Just What Is Fable: The Journey?

I'm sure if Peter Molyneux himself was writing this article, it would simply begin with "It's Not On Rails" in the biggest, boldest font imaginable. After a rather tepid response, to put it kindly, to the E3 reveal of Fable: The Journey at Microsoft's press conference, Molyneux has went on to call the demonstration a "horrendous mistake", getting journalists at the event to later sign a "It's Not On Rails" wall to really make sure they get the point. All in good jest, I'm sure, but clearly Molyneux is frustrated with the response and feels that his game was misrepresented and misunderstood.

So if it's not on rails, what is it? During the presentation itself, movement during combat was almost certainly not done by the player. Molyneux's response is that they removed navigation from their E3 demo to prevent any mistakes and focus on the magic system. Not really a sign of confidence, but a brightly lit stage is naturally not the best place to play Kinect, let alone unfinished software on Kinect, and Microsoft are well aware how software bugs can live on well past the conference.

But the key point he has since tried to get across is that most of the game is spent on the horse and carriage, which is completely in the players control. The horse and carriage is actually Lionheads response to freedom with Kinect, and it takes up the bulk of navigation within the game.

"We did lots of experimentation with pointing and pushing gestures and jogging on the spot – all utter shit. And so we had this breakthrough where we set you on a horse and cart. That makes sense if you’re sitting down." Molyneux told VG24/7

The Journey sees you traverse across 300 miles of Albion in an attempt to save a mortally wounded Theresa, the blind seeress from previous Fable games. You can control your horse by pulling and thrashing on the reigns, or with voice commands such as "whoa" to slow down and, as Molyneux has been happy to point out, the voice commands can be any words the player chooses to train the horse with. Any words. And most importantly -- you're not forced to travel along the same path.

There are many paths, caves and hamlets to explore. You can pull off the path across wide open fields, for example, and see where it may take you. And, at any point, you can get off your horse. How navigation will work on foot still remains a mystery, but Molyneux is adamant that the on-rails combat featured at E3 is not representative of the larger game.

Unlike previous Fable games, the player is not destined to becomes a hero. He is a dweller; an everybody. He can, however, still use magic.

The core of The Journey's combat is magic. The player can conjure spells, and more, using hand gestures. It's the perfect answer to controller-free combat and, coupled with the horse navigation mechanic, it's easy to see why the world of Albion suits Kinect well. The conjuring system, should the game match Molyneux's vision, will see players mix and match various gestures and spells, cooking up their own unique combat scenarios as well as a large variety of items.

One scenario Peter describes involves a wolf attack in the woods which results in a wheel falling off your carriage and your injured horse out of control in terror. Players will have to fend off the wolves, repair their wagon and attempt to gain control of and heal their horse. The conjuring system isn't, of course, restricted to on-foot combat. You can use it at any time for a variety of purposes.

“This is like a toy. It’s a magical toy. Like magic plasticine in your hands,” says Molyneux.

“This creational side is really important. You can create a telescope on a mountaintop. You can create a fishing rod and go fishing. Or a spear, a hammer. There are loads of things open to experiment with and you can use it at any time.”

Hinting at what the game might entail outside of combat and horse navigation, it'll be interesting to see what Molyneux shows of the game next. The game is being worked on by much of the team that spent 2 years working with Kinect on Milo, and is separate from Fable 4 which has its own team and remains, we can assume, a controller based game.

"A lot of the Milo tech we're not showing off. This is the first outing of this so we're keeping some of our big stuff safe behind. A lot of the stuff you can do in Fable: The Journey is some of the stuff that was originally found in Milo."

Will character interaction aim to be as emotionally engaging as Milo? We'll have to wait and see...

Check out Gamespots more detailed look at the E3 demo below, with Molyneux further explaining the concepts behind the game.

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