Xbox 360 Review: Fable: The Journey

Should you return to Albion once more?

The Fable series has been one of highs and lows, great games but never managing to live up to its hype. 2012 has seen the series go in new directions with Fable Heroes, which was a very average hack-n-slash outing and a Kinect-only experience with Fable: The Journey. Can Kinect really be the answer for Fable’s future?

First of all, despite Molyneux’s claims that The Journey is not on-rails…it is. You play as Gabriel and you use Kinect to take the reins of the horse you are riding, to say the controls are awkward would be an understatement…sadly it’s hard for Kinect to tell what you are trying to do sometimes, even in the best conditions. Just turning left and right with the reins is a real pain, which is unfortunate since it has potential. Besides just controlling the horse, you’ll also face a number of battles and you can use your hands to cast magic spells including lightning bolts and push/pull objects or enemies towards or away from you, you can also counter attacks easily.

The problem comes down to the same thing…accuracy. It’s really difficult to aim spells for long-distant targets, it feels great when you get it spot on, but get frustrated easily when you repeatedly miss and wonder what you did to be so inaccurate, which is Kinect’s shortcoming. Luckily, you can keep counter-attacking until you get the hang of things, but it’ll always be there to annoy you. Many gamers were divided over Fable III, I personally liked it but found the end-game a little pointless in retrospect, I mention this because ever since Fable III came out, the series has been in constant decline with the likes of Heroes and now, The Journey. Fable 4 this is not!

Which is a shame considering the potential of the franchise, not to mention what Kinect can do when it works. The Journey just feels like a stopgap between the next instalment, which will probably emerge on next-gen systems, perhaps if The Journey had given gamers a choice to use Kinect or a controller, it might have fared better…but once you’ve played the game once, there’s little reason to go through it again other than for achievements.

The classic Fable humour is still intact through the adventure, but some of the gags don’t work quite as well as they should, it sometimes feels a little awkward when you hear one-liners that fall flat. Visually, The Journey is a nice looking game and proof that there’s still life left in the 360, but it’s not the most groundbreaking and lacks depth compared to the other Fable games. The music is decent enough, but the voice-acting is a mixed bag, despite another great performance from Zoe Wanamaker as Theresa.

The Verdict

Fable: The Journey doesn’t do a lot to make Kinect a must-have device, but it is a good enough adventure…even if it doesn’t have that classic Fable magic. When the game works, it’s good fun…but it can be frustrating as hell when it fails to recognise what you are trying to do, which ultimately hinders the experience for the player. I’d recommend trying the demo before committing yourself, but a trip to Albion is always fun…even with Kinect.