Is Fable's creator done with physical controllers?

The Kinect-enabled Fable: The Journey makes its creator, Peter Molyneux, contemplate a future without buttons.

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Less than a year ago, Lionhead Studios boss Peter Molyneux made headlines when he dared to acknowledge that "Kinect has got some problems." During a recent demo of Fable: The Journey, though, the celebrated designer stated that he "might never make games for a conventional controller again." Always good for a quote, the celebrated game designer was talking to us as we played through a demo of the upcoming Fable Kinect game.

The demo kicked off with a look at Fable: The Journey's hero, who really isn't a "hero" at all. Gabriel is a simple fellow who, having lost his tribe, is traveling in search of them with his horse when he encounters Fable series regular Theresa. What Gabriel becomes embroiled in as a result of that meeting is anyone's guess at this point, but it's clear from the several short sequences we played through that his life gets a lot more complicated. Fortunately, the same doesn't appear to be true for the game's controls.

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After sitting down in front of Fable: The Journey we were given little in the way of instruction before taking the reins. Molyneux clearly takes great pride in the fact that folks are able to pick up the game and start playing without needing a tutorial, but by the same token there were several occasions during our demo that he felt compelled to explain things. We had no problem figuring out how to move our hands as if we were holding reins and using them to control the horse's direction and speed, but it didn't occur to us that we should either slow to a walk or accelerate to a gallop when we entered an area with enemy archers, for example. And even after those courses of action were suggested to us, the imprecise controls that are a feature of so many Kinect games made it difficult to act on them. As a result, our equine companion was hit with a couple of arrows.

Pulling over to the side of the road once we were past the archers, we were standing alongside the horse in the next sequence and using intuitive gestures to look after it. Removing the arrows was as easy as reaching for them and pulling them out, while other cuts and such that the horse sustained were dealt with simply by rubbing them with our hand. The horse's flank filled the screen at this point, so we weren't really able to get any sense of how well we were doing, whether or not it was in pain, or anything like that. We're told that, much like the dog in Fable II, the horse in The Journey will look and behave differently depending on your actions, but we didn't see any evidence of that during the demo. Aside from a couple of forks in roads and some assurances from Molyneux, we also didn't get a sense that The Journey will be nearly as big on choices as previous Fable games.

When we weren't interacting with the horse, our time in the Fable: The Journey demo was spent manipulating magic. We were still able to play the game sitting down, and every gesture we could conjure up seemed to result in a satisfyingly appropriate spell being cast. Depending on the way that we moved our right hand, we were able to throw fireballs of different sizes and at different speeds, and even exercise some control over them mid-flight. Merely flicking our wrists was movement enough to get the job done, but more powerful spells were cast when me made bigger movements, used both hands, or let the magic energy sit in the palm of our hand for a moment before throwing it. Small swarms of flying insects were the only enemies that we got to try the magic out on for much of the demo, and they didn't pose much of a challenge. That definitely changed toward the end of our demo, though, when a balverine showed up.

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Unlike the insects, which flew straight for us with no apparent sense of self-preservation, the balverine was jumping between some columns and was clearly reacting to avoid our magic projectiles. After watching us shoot and miss for a minute or so, Molyneux suggested that we bring our left hand into play and, as we did just that, it appeared to be holding some sort of octopus made of magical energy. It wasn't immediately apparent what we were supposed to do with it, but when we were told to flick its tentacles out like a whip, we had no problem doing just that, and bringing one of the columns that the balverine had been jumping between down on top of it.

And with that, the playable portion of our demo came to an end. There was time for another quick encounter with Theresa though when, while watching a trailer for Fable: The Journey, we saw a doll of the character being found inside a treasure chest. Finding character dolls will unlock those characters for play in the just-announced Fable Heroes Xbox Live Arcade game.

Both Fable: The Journey and Fable Heroes are scheduled for release later this year. We look forward to bringing you more information on both games in the coming weeks.

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