Sand exam

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Imagine a light version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but without enemies, combat or health bar. There’s always climbing every hill in sight, exploring every cave to find hidden items and uncover new locations. There are even dungeons to some extent – areas that need to be investigated in order to complete objectives or collect items. It is essentially Sable, a relaxing and addicting open world adventure game developed by Raw Fury.

Combining the zen tranquility of titles like Alto’s adventure with a touch of Team Ico’s ability to create atmosphere and mystery, Sable is a game for the gamer who likes to run to explore any eye-catching element of the landscape, likes to explore the entire map, or feels compelled to inspect every nook purely for the satisfaction of it. The creation of Raw Fury offers a peaceful adventure, but one that does not lack in pleasure or depth. There are still quests to do, a story to uncover, environmental puzzles to solve, but no danger hinders progress.

Players take on the role of the eponymous Sable, a young girl who embarks on a coming-of-age journey called Gliding. On the planet Midden, all inhabitants wear masks that denote their chosen life path, whether they are merchant, guardian, artist or machinist. But this choice represents more than a simple profession; it identifies who the person is. The kids wear indescribable masks until they set off on the glider, and a frightened but excited Sable must leave her family indefinitely, meeting a range of characters along the way. She will venture into crashed spaceships, scale sheer cliffs, and investigate mysterious ruins scattered across the land.

running sand outside the dilapidated shed

Sable herself is an endearing protagonist, with an at times ironic sense of humor and a generally kind heart. Through dialogues, which often reveal Sable’s inner thoughts, players learn about his hopes, fears, and insecurities. She’s relatable, and like many people encountered throughout the game, begins to feel more than just a video game character spitting out programmed lines.

As she travels from village to village, monument to monument, Sable meets specialists who will issue her badges after successfully completing tasks for them. Once she has collected three badges of the same type, she can exchange them for a Mask Launcher, who will in return give her a Mask for that specialty. In this way, Sable will experience the different professions available to her, helping her decide what will become of her after gliding. She also gains the ability to drift in a sort of gravity-defying magic bubble which, along with her inhuman mastery of climbing, is an integral part of the gameplay.

On the day Sable sets out on her journey, she is given a hoverbike, which (sometimes) arrives when the whistle is blown and serves as her primary means of transportation in the vast land of Midden. One of the strengths of this indie game is its customization. Not only are there a variety of outfits and masks to be won or purchased in the game, but there are also many upgrades for Sable’s bike, and chasing them is a very rewarding part of the game. t has only a superficial effect, the exchange of parts on the hoverbike affects its speed, acceleration or handling.

sand rides hoverbike

After completing the prologue, Sable sets off on her bike and the game’s sprawling world opens up before her in a poignant way that slightly echoes the sunlight at the start of The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion or watch the entire Midgar for the first time in Final fantasy 7. The moment is accompanied by a touching track from indie rock band Japanese Breakfast, which has managed to introduce the player to what turns out to be a most enjoyable adventure.

Playing Sable it’s like browsing through a graphic novel, and the visuals are easily one of the game’s highlights. It’s a wonderful, albeit rather empty, world that players find themselves exploring. There are vast windswept dunes, deserts filled with cacti and exotic plants, and towering mesas and pillars. One thing to keep in mind is that the brightly colored gameplay shown in many online screenshots does not fully reflect the look of the game. There is a day and night cycle in Sable, and it appears to be an overnight stop about two-thirds of the time. Without daylight, the colors in the game will become muted and gray, and most of the game will be played with this less vivid color scheme. Perhaps this is intentional, however, as it makes the brief, brightly colored interludes much more appreciated, and Sable is really nice to watch during the day.

sable chum layer

In addition to the many positive points of the game, Sable unfortunately also suffers from a number of technical problems. None were major or groundbreaking, but the bugs were so prolific and constant that they inevitably took a toll on the overall impression the game left. Sable could have benefited from a few more weeks of bug fixes and polish.

There were too many issues to mention them all, and while they did not occur consistently, the majority were encountered more than once in the first 10 hours of play. Button prompts have stopped appearing. display randomly, so it wasn’t always obvious that an object could interact with it. HUD items like autosave and quest icons stop appearing for several minutes, then reappear for no clear reason. Menus would freeze and no longer respond to input, whether with a controller or keyboard. Sometimes it could be fixed; twice the game had to be quit to regain functionality. This was one of the few, possibly related, issues involving the in-game menu.

sand running towards sunrise

And when summoned, Sable’s hovercraft got stuck underground or in walls on several occasions. Once he even grabbed a ridge and twirled it up and down for a good 20 seconds. It doesn’t even address the most negligible issues like texture flickering, people constantly walking in place, camera breaking through walls and ceilings, non-collision objects, or Sand sometimes getting stuck as a result. And while not everyone is bothered by typos or punctuation errors, these have been seen frequently enough to distract players who notice this sort of thing.

These problems are regrettable because Sable is an outstanding game that would normally deserve a higher rating. But the problems, although for the most part minor, have been encountered with such regularity that they cannot be ignored. Hopefully Raw Fury fixes these issues quickly because, without these flaws, Sable is truly a gorgeous, minimalist journey through an open world that is a joy to explore.

Sable is available on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X / S. Game Rant has received a Steam code for this review.

MORE: Xbox Game Pass: Sand Explained

Our assessment:

4 out of 5 (Excellent)


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