E3 2011: Fable: The Journey Preview Updated Impressions

We get a chance to see a bit more of this equine Kinect adventure.

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Fable: The Journey
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Dogs may be man's best friend, but they do have limitations. If you're planning on taking a cross-country trip, for instance, it would be much more advantageous to hook your carriage up to a sturdy horse than a scrappy puppy. So you don't need to shed any tears for your furry friend that has been unceremoniously removed from the next entry in the Fable series. You do have a horse after all; a fine horse with a chestnut-colored coat. And you should be happy that it's willing to pull your lazy butt all over the country. We had a chance to see the horse and the rest of Fable: The Journey in action at a pre-E3 press event. Though we didn't get a chance to play this Kinect game for ourselves, we did see someone else take the reins, and we came away with a better understanding of what to expect.

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Like the trailer shown during the Microsoft press conference, you begin The Journey on a horse. Well, not on the horse itself, but in a carriage behind the horse. Unlike most Kinect games, you can play this properly while sitting down. In fact, it's recommended that you are situated in a relaxed position. The Journey is supposed to replicate the experience of casually riding through the countryside, and only a fool would stand up rather than sit down in the carriage.

The direction you take is predetermined, but the speed is up to you. By snapping your arms, you urge the horse to go forward. If you're an uncaring, horse-hating bully, you can whip the poor beast raw. A horse has feelings just like your dog in Fable, so if you're needlessly cruel, it will tire, get injured, and build up an unhealthy (but entirely deserved) hatred toward you. The Journey uses "horse-sweat technology" according Peter Molyneux, so you can see it wilt under your pressure. Thankfully, its baser functions have been left out so there's no need for a horse diaper.

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While you travel down the road behind your reliable steed, you can occasionally stop for some extracurricular activities. In the demo, we saw a plant drained of its life force. It sounds like a sickening concept, and this process serves as your morality choice throughout the adventure. Life force is your experience points. To grow more powerful, you must extract the precious energy of the organisms around you. But if you get greedy, you get evil. We were told about an example involving an unfortunate squirrel. If you're kind, you can suck a bit of life force away and leave the squirrel happy. Or you can drain it a little more until the poor thing passes out. And if you're really greedy, you can siphon that arboreal rat dry. The choice is yours.

If you decide that manning the reins is too much work (which is ridiculous considering what your horse has to put up with), you can use voice commands. Now, we didn't get to see this feature in action, but we were told that horse-ordering staples such as "Whoa!" and making a clicking sound would work in the finished game.

The Journey is more than just a horse-roving adventure. During designated moments, you can leap off the carriage and continue on foot. This is where combat kicks in, with a strong emphasis on magical warfare. Doling out magical attacks is simple and intuitive. By swirling your hands around, you move balls of energy, and you can manipulate these particles in a number of ways. If you punch forward with one hand, you issue a quick burst. If you do the same thing with both hands, your attack is slightly stronger. You can also rub your hands together to turn your particles red, powering them up in the process. This transforms an ordinary fiery blip into a flaming explosion, so it's worth taking the time to do your stuff.

The final trick we saw was a simple crafting system. By twirling your hands, you mash your magical particles together. Once spun into a gooey paste, you can transform your ball of powers into all sorts of different creations. Drawing a square slows down time and creates a temporary shield, for instance, which serves as a handy defense. You can also turn your magic into a spear, telescope, or fishing rod. We only saw the first one demonstrated in the game, though the other two examples correspond with minigames.

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The Journey is much more linear than a typical Fable game, though it contains the same pick-up-and-play gameplay and whimsical charm for which the series is known. Keep your eyes on GameSpot for more information on Fable: The Journey when it becomes available.

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