Sable

Developer: Shedworks | Released: 2021 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure

This relatively fresh third person adventure game had a really stylish drawn style that reminded me a lot of European graphic novels, particularly those by Moebius.

In fact, that was the reason I got interested in it.

I controlled a teenager coming of age as she achieved the ability the float slowly downwards, which came in handy when climbing things and jumping across long distances. I was given a hover bike to navigate the big desert, looking for points of interest to explore. There was no combat of any kind, but RPG-style quests.

And it wasn’t just quests about obtaining a specific object or finishing some kind of collection quest. Some of the later quests involved the trope investigation chain and even breaking someone out of jail.

Observations

Climbing was made very accessible by simply letting Sable automatically start climbing when walking into a wall. Most stone walls could be climbed, except for certain metal surfaces, for example in abandoned space ships. A stamina star popped up and started draining when climbing.

There was a separate collection quest for expanding the stamina.

Talking to NPC’s didn’t have voice overs, it was text typed out along with bubbling sound effects. The NPC’s had direct dialog while everything Sable did was described in third person using a different font.

Riding around on the hover bike was totally necessary as the areas were enormous. Unfortunately the bike did all kinds of spins and twists when riding over dunes, and it wasn’t always possible to ride around them. I like that it was possible to call in the bike from afar, and that fast travelling to a previously visited point of interest automatically brought the bike along too.

Puzzles were somewhat light to begin with, but the ante was upped a bit in the later areas.

There were two recurring themes in particular. The first one was visiting a crashed spaceship. Often a few big batteries had to be picked up and then put it in a receivers nearby to power something. Some of the later spaceships were actually mildly challenging. It wasn’t always immediately obvious how to plug in the batteries in the correct order.

The other recurring theme was visiting a cartographer high up. Each area had one of these guys, and it was necessary to visit him in order to buy a map. The map wasn’t absolutely needed, but it was nice to have the enhanced detail. In the beginning, reaching the cartographer meant having to climb and jump some cliffs, but just like with the spaceships, getting to the top got a lot more challenging in the later areas.

In the first area, the desert area was smaller and its points of interest easy to find. However, as soon as in second area, the desert was significantly bigger and the points of interest considerably harder to find. I sometimes lost a lot of time just riding around the endless desert finding nothing. That the desert was this big was perhaps fine, I just wish the developers had put down more points of interest here and there.

Luckily, it turned out that this second desert was the worst of them. It was easier to spot points of interests in the later areas. Also, some active quests had markers on both the map and the compass.

Spoiler: Click

Picking up chum eggs forced me to watch a 5-10 second animation each time. It was worth getting them, however, as delivering a batch of eggs to a queen chum expanded my stamina. And stamina was vital for climbing taller cliffs.

It was possible to fish in the sand, and the minigame was good. Pull out fishing rod, cast on the sand among interesting fauna, pull in. I then had to endure a minigame where a target had to be kept on top of a moving fish icon on a horizontal bar. Some of the fish were really erratic.

Some areas had four loops dug halfway into the sand. If I managed to ride through them on my hover bike (which was very easy) then a stone tower raised nearby with an artefact for me to grab.

The third area for me was the Badlands, with steep cliffs to ride in between. I had a really rough time trying to reach a few camps on top of them, only for me to discover that these camps were not vital at all and didn’t even create point of interest icons. That felt like a waste of time.

In the fourth area, I found a surprisingly detailed city next to a lake. It even had a few sophisticated quests such as a tricky investigation chain with multiple suspects, or breaking someone out of jail. This thing with a few small camps and one big city, plus that investigation quest, all reminded me of a similar setup in Eastshade – another 3PS adventure game I completed recently.

There was even a sewer I could drop into and then had to swim out of.

The Whale. Wow! Talk about a big ass mother of all spaceships. It took forever to explores its ruins. I don’t think I’ve had such epic views since NaissanceE.

I was almost about to be pissed at the quest for picking up lightning crystals on white crystal poles in the south western region, because it wasn’t possible to climb neither those poles nor the big pylon they grew on. Luckily it turned out that some of them spawned so far down that I could just walk out on them.

Some quest or chest rewards were new pants or a new jacket. Normally I don’t care a about stuff like this in games, but they were okay for creating a new look out of Sable here and there. I just wish the developers had also given them attributes, like e.g. slightly improved stamina or diminished downgliding speed.

Pros

  • Refreshingly different drawn graphical style like straight out of graphic novels by e.g. Moebius.
  • Exploration feels relaxing with simple climbing and a useful hovering ability.
  • Some of the later spaceship puzzles and cartographer visits are not a complete walk in the park.
  • The later areas often have epic views with enormous structures to behold.
  • The fishing minigame is nicely done and can be challenging.
  • You (and your hover bike) can fast travel between preciously visited points of interest.

Cons

  • Areas are enormous and you can spend a long time searching unless you use the quest icons.
  • No voice acting, only text and dialog choices with bubbling sounds effects attached.
  • You never get to see any faces. Everybody is wearing a mask of some kind.
  • Riding the hover bike across the dune tops spazzes it out in a slightly uncontrollable way.
  • There’s a 24h day loop, and night time has a tendency to wash out all colors.
  • Still a few bugs to be found. I also had two crashes during my almost 14h playthrough.

8/10

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