Fable: The Journey Review (X360)
My first encounter with Fable: The Journey blew my mind. Being an obstinate late-adopter, I only run after the bandwagon long after it leaves. Fable: The Journey was thus one of my first few goes at a Kinect game, and boy, was it amazing!
The fact that I could sit at home and throw fireballs like a proper mage made the D&D nerd in me quiver in pleasure. The preview I sat through gave me an insight into Fable: The Journey and also threw me into the thick of a battle to experience the game’s combat mechanics.
Enter my review copy of Fable: The Journey a couple of weeks earlier.
I was now free to carve my own fortune in the world of Albion once more, without a pesky developer giving explanations in painful detail. After enjoying detailed cutscenes (the game doesn’t launch into cinematics, ever) I found myself driving a cart. Shortly after, following more British-accented whining from the game’s protagonist, Gabriel, I was allowed to cast spells and throw Magic Missiles. I drove my horse cart away from the Devourer, the story’s nemesis, and I exploded Rockmites with my magic gauntlets to great satisfaction.
Never mind that Gabriel’s nasal, teenaged whinging grated on my nerves. Fable: The Journey took me far into the world of Albion, seen for the first time through the eyes of a guileless young lad who didn’t want to be there, and was firm in making himself heard about it. We traversed mountain paths, stopped for the night in a forest hideout, and dodged cave trolls. Midway, we even picked up new spells, and had a Balverine shootout. Each episode of spell-slinging was also slotted neatly in between pockets of storytelling, keeping me from physically tiring myself out. Each step (or horse canter) further into Albion made me feel like I had finally come home.
But all good things come to an end. Fable: The Journey has a brilliant storyline that’s well paced and sits well with fans of good fantasy yarns. Unfortunately, this same story is not tailored to support innovative gameplay, and is, inadvertently, the downfall of the game.
Fable: The Journey is entertaining as heck because of all you can do with the Kinect. You can throw Magic Missiles, drive a cart, make like a kid in a Balverine shooting gallery, and groom your horse, feed your horse, and ride your horse. My favourite game as a kid was Barbie Riding Club; could you tell? Unfortunately the game I’m reviewing now isn’t Fable: Riding Club. It shouldn’t be all about your horse, but it mostly is.
That’s my beef with The Journey. It is an arcade rail style of game, and it’s sad. It’s not even linear – you simply aren’t given the option to explore anything because you just get rushed along from point to point. You don’t even get to choose when you want to save. The most freedom you taste in the game is when you pause at a rest stop for a breather; even then, the most you get to do is take care of your horse.
Sometimes along your path, you get the chance to enter hidden grottos that contain collectible cards, a la the talking doors from the first Fable. Sometimes there is flavor in the game, like you encountering a false prophet named Benny. Sometimes you can be a moron like me and fall off a cliff because you stopped to use your phone while driving your cart. But given that this is a console game, meant to be played in the comfort of your own home (or favourite local gaming café), the fact that it rushes you along like any insensitive, hard-hearted arcade shooter is… saddening…
Fable: The Journey also lacks any incentive to keep you playing. RPG-nerds like me will keep at it because we find out what happens next in the story. We might even be compelled to try and get all the collectible cards. But for every other fan of the Fable series, The Journey just doesn’t quite cut it.
Lacking actual in-game achievements, stats of any sort, currency, shops, and sex with just about any NPC, there’s little to look forward to once you get over the joy of driving a horse-drawn cart from the comfort of your living room. Also missing is the trademark adult humour and snark of the original series.
Fable: The Journey is really just that – a journey through the world of Albion, much like a guided tour in which you are forced to awaken at 7 a.m. each day on the dot and eat packed lunches on the bus. And all the Magic Missiles in the world cannot save it from itself.
|SCORESHEET (out of 10)||OVERALL
Fable: The Journey is developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Microsoft Studios for the X360.