Ride your hoverbike in a world of sand and wonders
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release date: 23 Sept, 2021
I’m not a photo person. For instance, I’m one of those individuals that come back from a vacation with two new photos on his phone. The same is for videogames and screenshots: I very rarely take them thinking “Oh! This needs to be screenshotted!”. It’s more like an “Oh! This could be a useful screenshot for the review”. With Sable instead, I’m finding myself drowning in screenshots. That should help you understand how beautiful Sable is, if not as an experience, at least visually. But let’s go in order…
From the Bottom of the Desert to the Highest Peak
Sable starts small. You have to complete a bunch of starting missions to gather three important things: the components that will make your hoverbike, your gliding stone and your mask. While the first and the latter don’t really need much introduction, the gliding stone is an artefact that gives you the power of a glider. This power manifests in people of a certain age and is lost as the wearer gets older, but our protagonist isn’t really in any danger of losing it and, instead, will find it incredibly useful to roam around the map. Since the protagonist is able to glide and is in possession of a very good agility, which allows her to climb most of the surfaces in the game (in a Zelda: Breath of the Wild-style), most of the map is explorable, except for the highest peaks.
Besides gliding, climbing and the hoverbike, there’s little more to Sable in terms of mechanics: you can interact with NPCs, which at times will offer you different quests. These will range from normal fetch quests to more complex stories, but they are usually on the simpler side. One aspect that I really appreciated in this regard is the oftentimes absence of markers: NPCs will usually tell you what you have to look out for, like a trail of symbols to reach a new mask or a particular vista in the desert. This makes exploration and quest completion so much more satisfying, opposed to most of the new titles where it is a mere reach marker-pick up mission item-return to NPC.
During the exploration of Sable’s world, Midden, we will be accompanied by a very silent entity: our own hoverbike. Its name is Simoon and it has one because it is believed that machines have a soul and can speak. While you won’t have access to Simoon right away, you will recover its parts and build it during the initial tutorial phase of the game. After that, you can use it to travel across the desert as you like, making it a fundamental companion in our travels.
Eventually, we will also find cuts (Sable’s world currency), which we will be able to spend to acquire new parts for our hoverbike. These upgrades will not only change its look, but also some stats, which are acceleration, top speed and stability. This aspect of the game changes only the ease of exploration, as you will only use Simoon to move around and there are no races or fights in this game, but are a great way to make Simoon feel unique to each player. When we reach a location with our hoverbike, we also unlock its position on the map, which marks it and unlocks fast travel to it: the latter is not something I used much at all during my time with Sable. Travelling around is soothing and a great experience overall, thus fast travelling feels like breaking the game a little bit, at least to me.
Sable always has something new to see: a new biome, an ancient temple or a dark and forgotten starship. All these locations, besides being interesting to just visit, usually hide additional elements of the game: you could find an ancient AI to speak to, which will unveil new pieces of information about the untold story of Midden, or you could find NPCs to buy clothing or hoverbike pieces from. Pots filled with cuts can be found everywhere (even on starships, which is not very realistic) but, most importantly, you will find yourself in awe at most of Sable’s locations.
Some Dust up My Hoverbike’s Wings
Sable is an amazing experience, but not an incredibly polished one: starting from the free climbing feature, it is great to be able to climb (almost) any surface, but the system is often unprecise, which can lead to falls (which, even without gliding, are never fatal). While climbing, getting stuck in geometry is also a thing and the character can take a few seconds to find a stable position. Regarding the game as a whole instead, many zones of the game suffer from sudden frame drops with no apparent reason, while stuttering is almost always present, even in very open, empty, areas: this can easily hinder an instead wonderful travelling experience when we are riding our hoverbike.
Sable is an incredible exploration experience, a game that has almost no other titles similar to it and that can be played by basically everyone. An incredible world awaits you, a world that, unfortunately, could have been even better with better-implemented mechanics and a more solid technical part.