This stylish third person martial arts game from Sloclap, published by Devolver Digital, is a very impressive first entry for this indie studio. Absolver features complex and strategic combat teamed with a semi open world PvE storyline to accompany its primary PvP focus, which leaves you with a game that feels one of a kind. Certainly not a title to be enjoyed by everyone as its blend of genres makes for an experience that is challenging and competitive.
At the beginning of Absolver, you are told you are chosen to make your way through the fallen city of Adal to take on its dangers, train and work your way from being a ‘Prospect’ to being a fully fledged Absolver. In the game’s current state it is unclear what the end purpose of an Absolver is but the current end to the PvE storyline certainly indicates that future content is planned and that as an Absolver, you will have a further goal. The story as it stands is revealed through interactions with a small number of NPCs and through the dialogue in the boss fights. A Minimal explanation is given and PvP levels are required to unlock harder versions of the boss fights that give you a more complete notion of the lore of the game. It can be somewhat frustrating that the game’s story and lore are made to be so mysterious but the atmosphere of the world lends itself to this, with you simply knowing that you need to train and become as skilled as possible for the moment when you are next called upon. You are a fighter, driven by a simple need to become better and better.
To begin with, you choose one of three fighting styles to use. As you fight enemies and defeat them you learn new movements to add to your arsenal. You fight using a combat ‘deck’ which can be edited with new moves being added as you learn them or simply experiment with different movement combinations to see which works best for you. Within the combat deck, each move is carried out from one of four combat stances, which is important to consider when chaining combinations or responding to an opponent's attacks, since remembering which moves you can do from which stance will allow you to deliver your moves more effectively and help you avoid damage from opponents.
You learn moves by either blocking ones you haven’t fully learned yet or by using your fighting styles defensive ability against them. However, if you die to the enemy you have been fighting any progress you made on learning that move from that particular enemy is undone. In order to keep experience gained in each fight, you must win. Winning rounds during the PvP Combat Trials leads to you being able to increase your combat trial level and gain access to higher tiers of the boss fights, which also gives you a chance of obtaining more equipment.
The primary downsides in the gameplay currently lie within issues related to server lag. These issues are gradually being resolved as this small Indie team finds their feet, however, there are potential problems within the rest of the gameplay. The PvE storyline can be completed relatively quickly and although new PvE content is planned and new PvP game modes are on the way, there is currently little else to do after you have completed the story. PvP is fine in small doses but many players are not keen on repeating the same formulae multiple times a day, day in day out. The promised content will reawaken the game but in its current position, you may run out of compelling things to do after 10-15 hours. At time PvE combat can become extremely hectic and difficult to fathom. New players may find this frustrating.
Absolver has unique and heavily stylised graphics, with the image of this fallen world being painted in softly coloured polygons. This ultimately creates a world that feels dreamlike yet unforgiving with exquisite levels of beauty created by the art style. A truly lovely game to look at with interesting world design to match its superb overall visual appearance.
As you wander through this crumbling and dangerous city a wonderful soundtrack follows you on your journey. The music perfectly complements the atmosphere created by the graphical style remaining subtle during exploration but picking up the tempo during boss fights and during PvP.
An enjoyable game on both PvE and PvP fronts, Absolver is an exciting title, offering a combination of genres that isn’t available elsewhere. With plenty of future updates planned and continued and active development promised over the coming months, this game looks like it will only get better, but it’s also worth holding off on a purchase to see how it develops.