Preview: Fable: The Journey
Fable is a series that has long been blown off my radar. I loved the original Fable as a kid, and played the hell out of it on PC, but after that it pretty much went downhill. I remember seeing this game at E3, and pretty much laughed at the way it looked like a kiddies’ on-rails shooter until Peter Molyneux confirmed that it wasn’t. Anyway, I was researching this game for the purposes of this preview and, well, it was pain. The simple reason is that, and you can call me unprofessional for saying this, listening to Molyneux talk for extended periods of time about a game of his makes you wonder whether he’s actually describing a game or delivering erotic poetry on the spot. We all know his reputation for over-promising and under-delivering, and it reflects in the amount of bull you’ll hear from any given speech of his, especially about this game. Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest, because my brain threatened to disown me for putting it through one too many Molyneux diaries. Let’s get to the game.
Name: Fable: The Journey
Genre: Action RPG, First Person Shooter
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Kinect)
Developers: Lionhead Studios
Publishers: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: 12 October 2012
Fable: The Journey takes place fifty years after the events of Fable III, sending players back to Albion and putting them in control of a normal Dweller named Gabriel, who has been separated from his tribe. Rather than create your own character like in previous games, you’ll instead be following the events of Gabriel’s life, and the idea of him is that he’s meant to be an unlikely hero. In fact he starts out as a bit of a coward when he first meets Theresa, his would-be female companion, and a recurring character in the Fable series. This game will serve to tell her story for the first time. In the beginning she’s been wounded by a darkness called The Corruption, which threatens to take over Albion and leave ruin in its wake. It’s safe to say that Gabriel never asked for this when it befalls on him to take her to the Tattered Spire to restore her power, all the while having to grow up himself and learn what it means to be a hero.
The game takes place throughout large portions of Albion, and the developers have claimed that the world is three times larger than what Fable III had. This increase in scale was due to the addition of horses and carts to the game, making travel a lot faster. Furthermore, the events of Fable III will matter in Fable: The Journey and, according to the developers, you will be able to read your save files from the last game and the game world will adapt and change based on your playthrough. However, the details aren’t specific right now as to what exactly loading your Fable III saves will change in the game. It’s also been confirmed that The Journey will not deal with the ancient Archon bloodline that has featured in previous games. The developers have stressed that, despite what many critical fans may think, this is still the Fable experience, and that it’s still eccentric, it has darkness and it has humour.
The Journey will have a focus on emotion in its narrative and, aside from the main characters, one way Molyneux hyped this aspect up is with the inclusion of horses. You’ll actually need to take care of your horse, and your decisions in the game will affect it as well, since this horse will be driving your carriage around throughout the game. To elaborate on what it means to take care of it, if you abuse your horse by spurring it on too harshly with your whip, its health may deteriorate. Molyneux wants you to feel the pain and suffering your horse goes through if you mistreat it, or if it falls victim to attack. On the other hand, if you treat your horse well, pet it, brush it, take care of it when it’s hurt and generally get it to love you and be a nice guy, then it may glow healthily, and I’m not quite sure what benefits this will yield in practice other than making you look quite weird. According to information given at E3 2012, your horse may possibly learn specific voice commands when you spur it forward, using Kinect’s voice recognition technology, but it’s not clear whether this is still in the game or how it will work.
I find it interesting that for a game that is releasing in less than a month, there isn’t that much information to digest about it. The Journey is a first person game entirely focused on the use of Kinect. Your main weapon is your magic, and by performing certain gestures in front of your screen, you can enter spell crafting mode, allowing you to draw things with your hands and then use them as spells. You can do things like create shields, spears and hammers, hurl energy bolts and launch gigantic fire balls. You’ll also be able to create fishing rods and telescopes, and these have a purpose in minigames. You’ll be able to upgrade your spells and purchase new ones by defeating enemies and collecting their life force, which is basically experience, and you’ll know this from older Fable games. The developers have said that in this game you are the hero, and you’ll have powerful magic unlike anything the series has seen before. I guess they’re taking the game’s tag phrase “beware the magic” a bit seriously.
Molyneux revealed that the team tried their best at simplifying the movement controls, and he described how players will get around on foot. Using Kinect, you’ll lean forward to increase your walking speed, and lean back to decrease it. Tilting your head to either side will change your character’s direction. A large portion of the game will feature you riding your horse and carriage, and this requires you to literally hold the imaginary reins in order to guide your horse along a path. You’ll thrust your hands downward to use the whip, encouraging your horse to speed up, and pull back on the reins to slow it down. There isn’t much else to say really. The developers highlighted brand new enemy types in the game, and large scale boss battles to go with the game’s increased sense of scale. For a little extra information, there’ll also be cross-game interaction with this title and Fable Heroes. By playing Fable Heroes you can level up the protagonist in The Journey as well as unlock extra items.
That’s Fable: The Journey for you. Of course we’ll only know how it is once it’s been released, but so far the reaction has been either outright negative or lukewarm at best during most of its appearances. It’s been given praise for its visuals and use of Kinect, but other than that there’s an uncomfortable degree of negativity surrounding it, with many fans expressing that the Fable series is dead. I decline to comment, since Fable isn’t exactly my passion, but if you’ve got a Kinect and you’re looking for something to actually use it for, then Fable: The Journey just might be the answer. Just might.