Review: Sable

  • Release Date: 23rd September 2021
  • Version Played: Xbox Series S

Take one look at Sable and the most striking thing about it will be instantly obvious: it has an incredibly unique art style for a video game, inspired by Mœbius. It looks absolutely stunning and most screenshots look like a hand drawn 2D image, it’s amazing to look at and is pulled off extremely well.

During the day, you’ll see an impressive amount of beautiful colours. However, at night (and in some locations), it opts for a more washed out style, and can even go to a single shade of grey with just black lines. The lack of colour is something I found off-putting, and I wished you could skip until the daytime, but the only thing you can do is let the game run. Unfortunately, over half of your time will be spent playing the game with the washed out colours, it’s a big shame when you approach something that looks impressive for the first time, but don’t get to see its true beauty. I even drove into water occasionally as when the colours are washed out, you can’t tell the difference between water and land.

There are also a lot of visual issues which can sour the looks of the game somewhat, such as flickering shadows (particularly in the main city), and the sky flicking between two vastly different colours instead of transitioning between them. The game will also freeze a lot for very short (half a second) periods, making it very choppy. Some people will also find the animation framerate for walking, which is intentionally low, nauseating, but I personally loved the look of it.

Sable is heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, with similar exploration, climbing and gliding mechanics. There’s no combat in Sable, so it focuses entirely on exploration, fetch quests and a bit of puzzles and platforming. Climbing is not quite “climb anything” like BOTW, as there are lots of areas you’ll never be able to climb up, and some surfaces can’t be climbed on (frustratingly, some surfaces you have no idea you can’t climb on until it’s too late).

The world of Sable is….very empty. I felt like it could have been condensed a lot, as vast areas will have absolutely nothing in it. The top left half of the map, for example, doesn’t seem to have anything to interact with or find at all. When you do discover stuff, it does feel amazing, and at its best it feels like you’re a true explorer, but most of the time you are traversing an empty land on your hoverbike.

The hoverbike itself should be fun, but unfortunately Sable fails to deliver on this aspect. The bikes (you can buy parts and customise), will bounce around, seemingly hitting invisible objects and spinning out of control. It spoils the flow of the game and is a constant reminder that you’re playing a game. If you get separated from your bike, you can call it and it will drive to you in real time. The pathfinding is not good at all, and your bike will often fall through the map when trying to get to you, meaning you have to fast travel a few times to try and get it to respawn properly.

There are a lot of other bugs in Sable, too. Fast travelling only to find an empty white void, objects clipping through the main character, menus getting broken, controls becoming unresponsive, the camera swerving unresponsively in a random direction, quests getting deselected (which happens every time you pick up an item) and many others. The oddest is probably encountering many bushes with a “talk” symbol, which vanish when you try to interact with them. There’s also a lack of detail in some areas, such as some text not fitting the text box, so you can’t read the full description. One major bug can also cause you to be locked out of one of the larger quests if you explore one of the locations in it too early.

The story of Sable is about the young heroine (called Sable) setting off on her “gliding”, a quest to find masks and discover what your purpose in life will be. You need to collect badges to turn into masks, each one representing a different way of life (such as cartographer, machinist and guard). Once you have a couple of masks, you can return to make your choice (the end of the game) or carry on exploring until you feel you are ready. The masks have no gameplay relevance (even though the descriptions imply they do), but you will occasionally get new dialogue due to them.

The background lore is very interesting, you will find small snippets in crashed ships and get to piece together the history of this world, although some details are still kept under wraps. Dialogue is charming, especially the “narration” style for Sable herself. It will make you want to explore and find people, even with the heavy amount of bugs. The music is also extremely wonderful, matching the atmosphere perfectly.

In its current state, I can’t recommend Sable at all. Hopefully the game will get patched enough to feel completed, but at the moment the bugs, as well as other annoyances, impact the gameplay far too much.

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