From the minute I began my time with Absolver I instantly knew that this was something unique. The abstract, water-color world I had been transported to was something I had never really seen before. There was an elegant beauty to it all. This living painting was full of masked NPC’s and other players looking to prove themselves in hand to hand combat. I’m sure most of you have played a brawler before, but I can assure you, Absolver is something completely different from what you’d expect.
I’m sure this game will be compared to a few different genres. It’s a fighter, it’s an RPG, it’s a souls-like; but it also stands on its own as one hell of a fun martial arts game. At it’s core, you play as a chosen “prospect”, destined to journey across the land as you transform from apprentice to master. At the start of the game you choose from one of 3 classes, or schools. There is a fourth but that doesn’t unlock until after your fight with the drunken master, Jinn Mesca. Windfall encapsulates speed. It’s about evading your enemies attacks and then delivering fast retaliation. Kahlt is the “tank style” of the game, meant for absorbing numerous hits. Lastly, Forsaken is all about that parry. The fourth is Stagger, but again requires beating one of the games strongest NPC’s.
Like Dark Souls, your choice doesn’t necessarily lock you into one of these four play styles, it acts more like a starting point, allocating your beginner stats to suit your play style. Every school can be manipulated through learning new moves, and this is where things get really cool. Fighting NPC’s and other players gives experience towards moves you don’t know yet. If you encounter an enemy and they use a move that you don’t know, a progress bar slowly creeps to completion. Winning a fight against said enemy is the only way to retain this experience though. If you lose or run, your progress is lost and there’s no getting it back. You get WAY more experience from fighting actual players though. This instantly instilled upon me a singular motive. “I MUST GRIND!” Not the bad kind of grinding though, more like the “gotta catch’em all” type grinding that made me want to be a Kung Fu masta!
OK, so great, you can learn a bunch of moves, what now? One of the best parts about Absolver’s combat system is the ability to create your own combination of attacks. In your “meditation” menu you can assign moves to one of three spots. One being the initial attack, three being the finisher. You can have up to 12 moves assigned at one time. With a simple tap of a button you can then move from one fighting style to the next. Done accurately, you can unleash a volley of blows that span across four different positions, causing a devastating amount of damage.
This seamless transition from one form to another takes a “brawler” and turns it into a dance of sorts. There is an elegance to this combat. Not to mention to sounds of your hits colliding with your enemies face or extremities is beyond satisfying. You can either spam one form, or continuously move between them as often and as much as you’d like, given you have the stamina for it.
Aside from combat, the world you explore screams dark souls. Not in the art itself, but more so the assembly of the parts to create the whole. Every area is unique from the last and they all feel like they fold back on top of each other. Paths overlap, or cross in a way that creates a maze-like area to explore. Idols are in every area allowing brief moments of respite and a chance to heal, level up, and assign new equipment.
Speaking of equipment, what you wear affects your stats. Equipping armor either raises or lowers your defense against different types of attacks, as well as increases your overall attack and speed. Leveling up earns you medallions which can be put into different perks like health, endurance, strength, dexterity, etc. Sound familiar?
Weapons are kind of available as well, but there’s a catch. While fists are your main weapon, the option to use swords and fist weapons is there as well. However, these weapons can break rather easily and should be used sparingly. On top of that, if you’re not careful, an enemy can disarm you and then use your weapon against you, if they have a solid combat deck for weapons that is.
My only real issue with Absolver is the story, or lack there of. Aside from you being the chosen one, and traveling through the crumbling world of Adal, there isn’t much of a story there. Theres no clear indication as to why you’re the one chosen to “absolve”. On top of that, you really aren’t ever told what it is you’re supposed to be absolving. Yes, games like Dark Souls don’t come out and slap the story across your face either, but there IS a story there if you look in the right places. Absolver doesn’t really even have that. There’s no lore behind the items you acquire and NPC’s are tight-lipped as well. This far from ruins the game though, running around and beating the shit out of every person you find births endless hours of enjoyment. I’m just saying a little side of story with my plate of ass-kicking would have been nice.
Absolver leaves you wanting more. The campaign is only around 6 hours, and after you beat it, it kind of just ends and asks that you wait to be chosen again. While it’s not the only game that’s ever abruptly ended, some semblance of closure would have been nice. Regardless, Absolver is one incredible accomplishment. Here’s hoping they come out with more content for it to keep players engaged.