Fable: The Journey Preview
Fable: The Journey Box Art
System: Xbox 360
Dev: Lionhead Studios
Pub: Microsoft
Release: October 9, 2012
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Mild Blood, Mild Language, Violence
Fables Without Morals
by Shelby Reiches

Fable has long been a series about choices. Fable Heroes boiled those down to an end-of-level decision between diverging paths, which led to different boss fights or minigames, but the biggest choice in that case was whether or not one truly wished to play the game. Fable: The Journey has been surrounded, from its initial introduction, with the creeping fear that it will be another title that is best left avoided by even the most ardent of series fans. The primary strikes against it—that it is a Kinect title and largely on rails—are interconnected and unfortunate. A developer demonstration at E3 did little to put these fears to rest.

Our demo began with a chase. A seeping corruption was spreading over the land, rapidly coating the idyllic landscape in voluminous, black muck that encroached on the screen from all sides as the individual playing. He held his hands as one would the reins of a horse, guiding our cart to relative safety with only the occasional lapse in judgment. In this sequence, forward momentum was forced and constant, the player guiding the cart solely from side to side. Judging by our subject's struggles, the controls were not especially responsive, though the game was adequately forgiving for him to make it through the sequence on his first attempt.

Fable: The Journey Screenshot

From here, we were taken to a temple carved into the side of a mountain, the gate locked by magic that had to be undone by judicious casting of the player's basic spells. This is where we were introduced to the malleability of the spell-casting system, which allowed for a standard spell bolt to be upgraded into a fireball spell by shaking it back and forth. Again, while the concept was sound, the execution seemed to be inexact, our subject struggling first with shaking the bolt too quickly, then too slowly, for it to register. When he finally threw the bolts, they more often than not went astray, flying off at sharp angles into the distance. Eventually, the door was opened and we were inside what was less a temple and more a tomb, crawling with the undead

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Spell-casting in Fable: The Journey uses both hands in tandem, the right used for primarily offensive abilities while the left is relegated to control spells, such as a lash that one can use to entrap an enemy or remove its limbs, and defense, by holding the arm up like a shield to protect oneself and potentially reflect projectiles. This sort of dual functionality is theoretically entertaining, since it potentially allows for malleability and improvisation in combat (both of which are absent from the game's largely on-rails movement through its levels), but is somewhat hampered by the game's difficulty in detecting where one is aiming when throwing a spell.

Fable: The Journey Screenshot

In addition to the bolt and enhanced fireball, a third offensive spell was demonstrated by way of a pinkish, purplish shard, which was accessed by holding one's hand over the shoulder like a javelin and cutting loose. All three spells were gifted with "after-touch," which allowed the player to adjust the spell's trajectory to bring even a bolt gone awry back to the enemy. This was necessary, in some cases, to provide an effective angle of attack against shielded enemies, but is unavailable if one is rapidly firing off spells, in which case missing on a few seems practically inevitable.

Fable: The Journey Screenshot

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