Review: Sable Is Gorgeous but Clunky
When Sable was first announced, it definitely stood out visually. I was eager to get my chance to on a hover bike and cruise the dunes to a soundtrack provided by Japanese Breakfast. It’s a game that didn’t promise anything in its trailers beyond its unique visual style and a chance to ride a hoverbike through the desert—and it definitely delivered on that.
Sable is a third person adventure game. In it, you play as the eponymous Sable as she embarks on her “Gliding.” This is a rite of passage—a chance for Sable to leave and explore the world on her own. In fact, as she’s sent off to do some errand, she returns to find her nomadic tribe has already moved on to an new unknown location, leaving Sable alone to fend for herself on the desert planet. But while the desert planet Sable explores looks harsh and post apocalyptic, Sable is a peaceful journey of exploration, with some light puzzle solving thrown in.
Your main goal in Sable is to explore—and to do that you can jump, glide, and climb everywhere, as long as your stamina holds out. Exploration is the entire point of Sable, and you mostly do that at your own pace. You’re encouraged to explore certain regions or head in a specific direction through quests and side quests, but there are also secret pick-ups, including cosmetics and currency, that give you another reason to poke around off of the beaten path.
In Sable, your gliding hoverbike is like another character. You can customize it to give it your own unique look, with different parts available at different outposts. Sable’s hoverbike can even be called like a horse, and will come to your command if within range. As important as the hoverbike is, it really isn’t implemented as well as I’d like, however. Gliding alone the sand feels okay, but it’s not as fun as it looks. The bike can easily tip sideways on rough terrain, too.
While the hoverbike doesn’t feel that great to ride, running around on foot, jumping, and climbing don’t feel that great either. Now Sable doesn’t have to be an incredibly satisfying game to play to enjoy, but it would have helped immensely if it didn’t feel so clunky.
Sable also manages to squander its word building a bit. While the beginning of the game and introduction to its lore is great, Sable never gets back to the high water mark of its intro. The people you meet along the way, and the quests you perform never feel very substantial, and rarely interesting, and it’s a missed opportunity. There are a few interesting characters, but for the most part the NPCs you meet feel randomly generated—like something you’d find in No Man’s Sky.
While I might have had high expectations for Sable, I’m not exactly disappointed with the results. I enjoyed the serenity it provided—like a peaceful Breath of the Wild. However, as an exploration game, while I appreciated its open ended approach, I also didn’t feel as compelled to keep exploring. There wasn’t an overarching mystery to solve, or a wrong to undo—it’s just you, sand, and the fun you can make—and that’s enough for some people, and while I usually enjoy games like that, something about Sable made it hard for me to see it through to the end, but I’m glad I did.
Sable is available on Windows via Steam and on Xbox Series S|X and Xbox One.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.