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Fable: The Journey dares us to steer a relationship in the right direction


"Your horse pays the price for your mistakes," Peter Molyneux says during a demo for Fable: The Journey, Lionhead's upcoming Kinect-powered spin-off. The Journey is centered around a young man and his trusty steed and sets out to forge a bond between the two, similar to the relationship players had with their dog in Fable 2.

Gallery: Fable: The Journey (E3 2011) | 6 Photos

Molyneux wants us to care about the animal throughout the gesture-based adventure. But unlike pet management games like Kinectimals, Lionhead's goal is to offer players a Kinect-enabled experience that features the same moral dilemmas Fable fans will recognize. Choices made in Fable: The Journey will affect the world and the disposition of your horse.

Molyneux expressed his usual level of enthusiasm during the demo, promising players would instinctually understand how to command the mustang from the beginning. My experience did not go as advertised. Molyneux doesn't tell me exactly what to expect and all of a sudden I'm steering the carriage. Things quickly fall apart. The horse takes my gestures as suggestions, rather than orders. I wrestle with the reins, eventually easing into the experience and the demo ends.

In another demo later in the week, I saw one journalist struggle to grasp the concept. He kept trying to steer the carriage like he was holding a very large invisible steering wheel. This doesn't seem like what Lionhead has in mind.

Atop my carriage, I took a brisk tour of the countryside. After, Molyneux jumped the demo forward to an on-foot segment, where I flicked my right hand to shoot fireballs at a group of seemingly harmless fairies. I mean, they didn't attack me; they were just kind of there. Depending on how animated I was with my right arm, the fireball would be larger or smaller, but tiny fairies aren't the best enemy to gauge how much more damage my stronger flailing is worth.

I also got a taste of the game's leash-like jellyfish thing, a sentient being Molyneux described as a smart whip -- you use it to grab enemies, fling them into the air, or interact with things in the environment. Eventually you can add tendrils to it as you upgrade it throughout the game. In the context of the one battle in this demo, I used it to pull down some stone columns onto a very agile Balverine. Molyneux tells me that overusing the leash mechanic will cause it to lock up, and the player will have to calm it down with soothing speech, though none of that was available in this demo.

The Balverine jumped around the screen while I flicked my right wrist a lot, spouting fireballs. It wasn't the most interesting tactic, but spamming the move was a viable option.

In the end, each portion of gameplay was around five minutes, lacking enough cohesion to give me any sense for how all of these things would come together in the final product. Molyneux promises that players will be able to control their steed with their voice too; again, this feature was not available during the demo.

Instead, the strongest feature was the Unreal Engine foundation of Fable: The Journey. Albion is a beautiful place to lazily navigate a horse-drawn carriage through, offering environments ranging from lush green fields to the craggy spires in the image above. The gameplay in my demo may have failed to enthrall me, but I certainly wouldn't mind taking a journey back to Albion to see its sights again.

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