In the land of Midden, adolescents take part in a rite of passage known as The Gliding. It’s essentially an adventure of self discovery where Gliders get to experience the wider world to work out where they fit. Here players take the role of Sable as she prepares for her own Gliding.
The first hour or so of the game lets you meet Sable’s tribe. This is an essential part of the game that acts as a tutorial and is one of the only compulsary sections. Here you get to take on some basic quests and simple puzzles.
The result of the opening leaves you with three important things for your impending journey. The first is a compass that helps you find your way. The second is a Gliding Stone that lets Sable float through the air. Finally, after finding and assembling the parts, you also get your very own hoverbike, Simoon.
As you leave home, your tribe also head off and you find yourself very much on your own. Sable is an open-world adventure that really gives you a lot of freedom. The world of Midden is divided into different zones but where you go and what you do is entirely up to you. Should you want to reduce the amount of time spent travelling around you can make use of a handy fast travel option. I much preferred to ignore it and find my own way.
Simoon reminds a little of a pod-racer from Star Wars. It’s a little clumsy to control but that only adds to its charm. Zipping around the landscape is strangely addictive and rather relaxing. At any time you can disembark and go off exploring on foot. Should you forget where you last left it you can call out and Simoon will do its best to come to you.
This isn’t always as easy as you’d like though. That’s because there are plenty of obstacles around and much of the game requires you to climb. Sable is able to scale pretty much any surface and only limited by how much stamina she has. This means you have to be careful where you climb or you’ll fatigue and fall. Fortunately you can always glide to safety.
Actually the game is very forgiving and doesn’t impose any kind of fall damage. There’s also no combat to master, no boss battles or even any dying. It leaves you to get on with experiencing Sable’s journey. As you travel the world there’s plenty of camps to discover which are filled with interesting characters. Here you can talk to who you like and everyone you meet on your travels is well written. Some characters have interesting info while others have quests available if you wish to take them on.
Quests are varied and usually involve travelling to a specific location to do something. Many are types of traditional fetch quests but some are quite unique. There’s usually a mix of working out where to go, jumping, climbing and gliding as well as light puzzle elements.
In addition to the quests, each area has a cartographer to find who can sell you a map. These always require a lot of climbing and obtaining their maps makes finding your way around a little easier. The landscapes are also littered with the remains of crashed spacecraft which hold secrets for you to discover.
One of the main aims in Sable is working out who you want to be. This is done by earning different types of badges. When you obtain three badges of the same type you can forge them into a mask. When you’re happy you’ve collected the mask you want you can return to your tribe. This means you can complete the game in a few short hours or push to discover everything. In my playthrough I went past the 10 hour mark but am keen to go back to see the things I missed.
Visually Sable is an absolute delight to look at. It uses a cell shaded aesthetic that reminds of the sci-fi and fantasy works of Jean “Moebius” Giraud. It gives the game a lovely cartoony anime look that constantly changes colour in sync to the time of day. The audio is also well worth a mention with a stunning soundtrack from indie rock band Japanese Breakfast.
As much as I enjoyed Sable I did encounter a fair amount of bugs during my time with the game. Most of these weren’t particuarly serious and will likely be improved with a couple of patches. Moving around the landscape I would often see objects that should be on the ground just floating up in the air. Another strange one I encountered on several occasions would highlight plants as people you can talk to. Trying to talk to them would make them disappear.
The camera can be a little annoying and often clips through objects and the landscape. It’s also often obscured by the dust thrown up by Simoon but this might be by design. More serious bugs I encountered included Simoon going missing and the user interface refusing the play ball at trading posts. Restarting the game was needed to resolve these issues but I never lost progress. I also managed to get Simoon stuck in a cave in one quest by getting inside in a way the game wasn’t expecting. Rescuing Simoon required me to work out what the game wanted me to do in the first place.
Overall I’ve absolutely loved my time with Sable. I liked that it does things its own way and gives players freedom. It’s actually an incredibly relaxing game and I’ve found myself quite happy just mindlessly exploring the beautiful environments on my hoverbike while listening to the soundtrack. Sable is an impressive debut for developer Shedworks and I can’t wait to see what they work on next.
Sable was reviewed using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Publisher: Raw Fury Developer: Shedworks Release Date: 23rd September 2021 Reviewed On: PC/Steam Also Available On: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass