REVIEW: ‘Sable’ Is Beautifully Simple and Simply Beautiful (PC)

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Sable

Sable is a new adventure game from the developers at Shedworks and published by Raw Fury. The game follows the titular Sable, a girl embarking on her gliding, a coming-of-age ritual that requires her to leave her nomadic tribe to wander the deserts of her world. Hoping to discover what role she wants to fill for the rest of her life, Sable waves her family and lifetime home goodbye with nothing but a slight suggestion of where to go and a pretty sick hoverbike to help her get around. 

Before Sable leaves her tribe, the player goes through a rather lengthy tutorial that sees them exploring the valley around the tribe to gather hoverbike parts, collect bugs, and power an ancient artifact that allows Sable to glide freely from any height. The tutorial effectively establishes the world of Sable and introduces players to the climbing and driving mechanics that they will become very familiar with over the rest of the game. 

However, it does feature some of the least interesting areas and interactions in the game, making it feel like it takes much longer than is necessary. This sensation, however, is relatively short-lived as making one’s way out into the world after the tutorial is quickly intoxicating. 

The structure of Sable is beautiful in its simplicity. Players are free to travel around the world and explore any part of it that they wish at any time. There is no main questline to direct the player or interfere, as Sable’s only goal is to choose a final mask by acquiring three tokens from others with that type of mask. This setup allows players to simply wander and travel to any landmarks or interesting vistas that they come across.

As players travel around the world, they can come across several different things. Every map region has a cartographer that players can buy a region map from. Additionally, players can stumble across crashed spaceships, towns, and merchants on top of general landmarks. Interacting with characters from the world is very simple and utilitarian. Characters will sometimes answer the player’s questions or give a hint about the world, but much of the world’s cultures and rules are left to player interpretation. This leaves interactions with characters usually being used to purchase new cosmetics or hoverbike parts or to start and subsequently complete a short sidequest. 

The locations that players can find throughout the world are diverse and frequently feature many interesting puzzles for players to work their way through. These can include challenges like navigating batteries to power moving blocks or scaling a massive spire with the help of air geysers. All of these puzzles can be completed using nothing more than Sable’s ability to climb any non-metal surface in the world, as well as floating thanks to Sable’s glide bubble.

Completing the puzzles give players many rewards. Along the way, players can find scrap metal to sell, Chum Eggs that can be turned in to gain more stamina, and earn tidbits of stories to help flesh out the history of the world. These rewards all work well enough, but the fundamental motivation that Sable gives players is the desire to explore and see more of the world

Sable

Two key components help create this desire to explore. The first is the game’s ludonarrative consistency. As Sable herself is discovering the wider world for herself, so is the player. The same goes for her pursuit to find what kind of mask she wants to wear for the rest of her life. Sable doesn’t know what possibilities are out there, just like the player doesn’t. This helps Sable put a value on the experience of exploring and just learning the world, as it is also the primary motivation of Sable herself.

The second way that Sable accomplishes this is through the design of its world. It is hard to look at the deserts of Sable and not find it absolutely beautiful. The unique graphical styling of the world does a lot of the heavy lifting in its own right, but there is a lot more subtle proficiency in the world design as well. This subtleness is shown in how organically the player can notice landmarks while traveling around the deserts and how well constructed those landmarks are.  

Most of the landmarks can be scaled without upgraded stamina. This helps encourage players to tackle the content in the game in any order they choose while allowing players with upgraded stamina to either cut some corners or make more mistakes before being punished.

The only problem with the aesthetics in Sable comes in the form of graphical bugs and issues. They do not mar the experience too much, but it does look goofy when Sable gets on top of a spire to look out at the horizon only to have her cape clip through her face and get stuck. Similar bugs can also pop up here and there with the wings of Sable’s hoverbike clipping into the ground. More frustrating bugs are also present here and there, like the hoverbike getting bugged and never returning to the player.

However, the bugs do very little to detract from the beauty of Sable. Playing Sable very well may be as close as one can get to a meditative experience while playing a game. Few games feel as good to simply exist within as Sable. The game’s gorgeous visuals, warm and comforting music, and intuitive game design all come together to create a unique experience about trying to find one’s place in the world through an expression of an individual’s freedom. 

Sable releases on September 23, 2021, on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. 

Sable
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Playing Sable very well may be as close as one can get to a meditative experience while playing a game. Few games feel as good to simply exist within as Sable. The game’s gorgeous visuals, warm and comforting music, and intuitive game design all come together to create a unique experience about trying to find one’s place in the world through an expression of an individual’s freedom.