PC gamers cooed over Sable's gorgeous art style—inspired by Japanese filmmakers Studio Ghibli, French artist Jean "Moebius" Giraud, and others—when it debuted at the 2018 PC Gaming Show. Its promise of unguided exploration and freeform storytelling left us intrigued, and its two-person development team is supported by talented writer Meg Jayanth, who wrote the brilliant 80 Days, and musician Japanese Breakfast, which makes us all-the-more excited for it.
It's been a long time since that reveal, and Sable's release date, initially pencilled for 2019, has slipped until 2021. But it's still a game you should have your eye on, and it could be one of the biggest indie games of next year. Here's everything we know so far about Sable.
What is it?
A stylish open world exploration game developed by two-man band Shedworks. You travel a sprawling desert to seek out monuments, monoliths, and other characters, each of which tells its own tale. Sable doesn't have a traditional main storyline—instead, you piece together smaller stories you encounter, learning about the history of the world and its inhabitants.
Moment-to-moment, you'll be zooming over sand dunes on your hoverbike, climbing gigantic ruins, exploring fallen spaceships, and listening to whispered rumors from merchants.
When is Sable's release date?
We don't know yet. Originally scheduled for 2019, it was then pushed to 2020, before being pushed again to an unspecified date in 2021. "We initially thought the game would take us around two years to develop. It was an extremely rough estimate and for us to fully realise the game we want to make, we now think we need a bit more time," said Gregorios Kythreotis, one half of Shedworks, in a blog post announcing the first delay.
What's the story? The premise?
You play as Sable, a young girl who's left her nomadic clan to embark on a rite of passage. She's searching for a mask: everyone in Sable's world wears one, and it usually symbolises their role in society. She's hunting down the one that suits her best. The game simply ends when Sable "decides to go home, and you send her home," Shedworks' Daniel Fineberg told Eurogamer.
What happens in the middle is up to you—the world is packed with smaller stories to discover about the history of the world, its culture, and the people who live in it. You'll meet other characters in the vast, mysterious desert, which might lead to branching dialogue. Occasionally, you'll have choices to make, and helping others might give you rewards.
You can explore these stories in any order, joining the dots in your own way. You're not expected to see all of them in one playthrough, just like in 80 Days, the game Sable writer Meg Jayanth is best known for.
Sable herself isn't a blank slate: She'll express her views throughout her journey. "We don't want it to be a 'player-chooses-their-own-character' type of thing, we wanted her to be an actual person," Fineberg said in the same interview.
How do you traverse the environment? And how does climbing work?
Sable moves around the world both on foot and on her hoverbike, which leaves a satisfying, sweeping trail behind you. You can also climb up almost any surface by simply jumping onto it. Pulling yourself up depletes a stamina meter, so you can't climb indefinitely. You'll also be able to "surf" down steep surfaces by dropping onto them and sliding down. It sounds reminiscent of Zelda: Breath of the Widl's freeform exploration.
You can upgrade Sable's hoverbike and change her clothes
As Steven discovered when he went hands-on with Sable, you'll be able to change her clothing during your journey. You'll also be able to upgrade and customise your hoverbike to tweak its speed and handling.
Your bike consists of three parts: a body, an engine, and wings. You can find new versions of these parts by helping other characters, or simply by exploring. Steven's bike was randomly generated for his demo, creating some pretty wonky builds that were hard to control, which suggests the way you combine different parts has a big impact on the vehicle's performance
Is Sable's world infinite?
No, from what we can gather. The build Steven played for his preview was infinite, but it sounds like that was just a temporary measure. "We aren’t making a procedural or infinite game," Kythreotis told Forbes last year—the environments will all be hand-crafted.
Sable won't have any combat, but it will have puzzles
You won't fight enemies in Sable—this is a game purely about isolation and discovery. There will, however, be puzzles to solve. Shedworks haven't given much away about the kind of puzzles you'll encounter, but expect them to be on the simpler side.
Steven found one on his travels: "The stone towers I found housed a subterranean temple with a kind of casket I could move forward by stepping onto switches," he said. "It was a simple puzzle, but Sable's complete lack of direction made the experience feel kind of mystical."
More mysticism, please.
Who's making Sable's soundtrack?
Shedworks is working with musician Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast, on Sable's soundtrack. You can hear her first song for the game, Glider, in the trailer up above.