When Kinect launched for the Xbox 360 two years ago, Microsoft were championing it as the future of games; “You are the controller” beckoned adverts and promotional material pumped out into shops and TV adverts. Despite Microsoft’s valiant marketing efforts, and the release of “better with Kinect” titles, Kinect has largely failed to capture the heart and minds of gamers everywhere. That is until now; just as Peter Molyneux had promised before he left to form 22 Cans, Lionhead’s Fable: The Journey could well be the game that makes Kinect worthwhile.
The biggest problem with Kinect is the sheer amount of space needed to in – around 6ft minimum – and unfortunately Fable: The Journey hasn’t remedied this. What it has done though is allow you to play sat down, meaning that you wont be jumping around and flailing limbs everywhere, or moving sofas and coffee tables to do so. It also means that those who may be less able bodied than others can also enjoy Kinect and Fable too.
As The Journey only tracks your arm and upper body movements, gameplay focuses around your hands and the power held within a pair of mythical gauntlets that Gabriel wears. Yes, that’s right, you’re playing as a named character for the first time in the series – and this one isn’t a Hero or a descendant of one either. Using these gauntlets Gabriel sets forth on a quest to save the land of Albion from The Corruption that has descended upon the people.
After going through a rather handy calibration section that largely eliminates the tracking problems that Kinect tends to have, it was time to start throwing some spells around. It’s at this point where I began to realise the depth of The Journey’s incredibly simple control scheme. Lifting up your right hand gives you a basic bolt spell, waving your hand turns it into a fire spell, or holding your hand behind your head turns it into a spear. You can also use the power of your voice to change spells – although the expo floor was so noisy I didn’t fancy my chances of shouting at Kinect. So far, so simple, however after firing off a magic spells you can add an ‘aftertouch’ action to it by sweeping your hand shortly after casting a spell, this causes the spell to hurtle off in the direction of your hand. This is useful for not only correcting wrongfully shot spells, but it allows you to fire around objects and pick enemies out of cover. It also makes you feel like an absolute badass.
Using your left hand you can push and pull objects with a leash like power, and by holding your arm out across your body you can block and deflect attacks. Again blissfully simple to perform, yet added into the mix of combat you’ll be deflecting attacks and then pulling limbs from Hollowmen to disarm them; all before hurling a magic spear into their chest. You’ll become so focused on mixing up these abilities you’ll forget that this is an entirely on rails affair – at least from what I’ve experienced.
As this is a Fable game – although not Fable IV as a Lionhead representative stressed to me – it shares a whole load of similarities to previous titles, and not just in its visual flair and dark humour. You’ll be facing off against Hobbes and Hollowmen and I even had to fight a lengthy boss battle against a rather large and angry Earth Troll too – which did end rather epically by plunging a huge broadsword into its head.
Lionhead have clearly taken their time with Fable: The Journey and that’s made it into quite a special title for Kinect. This isn’t your family-friendly casual title; it’s a ‘proper’ game – if you want to put it that way. It continually fires a stream of unrelenting opponents and attacks your way, meaning you’ll never stop thinking what your next move’s going to be. It’s incredibly tiring stuff, but wonderfully refreshing to see a Kinect title really taking gameplay seriously like you’d find in a controller based title too. This is the title that Kinect needed from the start, now though the major obstacle to Fable: The Journey is if it’s arrived on the scene too late.