The kingdom of Albion is threatened by a great evil, and an unlikely hero must rise to save the people. It's the basic plot of every Fable game since the first, but since gamers love it, let's have some more.
Fable: The Journey puts your character, a reluctant young warrior named Gabriel, in charge of a horse and a pair of magic gauntlets. Every action, from rein controls and equine first aid to launching offensive spells and yanking enemies off their feet with Force-like motions, is performed with Kinect. It's clever and ambitious, and most of the time it's fun.
Because of the gremlin that apparently nests in Kinect sensors, magical warfare is an enjoyable and empowering experience only when the sensor allows it. Attacks fired at enemies appear to have a homing instinct, so it's not the end of the world when Kinect misinterprets your gestures, but it's a frustrating pillock of an experience when it happens during puzzle-solving exercises because the spells don't lock on nearly as well. It almost makes you wish you had a controller to throw at the floor.
The Journey is not a true sequel to Fable III, though it does reference events in all three previous games and successfully retains the series' classic British humour. Albion remains a beautiful, wondrous land, and its denizens are characters in every sense of the word. Being that so much of the game is spent riding a horse with an ancient seer, like a kind of fantasy buddy road flick, it's important that the dialogue, scenery and music are absolutely top notch. In this respect, Lionhead nails it.
In February, I played an early version of The Journey in San Francisco under the supervision of former Lionhead creative boss Peter Molyneux. He said his team wanted to use the emotion in players' voices to add power to their spells. However when Lionhead brought an updated demo to E3 in June, the vocal intensity was gone - replaced with simple commands like "fireball" to switch out from the standard attack. This is the feature that remains in the final build.
It's worth noting that Molyneux, who has apologised in the past for over-hyping development features that never made into finished products, left Lionhead only days after announcing the "thermonuclear" voice power in San Francisco.
The Journey is a good game by conventional standards, and a great game for Kinect, but it is not the mighty stallion it promised to be. Sometimes, it's even a bit of a 'mare.
Platform: Xbox 360