If it is one thing the controller cannot do anymore, it’s offer a player “that sense of discovery which we had with the early days of games.” That’s what Peter Molyneux, the visionary behind Fable: The Journey believes, and it’s a big reason why the latest game in his iconic franchise is ditching the dual-analog setup in favor of Microsoft’s Kinect.
It’s an interesting concept. The controller really hasn't evolved in quite some time, and if it’s one thing it has never allowed, it’s that of a real connection to our virtual experience. With this novel thought in my mind, I sat ready to take Lionhead’s latest adventure for a stroll. My marvelous tale ensues.
Fable: The Journey (Kinect for Xbox 360)
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
With the crack of the reins, my journey through the Albion countryside began. Holding my arms out was not required, and instead a simple left-or-right gesture from my hands (that rested comfortably in my lap) steered my gentle steed down the dusty dirt roads towards the unknown. For the most part, Seren obeyed my guidance, but at times, I had a hard time grasping where my hands needed to be to properly control his gallop when evil threats arose.
It was during one wild chase that my companion began to act differently in our escape. As I pulled back on the reins, tugging at his bit, we came to stop on a side path that offered some shelter. His canter was one that writhed in agony the harder I pushed him out of harm's way. I could tell he had been injured.
As I stepped down from my carriage, I moved towards my brave friend to offer him what aid I could. Three arrows had found their way into his hide. I reached for the first one and pulled it out with short tug, the second sliding out just as effortlessly. Pulling back firmly on the final arrow, Seren jumped in pain. I had been too violent, causing him more anguish, and needed to slowly retrieve the splintered wood with a peaceful pluck.
Seren was better, but not at full strength. So with what little magical knowledge I possessed, I placed my hand onto his wounds. A calming, circular caress eased his pain as a warm glow radiated from my palm. The cuts from the arrows began to heal and I could tell that my friend was feeling better. If only I had an apple to give him as a reward, something to show my affection.
We were secure for the moment, so I brought out my map to see what possible mystery laid concealed on our course. There’s still an abundance of the unknown in Albion, as the world holds just as many secrets like the fables of past heroes I read about when I was but a child. With this knowledge in hand, I left my resting stallion to explore on my own.
Proceeding on foot, I stood in front of a large stone entrance. Locked in my stance, swarm after swarm of insects shot at me like little warnings, begging me not to press on. I reared back my right hand, conjuring a fiery blast. With a ferocious toss forward, the bugs popped in my inferno, but as more darted at me, I realized, a simple flick of my fingers was all that was needed. There was power in my subtlety; something I had not expected.
With the door's guardians subdued, all that was left was a simple magical riddle to solve. Five seals rested like locks for me to pick on this granite gateway. Precise flicks released the keys to unfasten the mystery ahead, teaching me that I could be just as selective with my supernatural gifts as destructive. What was beyond the doorway, though, I would have to save for another day.
As I made way back to my carriage, the most deadly of threats presented itself. Wild balverines jumped down from the hills, their howls shrieking across my spine. I stood firmly in place, ready for combat. In my right hand burned the deadly flames, but now, in my left, I conjured a whip-like tentacle attack.
Bouncing back and forth, the balverines avoided most of my blasts as they anticipated my moves. I threw my left hand forward, trapping one of the weaker warriors in a tentacle, my right followed incinerating the threat. Another jumped towards me, and like a whip I cracked my tentacle, sending the balverine in the air for an easy follow-up.
Their leader, with his white fur gleaming, was even more cunning than the rest of the pack. Fire blast, then tentacle, tentacle, then fire blast; he was too quick. I was at a loss, questioning if these would be my final breaths, and that’s when my opening came. As my snowy attacker regrouped himself on a large stone column, I threw my tentacle out towards its base. He quickly jumped to the adjacent column, but it was too late. As I pulled back the column crumbled, crashing into the other, trapping my foe underneath its rubble. I was safe for now.
Adventure, exploration, discovery; these are all things I still question. I was just coming to grips with the powers I possessed, but I had not even bothered to see how the soothing or passionate levels of my voice could calm or enrage my spells. What would happen if I clasped my magical hands together ... would they created even more beauty and destruction?
There is much left to unravel in Fable: The Journey. How much freedom truly exists? How guided will this adventure be? Hopefully these answers come soon, as my brief travels in Albion have me excited to come back and visit again later this year.