Sable review – go build yourself a future, girl

(Raw Fury/Shedworks; Xbox One; PC)
You play a girl on the cusp of adulthood, trying out different vocations, in this exquisitely rendered ‘open world’ journey

Wriggling sunsets, intriguing mountains, desert plains strewn with old bits of technology, wiry flotsam half-drowning in a slow wave of sand: Sable’s setting is familiar – think Star Wars’ Tatooine, Dune’s Arrakis, or Mad Max’s wasteland – but unlike the others, no violence occurs in this sci-fi vista. Whatever battles scattered the bones of old civilisations across this world are long forgotten; your task here is not to become yet another warrior or world-saver, but a gap-year student, off to find herself.

You play as Sable, a girl who, like all adolescents in her nomadic tribe, must transition to adulthood via a year-long rite of passage known as The Gilding. You set out from your home camp into the empty wilds on a rickety hoverbike, scavenging for parts to make your ride a little smoother, while trying out distinct roles and responsibilities in search of the position best suited to you in adult society. The things you choose to do and the people you help then unlock physical masks, the manifestation of different vocations, which allow Sable to try on different futures.

This is a barren world, but rendered exquisitely, drawing careful inspiration from French cartoonist Jean “Moebius” Giraud in its blend of space and intricacy. Exploring its crannies delivers a slow-burn joy. Developed by a small team from north London (Shedworks, because the two founders began work in a garden shed), Sable is an unusual expression of the so-called “open world” – the dominant video game genre today. Most lead you in certain directions, ensuring you approach landmarks from the best angles, matching every plot beat with a suitable musical flourish. Here, by contrast, you are totally free to explore wherever, whenever, however you wish. There are whispered points of interest, but there is no wearying to-do list, and as such your journey and destination are uniquely, wonderfully personal.

Watch a trailer for Sable.

Contributor

Simon Parkin

The GuardianTramp

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