E3 2012: In Defense of Fable: The Journey

Well E3 2012 is over and it was…interesting. I think there was a lot of disappointment from people who expected too much (did you really think they’d have enough of a new Smash Bros.  complete to show this year?!). But to someone like me who expected nothing, well, it happened!

But while my goal with this year’s E3 report was to focus on lesser known games, there is one actually well known game I want to talk about. Why? Because it gets waaay too much hate.

That game is Fable: The Journey.

If you’re unfamiliar, Fable: The Journey is an on-rails magic-based shooter spin-off of the Fable series that uses the Kinect. To me, it looks pretty awesome. To everyone else, it looks like betrayal!

So, how can I dare to like a game that everyone else is grabbing their torches and pitchforks over? It’s easy: I “get it”.

First of all, it’s a spin-off. This is not the next “true” Fable game, this is not the future of the series. This is “Let’s make a Kinect game and set it in the Fable universe!”. I don’t know why but people seem to have difficulty comprehending the concept of a spin-off. I remember that 85% of the hate Megaman X: Command Mission got was not because it was a bad game, but because it was an RPG. Even though the game actively told players “Hey! I’m an RPG spin-off of Megaman X!” they still complained!

I think Simon Carter, one of the original creators of the Fable universe, said it best himself:

“When Mario Kart came out, nobody was going, what?! There’s no jumping! That’s not the next Mario game! What are you talking about Miyamoto! I hate you! I’m going to burn your house down and kill your children!”

It’s quite true (even if early Mario Karts did have jumping…sorta). Heck this rings true for more than just Fable. I swear if I hear one more person complain about “Why is Sonic in a Car!” with the All-Stars Racing franchise I’m going to punch them! How come only Mario get to get away with crazy spin-offs? Heck, there’s an entire article of the Fable: The Journey crew complaining about the complaints! I completely agree with them.

Seriously, stop thinking of it as “Gimped Fable on Kinect”, and think of it instead as “Time Crisis with Magic”. Suddenly it sounds a lot better, doesn’t it?

Of course it’s here that someone says “But Molyneux said it wasn’t on-rails!”. Well Molyneux is an idiot and you should never listen to a word he says. Seriously, use your eyes. It’s on-rails. What Molyneux was saying was that there are points where you drive a carriage and can follow different roads across the world. He’s still an idiot as those roads are indeed rails in their own right, but yes apparently the game will have some form of freedom even if it is just an over glorified stage select masquerading as a world map.

That said, they are doing their best to go beyond basic railed structure. Aside from the presumed “over glorified stage select” I mentioned there’s also segments where you lean left and right to avoid obstacles or switch between various points of cover. It’s really quite clever and will add a bit more to the rail shooting action.

The stage design itself shows a lot of promise as well. There’s a certain art to making a good on-rails stage. Since the programmer is in control of the action, they have to script things, making it like a first person cutscene yet still give the player interactivity as much as possible so as not to alert them to their on-rails state. What I see in Fable: The Journey isn’t quite the action thrill ride that is Time Crisis, but it does admittedly look far better than Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest.

Here’s where we get to the other thing that intrigues me: the magic. Since you’re doing different gestures to cast different spells, you have a far bigger and more versatile armament than the average rail shooter and how they utilize that could be interesting. I’ve seen standard magic bolts, fireballs that explode into pieces, a magic shield, after-touch that lets you redirect shots, a magic lasso that lets you tear enemies apart and redirect projectiles, and a stone spear and that’s all in what appears to be the first stage! How much freedom this unique arsenal gives will be a good chunk of what makes or breaks this game.

Of course it’s here that people start whining about it being “casual”. Okay, first of all, Fable has been “casual” since Fable 2 at least. They’ve actively made a point of making the game super easy and accessible. This is nothing new. But really, why is this one so extra-casual? Apparently some idiot at Lionhead was running his mouth about it being lighter and lacking the “adult humor” of other Fable games. Since when has Fable been “dark” or had “adult humor”?! It has fart jokes, people! Well now they’re trying to call this game a “hardcore” experience and people aren’t taking it because, well, it’s on Kinect.

Well I can assure you both of these idiotic statements come from a marketing department. When they said it was “casual” it was because they thought it would help sell the game. Now Microsoft is trying to do this “Kinect for Core” thing, showing you can make “hardcore” games on Kinect and it’s…not entirely working. But you can see how that would cause Microsoft to tell them to market Fable: The Journey as a “core” experience.

Well let’s cut the crap. From the trailers and gameplay it does look a good bit darker and the fact that it’s on-rails, moving you from action setpiece to action setpiece as fast as possible means there won’t be time to make stupid jokes or faff about with villagers. We;ve got things to blow up and time is a wasting.

The other thing I can confirm is that the game can be played sitting. They’ve made a point of advertising this, recommending that you play it sitting down. They even went directly to Microsoft to work on the tech to make the seated motion detection work better. So that’s a thing.

So, really, this looks like it has potential. A gesture based magical rail shooter? Sign me up! I just have two concerns:

#1) How well can it differentiate the different motions? Will I try to cast one spell and accidentally cast another? I know they put in voice recognition as another way to change spells but will that help or hurt?

#2) How much auto targetting is there? There’s no cursor and the Kinect isn’t exactly accurate. If you’ve played Diabolical Pitch, you know that auto targetting can be taken too far as it is literally impossible to miss in that game! Luckily you can miss in Fable: The Journey. But can you miss enough?

Fingers crossed this game works out as personally, I’m quite interested and it would be nice to have another non-dancing game on Kinect worth playing.

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