Absolver: A Small, but Vibrant World

Tristan Reyes

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Absolver was a highly anticipated game that got many people’s attention when it was announced in 2016. It’s a martial-arts role-playing game where you explore the open area of Adal and fight non-player characters and players alike to hone your skills and become an Absolver.

The game, developed by Sloclap and published by Devolver Digital for Playstation 4 and PC, was released August 29. We reviewed the game for PC.

Players roaming around the area may either help you in a big fight, or challenge your combat skills in a duel.

When starting the game, you create a character and choose from three of the four combat styles (the fourth one is unlocked later in the game). The Forsaken style allows you to parry attacks to stun your opponent at the right time, the Kahlt Method can absorb attacks for health and Windfall gives the player a better dodge ability that can also slow down their opponent. If players don’t like a specific combat style, they can switch between them later on after joining a school. After choosing, players are simply dropped into the world with one purpose: join the ranks of the Absolvers.

After playing a bit with some of the combat styles, they all balance out in the end. Even the fourth style, stagger or drunken fist,  plays well with its tricky timing and flurry of attacks. It’s satisfying stopping your opponent’s’ attacks with a well-placed parry or completely negating damage from a powerful attack using the Kahlt Method’s absorb ability.

As you fight in the world, you will learn different moves to suit your playstyle, making for some unique Combat Decks.

Let’s get into the combat. The game has an intriguing system where you have four fighting stances, two facing toward the opponent and two facing away. With these stances, you can do a variety of fighting moves depending on what you string together in the game’s combat deck. You start out with one combat deck and are able to create your own combos based on what the players have learned through defeating enemies, using their combat style abilities, or by blocking attacks you haven’t learned from both enemies and players alike. If players mess around with it enough, they can have some unique combo strings, making Player versus Player matchmaking exciting and unique for each player you fight.

The combat works well, but the game has some server issues that can hinder the gameplay. Sometimes it can take forever to connect to servers. I have spent a good amount of time waiting for the game to connect to a server. Also, the world doesn’t seem to react well to other players being around. There seems to be some bit of lag when fighting enemies around other players as players entering and exiting the area can ruin the flow of combat.

Playing through Absolver’s story mode is enjoyable at the very least when the servers work. The player must fight the six marks, which serve as the game’s boss battles, in order to open up the door to the final boss to become an Absolver. You do this by exploring the well-crafted land, not world, of Adal that’s full of NPCs and players to fight. The game has a surprisingly diverse amount of environments that are full of secrets, loot and enemies to practice your skills on. While doing this, other players may wander into the same area to either help you, fight you or just carry on with their own mission. It’s always fun to spar with another player after helping them fight a group of enemies. Speaking of which, the enemies are challenging enough to make the players think about their next move. In fact, fighting them can be overwhelming sometimes as the game likes to throw two to three enemies at you. The player is also expected to die a lot, which is fair since the only real thing you lose is the experience of learning the moves from fighting them.

Although players will have a blast exploring Adal, beating bosses and collecting loot from enemies, the main campaign is fairly short, around 3-5 hours. Even after playing the game there is barely any other context added afterwards for why you should keep fighting other than being told that you’re going to be needed later. Hopefully, this just means that the game will be updated for more content in due time. In the meantime, all you can do after beating the game is either just randomly fight enemies around the world or just do the combat trials where you can fight other players online.

Though fighting opponents online can be an experience on its own, Absolver feels lacking as there is currently only 1v1 matchmaking combat for the game’s release.

You can go matchmaking with the game’s combat trials for a 1v1 fight against another player where you earn upgraded pieces of equipment for your character. Also, if you beat enough of these trials, you can become a Mentor where other players can join your school and use your combat decks. There are plans in the future for private 1v1 matches, 3v3 matchmaking and a spectator mode to watch other players fight.

Absolver is an ambitious title that has a lot of work put into it. The combat is great, the setting is unique and interesting, and the PvP is solid. I just hope that more content will be added later on to keep players interested since the game can be pretty short. If you simply want to fight other players with the moves you learned, this game’s for you. As a $30 game, it’s totally worth it.

Sails: 3.5 out of 5

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