Review: Sable is beautiful but clunky

Screenshot: Sand

When Sable was first announced, it definitely stood out visually. I was looking forward to my chance on a hover bike and ride the dunes to a soundtrack provided by Japanese Breakfast. This is a game that promised nothing in its trailers beyond its unique visual style and a chance to hoverbike through the desert, and it definitely delivered on that promise.

Sable is a third person adventure game. In it, you play as the eponymous Sable as she embarks on her “Gliding.” It’s a rite of passage, a chance for Sable to leave and explore the world on her own. In fact, as she is sent out on errands, she returns to find that her nomadic tribe has already moved to a new, unfamiliar location, leaving Sable to fend for herself on the desert planet. But while the desert planet Sable explores feels harsh and post-apocalyptic, Sable is a peaceful journey of exploration, with some light puzzle solving.

Screenshot: Sand

Your main objective in Sable is to explore – and to do this you can jump, slide and climb anywhere, as long as your stamina holds up. Exploration is the whole point of Sable, and you mostly do it at your own pace. You’re encouraged to explore certain areas or head in a specific direction through quests and side quests, but there are also secret items, including cosmetics and currency, that give you another reason to get out of beaten track.

In Sable, your hover hoverbike is like another character. You can customize it to give it your own unique look, with different parts available in different outposts. Sable’s hoverbike can even be called like a horse and will come at your command if it’s within range. As important as the hoverbike is, however, it is not implemented as well as I would like. Sliding on the sand alone feels good, but it’s not as fun as it looks. The bike can also tip over easily on rough terrain.

Screenshot: Sand

While the hoverbike isn’t that fun to ride, running, jumping, and climbing doesn’t feel so good either. Now Sable doesn’t have to be an incredibly satisfying game to enjoy it, but it would have helped immensely if it didn’t feel so clunky.

Sable also manages to waste his word a bit while building. Although the start of the game and the introduction to its lore is excellent, Sable never returns to the high water mark of its intro. The people you meet along the way and the quests you do never feel very substantial and rarely interesting, and that’s a missed opportunity. There are a few interesting characters, but for the most part the NPCs you encounter feel randomly generated, like something you would find in No Man’s Sky.

Screenshot: Sand

When I could have had high expectations for Sable, I’m not really disappointed with the result. I appreciated the serenity it provided, like a peaceful breath of the wild. However, as an exploration game, while I enjoyed its open-ended approach, I also didn’t feel pressured to keep exploring. There was no overarching mystery to solve or wrong to undo – it’s just you, the sand and the fun you can do – and that’s enough for some people, and while I generally like the games like this, something about Sable It was hard for me to go all the way, 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.

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