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‘Sable’ Proved That Open-World Games Don’t Have To Be About Saving The World

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‘Sable’ Proved That Open-World Games Don’t Have To Be About Saving The World

In a brief moment of hesitation, you gaze upon the endless sea of sand stretching out into the horizon, your bike gently humming her sweet song. You run your hand tenderly along her chassis, her soft vibrations pulsing through your soul. You’re ready.

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Sable is an open-world adventure unlike any other. You play as the titular character, Sable - a girl from a nomadic clan ready to embark on a rite of passage called the Gliding. On this journey, she’ll explore the land, experience different lifestyles, and meet new people - all to ultimately discover what role she wants to play in the world.

Watch the E3 2021 trailer for Sable, below…

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Firstly, it has to be said that Sable is one of those gems that perhaps best poses the argument for games being classed as art. I mean, quite literally, it looks like it - its breath-taking picturebook-like art style, inspired by French artist Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, is as captivating 10 hours into your adventure as it is when you first lay your eyes upon it.

It’d be easy to take one glimpse and compare its visuals to the cell-shaded flair of Breath of the Wild, but it goes way beyond this - every single frame looks like it could have been whisked away straight out of a book: background scenery and distant landmarks appear more softened and simplistic, bringing the player’s focus to the foreground, and the line-work of every tiny stone, crumbling ruin and beetle is so precise and fine. Even as you watch Sable herself tenaciously scaling a cliff, her movement isn’t perfectly smooth - instead resembling a flip-book style animation. It’s such a unique art direction, and every facet of it has been executed so perfectly.

Sable / Credit: Raw Fury
Sable / Credit: Raw Fury
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You’d be forgiven for thinking that the game takes place in some post-apocalyptic landscape - there are hints pointing towards such dotted around its vast desert, from the crumbled remnants of structures, to mysterious broken-down ships. However, there’s an everlasting calmness in the air throughout your journey - this society isn't weighed down by any scars from its past. Its people are constantly evolving, embracing where they came from, but looking ahead to what they want to become, and its world reflects that too.

Visuals aside, Sable stands out as a unique open-world game, in that it doesn’t have any combat elements at all. The emphasis is completely kept on the adventure - exploring the landmarks in the desert, uncovering secrets, and completing side quests to better understand the people and the world they live in. This is Sable’s story about finding out who she wants to be, and although the stakes aren’t tremendously high, the game does a fantastic job of making you care about it, just as much as if they were.

Sable / Credit: Raw Fury
Sable / Credit: Raw Fury
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Therefore, as you’d expect, the characters and dialogue are also an absolute delight - the interactions feel so genuinely meaningful, and conversations are bursting with charm. In particular, the chats you have with your fellow Ibexxi clan members before leaving the camp are just fantastic - there’s a real sense of anticipation, worry, but most of all, love for the fledgling adventurer. Even though your time with them is short, it’s so clear how much they care about Sable, as she does them, and you’ll hold onto those feelings throughout your travels.

Sable isn’t a game about saving the world, defeating a corrupt villain, or rescuing a princess from impending doom. It’s about self-discovery, growth, and coming of age - and there’s no better way to tell its story than with an open-world adventure, where every direction is yours to decide.

This piece is part of a series looking at outstanding games within a certain genre, exploring what makes them special compared to their peers. Read more: It Takes Two, Splatoon, Hades. Follow the author on Twitter at @NerdyJourno.

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Featured Image Credit: Shedworks, Raw Fury

Topics: Philips, Opinion, Indie Games

Catherine Lewis
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