I’m having a hard time starting my review for Sable. Everything you read about this game will ultimately compare it to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Both games are about discovery. It’s a fair comparison but Sable isn’t just a game that’s using a gameplay mechanic from a beloved game. Yes, there is a lot of discovery, but what you find and how you get to it is entirely up to you. It’s that ability to play the game at your own leisure that does more than enough to overlook the multiple bugs and performance issues that you meet along the way.
Trying to discover who you are
Sable is the titular character. A member of a clan who goes out on her Gliding, a right of passage. Members of her clan need to discover the kind of person they want to become. Outside of a few tutorial quests that help you understand the controls and to get used to your bike, the rest of the game is pretty open-ended.
The world you’re in is a vast and undiscovered territory. You are given some early suggestions on where to go after you leave the camp, where you go once you leave is entirely up to you.
When you come across your first settlement, the quests begin to pour in. Most of the people you can interact with early on have a task for you. These range from pretty straightforward to fairly lengthy requests. You might need to find a person hanging around a certain area. Other times, you’re completing puzzles that almost always have multiple ways of solving. Nothing is too difficult but getting to where you need to go can sometimes be a challenge.
So much to find
The longer quests almost always have you traveling to new areas to explore. With regards to your rewards, they vary to some degree. Sometimes you’ll get an item, but what you really want to get are the badges. Earning three badges of a specific nature allows you to unlock the corresponding mask for it. Earning those masks opens up the last quest of the game.
So, if you earn three climbing badges, you can get the climber’s mask. The whole point of your Gliding is to get the mask that will define who Sable is to become. There are over six masks to unlock. While most need that you collect the necessary badge, a few you get just by completing certain quests.
As the masks unlock the last main quest, you can essentially finish the game in a couple of hours. Do that prevents you from really seeing what this world has to offer. Even when you get that quest, chances are you’ll still want to spend time seeing what else is out there.
For a world that is so huge, it can also feel fairly empty. While you’re bound to come across something or someone interesting along the way, you do regularly feel quite alone as you run or ride your bike through the different areas. Thankfully though, even with the emptiness, each section you can travel through have their own unique aesthetic. You never feel like you’re just trekking through the same places.
Bugs that you collect and the bugs that ruin the experience
For a game so massive in scale, it also comes with its fair share of problems. This is a very buggy game, both with regards to game-breaking bugs to performance issues, especially on Xbox One. I played on both my Xbox One X and my Series X, with the former performing much worse than the latter.
A few quests involve collecting bugs and bug-related content. I reached the site on the map only for the bugs to never show up. Other times, I would talk to one person which would make it impossible to talk to others nearby. Quitting out to the title screen then loading back into the game always fixed these kinds of problems.
I also had a few times where Sable would get stuck in the geometry. Once she got stuck between two rocks and I couldn’t get out. Another time, I went through the wall of a building and then couldn’t get out of it. Like the quests not appearing, quitting to the title screen then loading back fixed this.
Lastly, your bike has a ‘recall’ function where Sable calls out to it and it should find you. Unfortunately, this rarely works, especially if there is any sort of obstacle that could be between you and it. There was one time when the bike just disappeared from the map. I’m not sure where it went but I couldn’t locate it on the map. Using the game’s fast travel resets the bike but it’s still annoying that you have to find workarounds to fix core gameplay problems.
A stunning art style that takes some getting used to
From a visual standpoint, there aren’t many games that have the same look and feel as Sable. The visuals rely heavily on the game’s day/night cycle. During the day, the game has so much color and even the most desolate area has a lot of life to it. However when nightfall strikes, or if you’re in closed-off spaces, the game’s visuals become monochromatic. If you’re trying to climb something or looking for something specific, trying to grasp depth might pose a problem for some.
There is a bit of customization for Sable and her bike. You will use some masks that you find in a few of the quests. Sometimes it’s obvious while other times you might need to need to have a specific one. As for the clothing you find, they have no impact on the gameplay. Finding and customizing your bike improves its speed and handling, which makes traveling around on it much more enjoyable.
Not sure if I liked or loved this game
My time with Sable clocked in just under 13 hours. I completed all but two of the quests I started and I found most of the masks. I definitely did not discover every key point of interest in the world because I didn’t have all the necessary maps. The two quests I had remaining were pretty lengthy, so I would probably need another hour or so to do them.
The problems I had with Sable don’t entirely ruin the experience but clearly, the developers need to fix them, especially the bugs related to quests. While I had some issues exploring at night, it’s an aesthetic choice that I completely understand the reasoning for. It might not work all the time but there are points where dark areas work in the game’s favor.
I recommend people try Sable. It’s available via Xbox Game Pass on console and computer.