Incredible art and captivating mysteries within a world begging to be explored are just some of the aspects that define Sable as a game. So many qualities follow those ideas, yet it's all done without any reliance on combat systems. This places Sable in a rare category of its own.
Sable is a coming-of-age story in the simplest terms. What separates it from stories in the same genre is the ability to capture the best moments of the coming-of-age journey that everyone goes through at some point in life. The experience of leaving the nest to explore the world in one last bout of freedom is at the core of Sable's philosophy.
Early on in the game, Sable leaves her nomadic village to take on a ceremony called the Gliding. Players are given a stone that allows Sable to glide from any height, as well as a bike named Simoon. With both of those, Sable is tasked with wearing her village's mask and exploring the world until she realises what she wants her profession to be.
Not only is that the story Sable follows, but it translates into the gameplay experience as well. The gliding could last weeks or years according to the lore in the game, and players can also take that same approach in the game. Players can finish their story with Sable within a few hours, or they could spend nearly a full day exploring the entire world.
The gameplay experience within Sable
Inspiration doesn't seem to stop there, though, and games like Journey or Abzu are a great way to describe how Sable plays. They are artistic masterpieces filled with mystery and a calming aura that keeps players discovering every little thing they can.
Another aspect of Sable that makes it comparable to Journey or Abzu is the lack of combat. There are no instances where players will risk dying to an enemy, and there is no combat. Sable is based entirely on exploration, and when new places are found, the game engages players with puzzles or platforming.
There's no harm in the surprises that are scattered all around the world, which encourage investigation. Stamina upgrades, Cuts currency, and new clothes are just some reasons to explore a new place if players are in it for the reward. Just don't expect any threats to protect against these exciting finds.
Due to the theme of the game and the philosophy behind the story, Sable certainly does better without having combat involved. Players are given a chance to go anywhere in the entire world, as long as they have the imagination or the strategy to climb and solve ancient mysteries. Sable is there to find out how she wants to spend her adult life, not take down enemies at every corner, and it was a refreshing experience.
Art in Sable was uniquely awe-inspiring at every corner
Perhaps the main draw of Sable was the art itself. Some games pride themselves on seamless gameplay where graphics don't matter. For Sable, the art is part of the experience itself, and it wouldn't be the same game with generic graphics.
Shedworks, the developer behind Sable, uses a cell-shaded style of graphics to give the appearance of animation brought to life. Along with the use of colours, Sable is easily one of the most enjoyable games to look at, period. Bright desert sands with alternating oranges or neon lights within a grey apocalyptic wasteland make every region pop out as unique with history.
Even the darkness in the game looks different than how most would imagine it. The game does not simply use shadow or darkness to show the absence of light. It's a small appearance change, but it certainly makes a difference in how incredible the art is.
Encapsulating freedom before adulthood within Sable
There isn't necessarily one major plotline in Sable that players follow. The only common thread is the need for Sable to find out who she is. No protagonists are hunting Sable down, and there are no world-ending events. Sable has limitless time and the tools to move across a vast desert.
Almost any NPC in the game can be spoken to, and each one has a mask on. Masks in Sable signify a person's profession, whether it is a guard, merchant, mechanic, or anything else under the sun. Completing quests for NPCs or in towns will reward players with a badge based on that profession.
Once three badges are earned, a mask can be claimed for that profession. However, the mask isn't permanent until the very end. Players can get every mask in the game if they would like. The idea is to take the time and figure out what Sable wants through all kinds of alien or ancient mysteries scattered all over.
In theory, players could call it a day and choose the profession they want super early on, but that ends the Gliding. I spent countless hours beyond what I needed to, simply because the world was so rich with history and lore. I found myself wanting to know every corner of the landscape in which Sable lived.
Impact in Sable's vast world
The impact left behind in Sable is one area of the game that falls short compared to the great qualities like art and exploration. Choices aside from which profession players may want to pursue do not seem to make much of an actual difference in the game.
Dialogue is pretty frequent with almost any NPC, and while the lack of voice acting seems to work well in the theme, the lack of impact does not. There are usually a few different dialogue options to choose from with different tones. But they all lead back to the same results aside from a couple of fringe cases.
This one aspect of Sable would have been a welcome addition to the game, especially when helping others and exploration is so prevalent. At least seeing the effects of a choice when returning to an area would have been fantastic. Perhaps it would have gone against the idea of stress in a game based so heavily around peaceful exploration.
Sable's journey is one to remember
Some moments in Sable were simply breathtaking. It shared some aspects with Skyrim because I was able to visit nearly any location as long as I could see it on the horizon. The atmospheric music that felt so nostalgic only added to the experience, and it was almost sad to leave the world and end the coming-of-age story.
Many players may be surprised by how unique yet inviting the game is. Almost anyone can jump into Sable and find themselves mesmerised by the art Shedworks put together. The price point at $25 only furthers the incentive to buy a game with such a wide scope of the adventure.
While nearly every corner of the desert was explored in my playthrough, I can see myself going back soon just to ride around the endless waves of sand, if only to experience the world along with Sable.
Reviewed on: PC (code provided by Raw Fury)
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, MacOS
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release: September 23, 2021