion, too – the green, pleasant, accent-rich hinterland into which we now dive via a lens rather than plastic controller, hoping our sorcerer’s arm sweeps will translate somehow to the screen. It is, as with all Kinect games, at times stubborn and petulant, pretending to misunderstand your bodily instructions, as if its eyesight is beginning to fail as the Xbox enters its dotage. But goodness, the only thing more tiresome than wrestling with an insubordinate Kinect is reading about how a game’s motion controls don’t quite work. In truth, Fable: The Journey’s controls mostly work the way that they should, provided the sun is at the right point in the sky, the children are put to bed and the wind is still.
Nevertheless, if journey is story – and video game players understand more than anyone that journey is story – then you must accept that a Kinect-driven journey will feature the odd paragraph in which a disgruntled human gesticulates madly at a television set while swearing a lot. It’s not much fun to read, but it goes with this chapter in the medium.
You play as Gabriel, the first named protagonist in the series, a plainly likeable young man prodded by destiny, and for the vast majority of the game you view the world through his first-person eyes. This is less important than the fact that Fable: The Journey is an on-rails RPG. It’s linear in the way that a railway track is linear, and anybody who tries to tell you otherwise is not to be trusted. You move through Albion on a fixed, immovable footpath: Time Crisis on a field trip. You cannot turn your head, let alone turn back, instead relentlessly moving forward, either on horse carriage or your own two feet. The only choice you have is to stop every now and again to pop off the horse, called Seren, in order to plunder a side-cave, or perhaps to groom her matted hair.
Microsoft has been scared to admit this fact in the marketing preamble, but there’s something remarkably honest about this game design approach. So many cine-game blockbusters from the past few years have been linear journeys that pay lip-service to player agency. You’re given a few metres of leeway either side to explore, but otherwise you trot down the corridor and don’t you f***ing dare turn around. In Fable: The Journey there is no pretence. A team of designers has meticulously laid a rollercoaster track for you. Sit back, rest in their pacing, savour their controlled camera angles, gasp at their pyrotechnical timings. Relax, they say, like comely tour guides: enjoy the Journey.
You can read the rest of this review over at Eurogamer here.