Shedworks' gorgeous indie adventure delivers on a genuinely fun world.
Without a warning, we are immediately thrown into the desert landscape and have to take on the open world as the title character Sable. She is about to leave the security of the village she has been in for a while and head out into the world. In short, she is going home and it is entirely up to you to shape that journey. But it's not just about throwing her out and driving, first she needs to prepare properly for what is to come. Above all, it's about building your own hovercraft and here we get to know the game's mechanics and learn the basics in a smaller world. I'm amazed at how much is already squeezed in here, when I am sure that I have seen everything, something new emerges that I completely missed and once you get a grip on climbing and gliding, it opens up even more. Suddenly I reach those high ledges and find completely new paths and move on, further expanding my adventure. On the surface, it looks like a fairly empty and meaningless world, but the more you explore, the more you find and it is full of ancient ruins, wrecks of spaceships and animal skeletons from species that you definitely do not find in the tempered forests of Earth, which is probably lucky because these do not seem to be particularly peaceful creatures.
In the name of honesty, it is a bit sluggish and slow, especially the first two hours. It is only when your hovercraft is fully assembled that Sable let's loose, that is when you have to leave the valley where you spent the first hours and go out into the unknown. As previously mentioned, Sable is going home, that's what it's all about if you are to summarise the story and that journey you can, apart from the beginning, as I said, make it your own. If the only thing you feel like doing is slipping through everything on your hovercraft without doing anything until she reaches her destination, it's fine. But then you miss the whole point with Sable. It is designed to be explored down to the smallest detail and there is really a lot to do, puzzles to be solved, people along the way who need help and not least lots of mountains and other obstacles to climb. The climb itself is often a bit of a puzzle as Sable has a rather limited endurance and when it is emptied she falls down and has to start again. But with a little strategy, perseverance and sometimes also some luck, you usually get up in the end and it is usually worth it because there is often a reward, but sometimes only in the form of a nice view of the desert. It is also worth mentioning that everything can be climbed, just walk up to a cliff or an object and she will automatically start climbing. Whether you then come up or not is a completely different question.
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Sable is in its simplicity really, really beautiful. It looks like a cartoon and in some parts it reminds me of Journey. Like Journey, it has a very calming effect on me as there are no enemies to worry about and the hours just go by while I tackle the barren desert landscape in which it mostly takes place. A charming detail is that Sable looks clipped in the environment, which makes it feel even more like an old cartoon. It is also very noticeable that the creators have taken some inspiration from Studio Ghibli, even though I am not a fan of their work, it still shines through quite properly in both character design and to some extent also the environments. There is not much life, there are some birds here and there, and some insects, but it does not do much for me, it is actually a desert we are in. It is also completely impossible to die, it does not matter if I try to crash with the bike (it's actually impossible to crash), it also does not matter how high the ledge I jump from, Sable takes absolutely no damage and does not even brush off after a fall from over 30 meters. On the other hand, she gasps a little if the endurance meter is emptied but recovers fairly quickly.
It is not entirely without problems, however, it may be beautiful and easy to get lost in, but at the same time it never delivers in a narrative sense. The story doesn't engage and even though I have a good time with Sable, she is not a particularly memorable character. There are plenty of non-playable characters to interact with but they too are fairly flat and lack charisma. It feels like there is a lot to tell but that never really comes out. It's frustrating at times when some of the characters really seem to be sitting on huge amounts of wisdom but then only say a few wise sentences and then you do not get anything more. I want to hear a lot more and find out how this world turned out the way it did, a little more background would not have hurt.
Sable is another indie gem that is easy to miss in the shadow of all the big titles that will be released this autumn. This is one of the reasons why I like Xbox Game Pass as much as I actually do. They give indie developers a good platform to stand on and it costs nothing extra besides even some precious time to test these smaller titles and more often than not you come across gems like Sable. If you have a free weekend or just a day without plans in front of you, I can definitely recommend that you download this and give it a chance.
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7 / 10
Charming graphics, lots of things to do, genuinely fun to explore the world, calming soundtrack.
The camera sometimes lives its own life, almost non-existent story, flat characters.