It doesn't matter how many times Microsoft tries to convince me that I'm the controller. Kinect may work wonders with families keen on waving their arms about, or people who can shake a move, but there haven't been any deeper experiences targeted towards core gamers such as myself of note. The question I'm face with now is whether Fable: The Journey is the game to change all of this.
The story revolves around Gabriel and his trusted companion Seren - a horse. Their friendship is a strong as anything, and as they travel with a caravan they suddenly get sidetracked. Gabriel doesn't mind it too much as he had grown bored of their safe and quiet existence. He and Seren are put to the test as they run into Theresa who is under the influence of a dark, corruptive force. The same Corruption threatens the entire nation and naturally it falls on you to save her and all of Albion.
Fable has often been criticised for not allowing enough freedom, which is a bit strange as that's not what Fable has been about in my opinion. Instead, Fable has offered us a wonderfully cosy world, plenty of dry wit, and brilliant design. Much of this is thankfully perserved in Fable: The Journey, and this is probably what I like most with the game. That general Fable atmosphere.
One example is the manner in which you interact with Seren. You have to comfort, feed, and give her something to drink in a way that makes me emotionally invested in the adventure. It doesn't come across as just another Kinect gimmick, and a great example of how Kinect can be used to further an experience when used correctly. Even if Peter Molyneux has left Lionhead, you can sense his influence and involvement, as he's always been keen on connecting the player with the world - such as the dog in Fable 2 for example.
Even if Fable hasn't been about freedom, it's easy to tell that Lionhead have been limited by Kinect in Fable: The Journey as almost the entire game is played with you behind Saren, controlling her direction from your seat on the carriage she's pulling.. One thing Lionhead should be commended for is the fact that you can play the game sitting down, and the controls are very intuitive as you use the reins to control the horse. Rarely have I seen a Kinect game where the controls feel this good.
But even if the concept works well for a Kinect game, it's never really much fun controlling your horse. The complete lack of challenge makes it boring, and this is likely something they have to implement to avoid player frustration when Kinect fails to register your gestures.
After a while you're blessed with the ability to cast magic spells. You gradually gain experience and grow your magical abilitis from being able to throw puny bolts of lightning to spells that would make Harry Potter green with envy. Even if this starts out well, it gets repetitive with time. There isn't enough variation in gameplay to be had and with just five spells to cast, I soon find myself longing for all the weapons, the option of playing as good or evil, and all the other things we've grown accustomed to in a Fable game.
While it may feel great to send your enemies screaming down an abyss with an invisible shove, you can't get away from the fact that Kinect suffers from precision issues. Blocking incoming attacks is near on impossible in stressful situations, and picking a command with the aid of Kinect is pure lottery at times.
From a graphical perspective Fable: The Journey impresses with a design reminiscent of children's books and it really feels alive. I found myself lingering several times just to absorb the atmosphere. Even if it's nice to get a Fable game that is such a departure from previous games, I can't help but wish that I could grab a controller and play it like I played the previous instalments.
At the end of the day I can only recommend Fable: The Journey to true Fable fanatics. The charm and humour are still here, and the story is decent enough. For the rest of us it's just way too frustrating an experience to role play with Kinect, and even when it works it fails to entertain. It's an unfortunate turn of events and we still await the first truly entertaining core gaming experience on Kinect.