Fable has always been a teenager’s game, both in terms of the combat, the magic and the slightly blue humor. But something about the game’s open world has always appeal to my kids from a younger age — certainly too young to be let loose on the game alone.
My son would be in fits of laughter by the farting ability of the main character — and found it even funnier if I didn’t get the timing right and it all went horribly wrong. Then my daughter made a strong connection with your canine friend in the game. She would happily wander around the outreaches of Albion trailing her dog behind her — talking to him all the time.
In our family Fable had many different names. It was the “rude game” to my son, “dog-walking game” to my daughter and “adventure game” to me. With a little care and attention from me we could enjoy the game without encountering the more fighting and magical elements.
Fable: The Journey ($39.99) has meant that Albion has taken on a new place in the gaming habits of my family, not to mention some new names. Although my children are still not old enough to play it on their own, The Journey offers a much more self-contained and more manageable package for us. It is still played in the wide open fields, highways, rivers, lakes and cities of Albion but now you are offered a singular path through this landscape.
As you can see in my interview with Gary Carr (below), Creative Director on the Fable games, he too has younger children and was keen to work on an experience that they could enjoy while at the same time keeping it a canonical addition to the Fable series. I think it’s turned out pretty well.
Carr describes how Lionhead needed to create a new set of Kinect mechanics that would allow the player to control the game sitting down. Unlike the usual standing posture of Kinect games, Fable: The Journey recognizes that longer hard-core experiences need to be enjoyed in a more relaxed position.
It takes a little getting used to, and we found that time setting up the Kinect sensor and play-area reaped dividends. Sitting in front of the game using your arms and body to make a variety of gestures is an exercise in perseverance and the human ability to adapt to new tasks. I had to encourage my daughter to stick with it a few times, patience not being her strong point, but she was soon steering Serene (our life-long companion and mode of transport in the game) through the various tracks and roads.
I’ve read some reviewers criticize the amount of horse riding you have to do in the game but we really couldn’t get enough of it. We teamed up so that she did the traveling elements while I took charge of the magic and puzzles. As time went by though her confidence and familiarity with the controls grew and we shared things more easily.
There were still a few scenes where she was hiding behind her cushion, but in the main I didn’t need to censor this Fable like I had with our “dog walking” and “flatulence” play times on the previous games.
Talking this over with my wife I realized that I valued being a little scared at a few things growing up. In fact I don’t think Doctor Who would have been the exciting show it was had I not glimpsed sight of it while older siblings were watching. That unsettling edge lent the Doctor a magical and slightly dangerous feeling that I still find both exhilarating and exciting.
There were a few times when my daughter struggled to get the game to perfectly map her movements. More demanding sections are sometimes a bit ambitious of what a younger play can achieve — as well as how good Kinect is at seeing smaller bodies. But a quick hand from me and we were soon on our way.
Most interestingly our time with Fable: The Journey has sparked an interest not only in the other fictions around Albion (and plenty of questions about how the story fits with other events) but also an appetite for medieval history in the real world. This has led to us watching all manner of different films from Robin Hood classics to King Arthur.
Although Carr is keen to emphasis that Fable: The Journey isn’t designed as a beginner’s Fable, or an easy way in for my family, it actually worked in that respect pretty well for us. But unlike a game that has intentionally dumbed down or over-simplified its core elements for a family audience, The Journey‘s authenticity did a good job of connecting our younger audience to the best of what makes Albion such a great place to spend time.
In fact it’s made me wonder if there is scope for a Halo Kinect or Mass Effect Kinect to take adventure of this fresh approach to motion-controlled games that unite both core and casual (dad and daughter) gamers.