When it comes to comic books, I generally tend to be more of a fan of manga — however, if there is one comic book and illustrator I admire, it would have to be the works of French artist Jean Giraud or better known as Moebius. Without a doubt, the first thing that drew me into the world of Sable was its striking art direction, one that features a style unmistakably similar to that of the work of Moebius, specifically his 1975 collection, Arzach.
For the uninitiated, this is the debut game by Shedworks, a UK-based two-person team. The title is a coming-of-age story following the exploits of the titular Sable, a young girl hailing from a small nomadic tribe. The game takes place in the world of Midden, a fairly large continent consisting of 4 distinct biomes in addition to a mountainous and snowy area.
This game is strictly exploratory, meaning there is no combat—instead, the focus shifts on Sable’s journey, on what the game refers to as her Gliding, or her quest in finding her calling/vocation in life. Sable opens with the player tasked with procuring a bike for Sable via old ship parts strewn about the waste near her home.
Bikes in this world play a big part, as they are not only Sable’s means of transportation around the world of Midden but also integral in its narrative of self-discovery and finding one’s true calling. To finish her gliding, Sable must choose a vocation. To do this, the player must acquire the necessary mask, which in itself requires three badges of the same type.
Masks can range from city guards to mechanics and market vendors, or in other words, the characters that Sable meets on her journey as she freely explores her world dictates the various jobs the player can aspire to profess in. To complete the game, Sable requires only collecting 3 of the various class badges available to earn the mask and conclude her gliding, however, the game strongly encourages exploration and taking the time to see as much as possible before concluding the game at one’s leisure.
If this open-ended approach to gameplay, coupled with mask collecting, sounds familiar, it is likely because Sable feels very much inspired by the Legend of Zelda series. Specifically, the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild comes to mind when playing this game, as it features a stamina and climbing system, along with the ability to glide and hover that works mechanically exactly like Breath of the Wild‘s paraglider and Link’s ability to climb on most surfaces.
“Sable feels very much inspired by the Legend of Zelda series.”
Like Breath of the Wild, , too, can gradually upgrade her stamina, granting her the ability to climb and run for more extended periods without having to stand still and recharge. Instead of trials or arcane orbs, Sable can increase her stamina by finding slug-like worm eggs known as Chums, which can then be returned to the Chum Queen for tears that level Sable’s stamina.
Additionally, Sable can come across various derelict ships in Midden that are similar to the shrines found in the aforementioned Breath of Wild title. These ships act as a fun diversion, if not feel a bit too familiar at times, but nevertheless add depth to the otherwise purely exploratory-based approach to gameplay. Cosmetic ship parts and clothing can also be found via exploring the game world, doing quests or simply buying them from the various vendors in Midden, which, although not paramount to the game, ultimately adds a nice layer of immersion and sense of progression as a player’s slowly make her into who she is by the end of the game.
Dialogue in Sable is also quite good, with player’s privy to both what the character is thinking, thanks to the third-person narrative coupled with your standard fair of NPC exposition. Truly, the best part of the game is just getting to explore Midden and getting to see all the distinct areas, brimming with pastel and low-saturated hues indicative of Moebius’s deceitfully simple and surreal art.
“Truly, the best part of the game is just getting to explore Midden and getting to see all the distinct areas.”
The low-fi aesthetic of the game also means the game will likely run at a solid 60fps for most players, which pairs very nicely to the deliberately choppy walk cycle Sable has, giving the game an animated feel throughout. The motif of the mask is carried throughout Sable as well, with each and every humanoid character dawning a mask, proclaiming and literally personifying their vocations, giving the game world a very tribalistic and distinct feeling of place.
Aside from the strong art direction, Sable features a great ambient and original soundtrack by Japanese Breakfast that wholly fits Sable‘s more laid-back and relaxing atmosphere, which gives a sense of immersion that makes some of Sable‘s technical shortcomings easy to forgive. These issues are minor and primarily consistent of some uneven collision detection when vaulting and climbing over obstacles and a few instances in which Sable‘s ship got stuck in the geometry.