Fable: The Journey: The Kotaku Review

Fable: The Journey: The Kotaku Review

Did you ever go to school with a kid that was way too into horses? Like, waaaaaay too into horses? I’m talking about the kind of kid who has horse posters on the wall, a horse lunchbox and a horse backpack. Because Fable: The Journey feels like a game made by and for that kid. Throw in janky, motion-controlled combat, and you get the most horrifyingly confusing entry in the series to date.

Going into Lionhead Studio’s latest Xbox 360 exclusive, Kinect-only instalment of the Fable series, I guess I was naively expecting a Fable game. What I was not expecting was a stagecoach simulator that makes me self-inflict a repetitive stress injury half the time. Perhaps I should have known better.

I would not be exaggerating if I said that 50 per cent of the gameplay is focused around your horse. For half of the game you’re driving a stagecoach between pre-determined paths by holding motion-controlled reins. During the more placid parts of the journey, you’re not actively doing anything: You can put your hands down when the horse is going in the right direction, occasionally making course corrections to pick up experience orbs. When the road gets rough, the experience becomes a podracing game; using the Kinect to steer your carriage away from obstacles on the road.

You’ll can also stop to magically heal your horse, feed him apples, brush the dirt off him and make sure he’s got water. Side note: Have I mentioned this game has a lot of horse gameplay in it?

Fable: The Journey

Fable: The Journey is a frustrating, inaccurate and exhausting experience that I cannot recommend.

Developer: Lionhead Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360 with Kinect
Released: October 9
Type of game: Kinect-only Rail Shooter/Carriage Simulator
What I played: Played the entire game to completion, roughly 12 hours including every optional side-path offered to me.

Things I Liked

  • Brushing the horse was kinda nice.
  • The brief moments when the Kinect understood me and the combat worked.

Two Things I Hated

  • Sitting at my couch, realising I was a grown man driving an imaginary carriage.
  • The sensation of my arm giving out after trying to throw a switch 15 times and missing.

Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes

  • Fable: The Journey is possibly the greatest carriage-riding simulator you’ll play all day.” — Chris Person, Kotaku
  • “Accurately simulates sitting behind a unbathed horse at 10 miles an hour with a blind woman”. — Chris Person, Kotaku.

The plot goes something like this: You’re a charming, cockney raggamuffin named Gabriel who dreams of being an adventurer with his best friend, (a horse named) Seren. You’re brushing your horse one day when your friend comes over and tells you to stop talking to your horse and start driving your carriage in the caravan. You end up falling asleep at the reigns (of your horse), and are separated from your group. Lightning strikes the only functioning bridge to the city you have to get to, and you’re then forced to drive (your horse) through the nastiest part of the Fable universe.

While there, you pick up Theresa the Seer and narrowly escape a creeping, unknown evil known as the Devourer. Upon escaping, you find out that your horse has been fatally wounded by the evil entity, and that the only hope of saving your horse is a pair of magical gauntlets that may or may not turn you into a hero. You then have to drive your poisoned, dying horse who’s still carrying two people and a 3000 pound house to a mystical cave of secrets where you are given the ability to shoot lightning bolts out of one hand and Force-push creatures and objects. It is at that point that you are told that you are humanity’s last hope.

From then on the game falls into a very basic pattern: You drive your carriage down a predetermined road, stopping occasionally to fight bad guys, explore temples, take care of your horse and fight optional road-side missions. There is no real exploration or sense of choice, aside from the ability to steer your horse or to lean from side to side during combat.

If the combat in the game worked liked it was supposed to, there might be something to it. The problem is it doesn’t: No matter where I played it or how many times I calibrated it, the Kinect struggled to accurately register what I was doing more than half the time. This is infuriating enough when you’re trying to kill monsters, but you’ll really start to pull your hair out when the game throws simple puzzles at you and it takes you fifteen tries just to throw flip a simple wall-switch.

I think the most puzzling thing about the game is how very un-Fable the basic premise of it feels. What has always defined Fable as a series is choice: Choice between good and evil, marriage partners, play-style, etc. Fable: The Journey is the polar opposite: a motion-controlled, on-rails hybrid of Time Crisis and the Desert Bus segment from Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors. It feels like a mini-game Peter Molyneux thought of and scrapped, except given a budget.

That this game fails is not entirely Lionhead Studio’s fault. As far as big budget, Kinect-only games go, it’s a better narrative experience than Steel Battalion or Star Wars: Kinect ever could be, and when the combat does work, it feels good. The problem is that the very idea of making a hardcore Kinect game is flawed. The Kinect is an interface that works best when used sparingly and forgivingly in short bursts; in non-intrusive party games like Dance Central and as an accompaniment to other games like Skyrim. Asking the player to play a full game using exhausting motion controls does not make for a fun experience and even if the game controlled accurately and the Kinect worked like it was supposed to, it still wouldn’t.


  • Overhyped to hell. The Fable games are dead so people should just ignore whatever Lionhead Studios and Peter Molyneux release from now on.

    • Lionhead need to walk away from Fable and do something different. They’ve been making it for 2 consecutive console generations now and they’ve dug themselves into a rut so deep that it’s hard to see any way for them to get out of it without trying something completely different. But I suspect that’s largely MS’s doing – they’re not fond of taking risks on major new IP’s. They want more Fable, more Halo, more Forza. I’m sure the people at Lionhead would love to try something new but probably aren’t allowed to.

  • I hear that some awesome DLC is coming out soon for this game… The ability to braid your horse’s tail, feed it molasses, and even convert it to a unicorn. Awesome.

  • I really wish Microsoft had kept the CPU on board the camera itself.

    Would have helped the device with it’s accuracy issues, and would have allowed it to view finer details. It also would have allowed for better games given the console is no longer using up resources to do the work the camera should have been doing in the first place.

    Kinect really genuinely does have amazing potential. It almost seems as if Microsoft has intentionally held it back this gen, and are waiting to show it’s real ability next gen, because we’ve seen what the hackers can do with it, and the PC Kinect still has the processor on board, and is far far better and reading finer details like finger movements and such.

  • I agree with most of the review, but the combat was easy…I had issues at first and thought it was the calibration, but it was actually my own fault. By halfway through the game, I had it down pat and was throwing Hobbes and spearing balverines as if I’d been doing it all my life.

  • Peter Molyneux quit because Microsoft ruined his games. just like ea ruined biowares games and made most of the original staff quit

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