The most consistent job that I wanted to have as a kid was being an “inventor.” I wanted to just… make things? I guess? I wanted to make the gravity boots from Ratchet and Clank so you could walk on metallic walls. I had a ridiculous idea for a jumbo jet that would literally have an entire mall inside of it (I was seven so please cut me some slack). As kids generally do, I would draw my inventions, portraying abstract ideas of machines that only a child can accurately draw.
As I grew older I realised that the job title of “inventor” doesn’t really exist, and started to think more seriously about what it is I wanted to do; I eventually landed on filmmaking—an equally unrealistic aspiration. Yet I went and studied it at university, and came out the other end thinking, “Hmm. I don’t want to do this, I think.” Now, three years after university, I’m writing about games, and while it’s something I want to do right now, how long will that be the case for? Will I do this forever? How long do I have to make this decision? If I listen to what Sable has to tell me, I think I have more time than I realise.
The influences on Sable are undeniable. The open world begs to be explored in the same way The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s does. The art style is clearly inspired by the works of acclaimed artist and cartoonist Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius. It’s a game where the sum of its parts nod to classic works and comes together in a beautiful and tranquil way.
There’s nothing complicated about Sable. You play as a young woman, the titular Sable, going out on her Gliding—a journey across the land of Midden that is one of self-discovery and, more specifically, mask acquiring. There’s no combat to be found, only you and your hoverbike zooming across the landscape, forging relationships, and becoming worthy of wearing particular masks.
In Midden, its people wear masks to signify their role. One mask might tell you that they’re a Machinist, essentially a mechanic, and another might tell you that they’re a climber, someone who forages for things in hard to reach places. Part of the point of the Gliding is to help Sable figure out what it is that she wants to do in life. While they do tell you their literal place in the world, for Sable they represent something different; they’re the idea of what she could be.
That’s what Sable’s journey is all about, what the Gliding is about. Sable’s guardian figure, Jadi, the one who sends her out into the wider world, reassures Sable that she can take as long as she likes to make her decision on what mask she will don. The decision was daunting for me, because how am I meant to know what Sable wants to be forever? More frighteningly, how am I meant to make that decision for myself?
Sable lets you put that decision off for as long as you like. There’s no pressure from the game at all to ever make a decision. You can glide along the desert, discovering secrets, and learning about the world at your own pace. Everyone you meet and everything you absorb helps to push you in the right direction, even if you don’t quite know what the destination is.
Games can often be so desperate to have you finish them. I don’t blame them, because the truth is most people don’t actually finish the games they play, so the design of games has become a lot more hand-holdy than many would like. Sable doesn’t care about that either. You’ll be shown where to go for around the first hour or so, but after that, there’s no main story quest to be found. Once you’re out on your Gliding, you pretty much have to figure everything out for yourself. It felt uncomfortably reflective of my life post-university.
I don’t want to be a filmmaker now for a lot of personal reasons, but I know part of that was influenced by how lost I felt once I graduated. I thought I’d take a break, spend some time in the catering industry, as that’s my familial history, but that isn’t right for me at the moment. The mask that I now wear of “writer” is one that fits quite comfortably, but even now I know it might not be the one I want to affix to myself permanently. And that’s OK! It took me time to get where I am now, and it’ll take even more time to get where I’m going next.
Sable is a game about the journey. In the end, there is a destination, but when you boot the game up after finishing it, you’ll be put back before you make the decision of what mask to wear. I can jump back in at any time, explore the world a bit more, and choose a different ending for myself if I like. That sense of liberty is something I desperately need for where I’m at in life; I need to know that it’s OK to take my time. I hope that you know that too—but if you don’t, maybe give Sable a go for yourself.