If you have followed me at all in this wild journey, you already know that I am not the best fighting game player. In this same respect, I am horrible at the Souls series games. I know what you’re thinking, “Randy, why did you mention the Souls series in a fighting game?” Well avid reader, I will explain that to you in the coming sentences. Absolver is a beautiful marriage of aspects from fighting games, such as For Honor, Dark Souls and has some hints of basic RPG elements. While the story in Absolver wasn’t the easiest to pick up on, the gameplay spoke volumes of intricacy and impact. I guess to put it in a league of its own, we can call it a martial-arts focused, action-RPG.
In Absolver, you play as a Prospect, who is fighting to find their place in a ruined empire. In the beginning of the game you are able to customize and name your Prospect. I chose a pretty basic look to my character, without a whole lot to choose from, this wasn’t a hard task. This was okay though, as Absolver isn’t about the flashy looks and colors. After the visual customization I was able to pick my martial arts style to start with. The three made available to you are Khalt, the strong style, Windfall, the dexterous style and Forsaken, the balanced style. You can unlock the Stagger style, which is akin to Drunken Boxing. I chose to start with the Windfall style, this style offers the Prospect the Avoid ability, which lets you dodge not only left and right, but jump over and crouch under attacks to open your opponent up to counter attacks.
The most unique thing about Absolver is the way you learn and build your combat repertoire. You are given a basic combat deck that includes moves to fill up your four different stances. Yes there are four different stances, each stance has different attacks. There are primary attacks and alternative attacks. Primary attacks will chain together in the stance from stance to stance. You can use alternative attacks at any time to break a combo chain and put the Prospect into a new stance. You have to manage your stamina bar as well, if you run out, you can no longer block or attack.
You can learn new attacks simply by fighting. The easiest way to learn new attacks is to block incoming ones. You’ll notice a little circular bar that fills up when you are hit with an attack. This bar fills up more when you are blocking. You have to win the fight to gain the experience for each move. If you are knocked out during this time, you lose that gained experience for the move. These moves will go towards your combat deck. You have a certain amount of attack slots and earn more as you level up. You can also use a few different abilities, so far I’ve only unlocked a handful. You can heal yourself, increase your defense, use an earthquake to knock your foes off balance, just to name a few. The Prospect can also pick up weapons to use like fist weapons and swords. You get new attacks for these items as well, letting you create attack sets for these as well.
Now, remember when I said the game had some Souls like elements in it? Well let me explain why. There are a few different things that I’ve seen other early access players point out but I noticed some myself. First off there are different altars around the world that you can activate and meditate at to heal yourself. These sort of act like the bonfires in the Souls games. The world is open for you to go wherever you want to go. Enemies are sprawled out throughout each area and are relentless in their assault. Boss battles are instanced and you have to activate the point for them to activate their cinematic intro. You can find equipment drops throughout the area or you can pick them up from defeated opponents. Navigation throughout the world seemed a little difficult unless you really memorized each area. You have no way to pull up a map unless you’re at the first hub. This is a hinderance when trying to locate all the targets
There is a slew of different pieces of equipment that you can use from new pants to a new mask for your Prospect. All of these provide stats for your character. Along with these, each time you level up, you can a stat point that you can invest in. Different stats will affect different moves, moves that rely on strength will benefit from putting points into your strength stat and so forth. Absolver takes the idea of guilds and adds its own unique flair to it. Since it is an online game, you can either create, or join a school. When you join a school, you can use the mentor’s combat deck, which is helpful when your master has already mastered the Stagger style. You are able to borrow their combat deck to use, but you can’t edit it. Adversely, if you create a school, your students can use the combat deck that you have set.
Speaking of the game being online, you are able to see other players in the world in real time. You can offer to help them by teaming up with them. I first thought this meant I wouldn’t be able to hit my teammates but I was wrong. I noticed this when I connected a high kick to my partner’s face, thankfully he understood. There was an option to play the game offline but I feel like that would’ve not only made it more difficult, but less fun.
Absolver is a fresh take on the fighting game genre. It mixes up old conventions by wrenching in some interesting new mechanics. I love that you can put together your own combos and fighting styles. Each hit feels impactful and each decision you make has meaning. It has a steep learning curve once the difficulty ramps up, but the game gets more fun as you pick up on these mechanics. The lack of being able to pull up a map made it a little difficult and redundant to walk around the world. The levels of the enemies always varied, I couldn’t enter one area and think that everything was okay because all of those enemies were weaker. There were times that I entered beginning areas and nearly got demolished by a couple enemy fighters. Absolver will definitely take its place as one of the most unique games this year, incorporating real fighting styles and martial arts moves into an action RPG/fighter. The great thing is, SloClap has plans to bring new areas and moves to this game and boy am I excited to play them!
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Review statement: The copy of this game was provided by the developer on the PC for the sake of this review.