There’s many great coming of age stories throughout fiction, and given the nostalgia and rose tinted memories that people often have for their formative years, it’s clear to see why. Making the leap from child to adult is a difficult one, but it’s also a time that’s full of potential. Make certain choices and you can be the fireman/astronaut/head chef that you dreamt of being as a child. Your future is in your hands, to dream, to explore and find out who you want to be.
In Sable, there’s no anguish over passing GCSEs, no getting advice from parents and guidance counsellors over what you want to do, no partying late into the night and surviving on a diet of pasta and cheese as a uni student. Instead, you’re coming of age ritual sees you sent out into the world to learn about it and, eventually, decide your future.
There’s a wonderful style to the game’s art and the world, calling to mind classic anime through the Sable’s low frame animation and the way the bike kicks up a cloud of sand in its wake, western comics through the muted colour palette and feel, and obviously other games like Journey, Breath of the Wild, and more. They’ve all been thrown into the melting pot, and in some ways that could make Sable appear derivative, but really Shedworks are finding their own voice with relaxed exploration – there’s no combat or direct peril. The gorgeous soundtrack from Japanese Breakfast only adds to that vibe.
The world you can explore is about as open as possible, with the desert stretching off in every direction. Climb a tower or mountain, look to a distant landmark, and just hop onto your hover bike to head over there. It’s as simple as that. Where the hover bike can’t take you, you can clamber up any surface, as in Breath of the Wild, and leaping from the highest point is perfectly fine thanks to a protective pink bubble that lets you glide back to ground in style.
The hover bike is one point where you can really express your creativity, with a huge amount of customisable parts so that you can really create something unique to you. Every character in the world has a hover bike that acts as their main mode of transport and survival, and it’s through trading or helping people with quests that you can tweak and improve it how you wish.
Sable brings to mind a number of cliches about long journeys. “It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters,” but conversely, “It’s not the journey, but who you travel with.” Sable is on this journey by herself, but she’s not necessarily alone. Some of the interesting points you might head towards could be a group of traders, a campfire with other travellers huddled around, abandoned buildings or crashed ships. As much as this journey is Sable’s, some of these relationships create short stories and build the world around her own story.
There are more direct story sequences within the game, which unspool through puzzle sequences that imply and speak to you through the environment, but there’s no defined structure. You start in your village and leave to explore, and when you feel you’re done exploring, you come back to choose Sable’s mask and her role in society. That could be after covering every inch of the world, it could be after simply wandering through and exploring for a few hours, it’s really up to you.
While it feels like Shedworks are still finding their way in a lot of elements of the game, the relaxed, laid back exploration of Sable is sure to appeal to many. It’s got an intriguing art style and soundtrack and there’s no pressure, which should make it a lovely game to switch on and just chill out with after a long day.