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While we're all waiting for the Breath of the Wild sequel to, y'know, happen, there's not exactly been a shortage of colourful open-worlders to keep us company. We've had Ubisoft's actually-pretty-decent Immortals Fenyx Rising, and miHoYo's free-to-play Genshin Impact has become a worldwide hit. But if you're someone who loves the world of BOTW, the people in it and just spending some time with them, more than the combat side of things, Sable might just be the game to tide you over.
Or rather, the demo of Sable, live now on the Microsoft Store until June 21, might just be something to bring some light and happiness to your games-playing space, in the wake of E3 2021. Developers Shedworks stole our hearts with the very first trailer for this one, way back at E3 2018, its mix of Moebius-inspired visuals, Star Wars-recalling landscapes and a soundtrack from the exceptional Japanese Breakfast marking it as an immediate one to watch. And now it's playable, that positive first impression has evolved into a longing to have the finished product, right now.
Watch the new E3 2021 trailer for Sable, featuring music from Japanese Breakfast, below...
Sable casts you as Sable, a young girl who, in the demo, is preparing to leave her village of nomadic companions. The dialogue between characters - written, not spoken - is fantastic, with subtle weight and emphasis everywhere it should be, and the choice of wording just right throughout. The game (demo) doesn't load the player up with lore, with background, preferring instead for you to put the pieces together yourself - and it's a much more rewarding way of doing things. And when you bring up the controls from the options menu, there's something really odd: there are no commands for combat.
However chill our open-world favourites can be, there's usually monsters to fight, rogue knights to murder, bosses to vanquish. You know the drill. But Sable does away with that - this is all about exploration and communication, and it takes the more meditative elements of BOTW, like the (stamina-restricted) climbing and the freedom to simply wander, and doubles down on them. Go chat with that person. Go ride your hoverbike behind those rocks, just to see what's there. Bring this little girl who really doesn't want you to leave some bugs, because bugs, y'know. It's all so delightful, and has some of the DNA of a Team ICO production - ICO, The Last Guardian - alongside its clear Zelda inspirations.
The purposefully stuttering, flick-book-like animation on Sable and her friends - and the other creatures that call this rocky landscape, peppered with fractured ships of strange technology, home - can appear jarring at first, but you soon enough settle into its rhythms. Traversal, too, can feel a little too twitchy to start with, but it clicks quickly. Sable can unlock a gliding ability, a glowing sphere around her, which works in a similar way to Link's glider in BOTW and really helps find some height amongst these mountainous surrounds, combined with climbing. There is a little glitchiness, but this is a demo, not the real deal - so I didn't mind all that much when I got Sable stuck on some steps, rather than seeing her walk up them as she should have done.
The goal of the demo is to find three hoverbike components, and each one will lightly tickle the puzzle-solving section of your brain. The in-game map is a little useless, but that doesn't matter much as the space to play in, for this demo, is fairly small - so you'll stumble across what you need simply by rising around, whether or not you paid attention when you were being told exactly where the pieces were.
Like BOTW, there's the sense that this place you're playing in has scars, that something happened here, long ago - that feeling comes through in the ruins, the wrecks, and the still-glowing technology of the past. There's a dam but no water, and these ships are boats, for sure - so what happened?
Sable remains an enchanting enigma right now - but with a release date set for September 23, published by Raw Fury for Xbox consoles and PC, we don't have long to wait to see where this girl and her hoverbike will ultimately journey to, and the gentle challenges she'll face along the way. I can't wait, frankly - and you can find this demo on the Microsoft Store, here.
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