Fable: The Journey Preview – My Horse and Me Too
Written Wednesday, March 21, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Lionhead’s latest Fable title has already been on one hell of a journey. Not only did its debut showing at E3 cause concern for Fable fans the world over, but the recent exit of Lionhead stalwart, Peter Molyneux, has cast more doubt on the title than ever before. You know what they say though, it takes more than one person to make a game - well, a console game, that is. Just days before Molyneux left Microsoft, he was on hand at Microsoft’s Spring Showcase to give us a run through of the latest build of Fable: The Journey.
Fable: The Journey throws you into the shoes of Gabriel who embarks on another trademark zero to hero Fable experience. This time, with only your horse and carriage at your disposal – and some nifty magic, of course – you must guide Gabriel on a 300 mile journey across Albion to the Spire to save your ailing passenger, the Fable veteran Theresa, with the evil “corruption” hunting you down every step of the way.
The emphasis in this latest presentation from Lionhead was on the relationship between Gabriel and his horse. Your horse, who we’re going to call Ed, is your main companion in this latest instalment and The Journey lets you decide how hard you ride him – literally – or how to treat him when he takes a bit of a beating.
This was shown off in one scene in particular where Gabriel is chased by a gaggle of Hobbes who are hell bent on causing both him and his horse a world of pain. How you react to this situation is down to you. You can lightly flick the reins so as not to overexert the horse, but that will leave you both open to attack. Or you can push the horse to its limits, risking its overexertion but putting space between you and your attackers. It’s up to you, however, the implications of what you do here remains to be seen.
Having lost the Hobbes, Gabriel is able to pull over to the side of the dusty road and tend to his horse’s injuries. Your “score” according to Molyneux is how much damage your horse has taken and here you’ll be able to pull arrows from the horse and rub his wounds until they’re healed. Pulling out the arrow quickly can cause the horse distress – which was actually enough to make us wince – so it’s a matter of being gentle. Molyneux even noted you can push the arrow in as well if you’re feeling particularly sadistic... PETA are going to have a field day with that if it makes it into the final game.
From there, attention switched over to another magic scene, largely similar to the one shown at E3 last year. That’s not before Gabriel has to step off his horse and cart though and solve an extremely simple puzzle that is designed to show the accuracy of Kinect in The Journey. It’s that great that next to the reference of the puzzle in my notes the exact terminology I used was “meh.” Moving swiftly on...
After solving the puzzle and passing through the new passage, in front of Gabriel stood a large stone bridge, inundated with Balverines – and by inundated, we mean there’s only a few of them on it. Using the left hand to grab and the right hand to throw spells, Gabriel is able to swiftly dispatch a couple of the stationary werewolf-like enemies. The ante moved up very slightly then – emphasis on very slightly – with the Balverines hopping from one large stone pillar to the next. Then, it was merely a matter of grabbing them before dispatching them with a spell – nothing too complex. That’s the problem though, for a franchise that’s roots have been steeped in depth and immersion, on the surface of The Journey there’s none of that. Fable has seemingly gone full circle from a hardcore RPG to an adventure for families, and that dismays us. It breaks our little stone hearts, in fact.
Just before Molyneux wrapped up the presentation, he was keen to point out that players can train the horse to understand their voice and even get off the horse and head into dungeons to explore in search of their just rewards. We’ve seen none of that yet though, so like anything Mr Molyneux has to say these days, take that with a pinch of salt... after all, he may have made that up to stop us falling asleep.
Like I said yesterday though, the problem with Kinect Star Wars and now Fable: The Journey is that it seems like the control method doesn’t offer enough depth or responsiveness to core gamers like ourselves. That, right there, is a shame though, because boiling underneath the vacant exterior of The Journey lies a Fable game. It sounds like Fable, uses all the Fable lore and looks as good as a Fable game does, but from what we’ve seen thus far, it’s a question of depth... and from what we’ve seen it looks as shallow as the backstage of a Miss America pageant. Molyneux called it a “full RPG experience” so we’ll remain cautiously optimistic because that’s what we truly want, but until we see some of that, we’ll remain rightly pessimistic.
Fable: The Journey is scheduled for a fall 2012 release.