Sable Review: A beautiful meditation journey through a fascinating world

Sable contrasts sharply with many open world conventions. There are no conflicts and battles, this is a world that relies entirely on its visual effects, world construction and exploration power. However, developer Shedworks achieved this feat in an impressive style, providing a rich experience despite some technical issues.

You explore an almost free-form open world, as the nominal Sable, a young girl who starts to glide. During this pilgrimage, she explored the wasteland of Midden, looking for a mask. These are not just headwear, but also the role of the character in Midden society: for example, mechanics who assemble and maintain air-cushion bicycles like plain metal masks, while climbers are marked by cartoon lizard helmets.

The game assures you from the very beginning that there is no wrong path to follow, and Sable remains committed to this spirit in its more than 20 hours of running time. Collect three badges for any type of mask, obtained by completing tasks, and awarded to you through a very unusual ceremony. After assembling the mask of your choice, you can complete the game at any time. However, this will cause serious damage to the often magical experience.

Without any specific goals, Sable instead allows your curiosity to run through, and the task just gently pushes your next discovery. What a wonderful world this is. This sparse landscape, Inspired by the Jakku sequence in The Force Awakens, Has a very effective comic aesthetics, bringing Frank Miller’s vision to life. Sable is not an intensive open-world experience, but a customized, hand-crafted structure that focuses on placement throughout Midden. The journey through negative space echoes the meditative qualities of “Shadow of the Colossus”, as your air-cushion bike raises the dust and is backed by the peaceful soundtrack of a Japanese breakfast, giving affairs a hypnotic quality.

The locations are beautiful and diverse: a spherical astrolabe the size of a cathedral, a mummy of a huge salon, a spacecraft from a shipwreck. I can continue, but the fun of Sable is to stand on the top of the mountain and choose a new direction to travel-by physically projecting your waypoint into the distance, and holding your breath when you finally get there.

Rock climbing is your main way of interaction. It is a simplified version of Breath of the Wild. Sable will grab any grippable surface and continue climbing until it runs out of energy. Helping you is the gliding stone, granted Sable at the beginning of her journey, which allows you to glide slowly through the air in the energy ball. In the absence of any failure state, Sable’s challenges mainly appear in the form of mild logistical problems, because you have to figure out how to accurately scale these huge structures, as well as some single-room physical problems. These ascents are usually well-paced, forcing you to stop and observe your surroundings without interrupting the meditation flow of the program, and usually pay off with spectacular scenery. All equipment obtained is purely decorative, although your hovercraft can be upgraded with money and can be found in crates, or it can be obtained by selling scrap metal to particularly grumpy suppliers.

Shedworks always adds unique elements to these puzzles to keep them fresh. The influence of The Outer Wilds is reflected in the few time-sensitive puzzles in the game and the mysterious breadcrumb trail that connects each wrecked spacecraft together to form a grand narrative. In addition, writer Meg Jayanth brought the game actors to life through vivid thumbnail descriptions, reminiscent of her works in works such as “80 Days” and “Wuyang Sea”. This is most obvious in Sable herself. She is a lovely character. When dealing with the adult world, she wears a witty self-confidence mask to conceal her inner anxiety. Jaynath also elegantly resolved the prejudices that might arise when dealing with the science fiction world: As Sable reminded himself when he encountered a huge community of lightning crystal miners, “These farmers are never explained by me.”

This sums up Sable’s mission statement: to provide players with a fascinating, otherworldly place to explore without obstacles, restrictions or judgment. In most cases, it works well. However, stuttering is common in many areas of the Xbox Series S, which brings a gentle but persistent feeling of discontinuity to the exploration. Small technical errors are also common, such as camera editing, out-of-sync music playback, and texture pop-ups, but they can usually be fixed with a quick reload. Although the developers have promised to fix various performance issues in the coming weeks, they will undoubtedly affect the fluency and immersion that Shedworks is working hard to achieve.

Other issues are largely secondary. Due to the limited animation, the NPC may have a certain degree of stiffness, which makes a few dialogue and cutscenes tasks feel bland. Judging which surfaces are climbable can also be confusing, leading to some frustrating moments of trial and error. In addition, obtaining certain masks may feel trivial compared to other masks. However, when you set off again, these nitpicking things are quickly forgotten, and aim yourself at a plume of smoke that spreads upward into the hazy sky.

Sable has a kind of melancholy, the city wrapped in ruins and the huge skeletons dotted in its landscape, but this is balanced with the core of active infection throughout the game. What it lacks in the drama, it makes up for its shortcomings with pure creativity and grandeur, allowing you to feel the sense of tranquility that is urgently needed and appreciated in these strange times. However, it all returns to the joy of discovery: when you peel off the layers of Midden, you may not know what you will find, but it will definitely be interesting.

Disclaimer: Tested on Xbox Series S, and a copy of the game provided by the publisher is attached.