Forget the hero of Albion. Theresa -- a prophetic seer who has appeared in all the previous Fable games -- is not only hundreds of years old, but she likes to orchestrate things from the shadows. A character who commands true intrigue. She has visions of the future, but her motivations are always unclear. A mystery woman. This time around, Lionhead Studios promises that we'll finally get to learn more about her, which may be reason enough for Fable fans to try out the Kinect-controlled Fable: The Journey.
You don't play as Theresa -- you play as a daydreaming, butterfly chasing kid named Gabriel. He's not your typical world-saving champion. He's not really much of hero, period. Not long after starting the game, he's separated from his caravan. It's not an ideal situation for someone that probably couldn't last a day out on his own, right? Naturally, this is where Theresa joins you and things start getting a little crazy. You know, evil forces manifesting themselves via dark ooze that threaten to overtake everything type crazy.
Thankfully, getting paired with Theresa means that things get equally magical as they do ridiculous. After your horse gets hurt, she leads you into ruins where you gain the powers of will. My left hand controlled electricity, and my right hand controlled a force-like power that let me push and pull. Both of these were triggered by gesturing forward with my arms -- the Kinect not only capturing where I aimed, but also allowing me to shift spells mid-cast. A bolt could be redirected if I shifted my arms after casting a spell, allowing me to hit enemies behind cover.
Simultaneous casting is also possible, and the effects can be combined: maybe I toss an enemy into the air and nab 'em with my bolt spell -- and hey, there's an in-game achievement for doing enough of these. The idea is that you're not just doing the same gestures over and over again -- which you could get away with, but it's not as fun as trying to get creative with what you can do.
These powers come packaged with gauntlets -- special metal gloves -- which you unwittingly accept without knowing the full consequences of your actions. They allow you to heal your horse, which will get tattered after combat sections. The problem is that the gauntlets come with a catch: they don't come off, and now you have to deal with certain heroic responsibilities. Your character is horrified of course, feeling downright tricked, but Theresa reminds him that there's an element of destiny and fate involved here. Fate has chosen you, and she knows what that's all about. Having confined herself to the Spire, which allowed her to see all possible futures, she has the destiny of Albion entrusted to her: not a choice, but a duty.
Fable has always been heavy with this type of stuff -- I mean, magic is called 'will', for example. You have some degree of autonomy with being able to decide how you fight your foes, and even occasionally choosing which path you take. Fitting that the only visible thing while playing are your hands, and that you view the world in the first person. It feels like you are forging a future in a franchise that has always emphasised choice and consequence. Still, you are a slave to the threads of machination. You play the game on-rails, after all.
All of this to save a horse. Fable likes presenting characters then fumbling with them as it rushes to put them into situations that try to bank on the idea that we care about characters whose relationships we haven't really developed yet. While I can't say Lionhead seems to have gotten the hang of this just yet based on what I've seen, they're making progress. I cared more about my horse than I have my dog, girlfriend and family in previous Fable games.
I think this has to do with how much I suffered to get horse-riding down. It's hard -- or, well, it was for me. I had no trouble with magic, but trying to steer a horse...that I'm not so good with. I can't even drive, and that's like a horse only more automated, right? No but seriously though: horse! The Untamable, Unsteerable Beast...!
It wasn't an issue with the Kinect, because eventually I was managing my horse fine. It just took a while to get the hang of how to do the gestures. For the first time in a video game, I felt like I had earned something. Not through practice with nailing down button presses, but through the type of conviction that can only come with something physical. And despite my fumbling, it all felt like a process that Gabriel, equally ditzy and uncoordinated, would actually go through.
So when the game periodically asked me to stop and tend to my horse, I actually felt a bond. We'd gone through things, overcome others. Maybe it's not the same thing as, you know, actually having and caring for a horse -- but it's a step in the right direction. Certainly stronger than anything Fable has thrown at me before. Still, it feels like Lionhead overdid it a bit with how often I found myself having to pull out shards from my horse. I may also just be bitter about how fussy my horse was about it. Geez, I was going slow!
All of this came together to, surprisingly, create the most intense Fable I've played yet, despite repetitive sections and the occasional inaccurate hiccup. And to teach me that yes, taking regular breaks while using the Kinect is necessary if you don't want to feel that horse and magic wrestlin' later.