I am not naturally a multiplayer oriented gamer, and prefer my single-player epics more than online death or conquest matches, but even then something about Absolver always managed to pique my interest from the get go. Everything from the eerie souls-like design of the world where everything seems like its seen better days mixed with the amazing music from Austin Wintory who I am a huge fan of made the entire thing oddly inviting, which I am glad it did.
At its core, Absolver is a competitive fighting game, where the main goal is to learn and get better from not only your mistakes but also your opponents moves in order to use them either against them or others. The precision and choice of the moves you make can very well determine whether you win or lose a bout, and this is where the game’s deck mechanic comes in.
Unlike most other brawlers or fighters, in Absolver you have full control over what fighting style you pick and what moves you wish to execute, as well as the order of them. This is done through the game’s combat deck where you can chain different combat moves together and mix and match depending on the flow you are more comfortable with. Different moves are picked up from different opponents where the more you block or avoid an attack the more you learn about it, allowing you to use it in your own arsenal of attacks by arranging them in the game’s combat deck where different moves are shown as cards of sorts. Fortunately the fighting mechanics are responsive and fun on the base level themselves which makes everything work so well and you can truly feel the feedback from each punch, block and dodge.
However, even then you have to be careful with the fighting style you pick and make sure that the attacks have a good transition between them. Luckily there is a meditation mode where you can basically look at and try out different attack combinations to find the perfect one.
One thing to keep in mind here is, that even though it does look like a third person brawler, it is best to approach Absolver with a fighting game mentality where there are no Batman-esque counters making the fight easy or stylish and it is up to you to be in control of everything from dodging to the actual counters and attacks, which requires a lot of practice and failing.
One particular thing that was kind of irking me was how much people were comparing it with Dark Souls before release, and with how loosely that term is thrown around I initially dismissed it, but after playing it myself and going through the eerie world of Absolver I can really attest to the fact that this indeed does take a lot of cues from the Souls series of games. Not only do you have a dystopian world where the world tells its story, but the singleplayer component of the game has the cycle of try-fail-repeat until you win in it where boss fights when they start are boxed in with mists and every time you fail you have to retry from the fights from the beginning.
The interesting thing this game does is, rather than having to traverse all the way from a checkpoint back into a boss fight, the game gives you an option of restarting the fight there and then once you lose, making it more convenient than its inspiration. Of course like Dark Souls it is usually better to grind more in order to level up and learn more moves if a particular boss is standing in your path.
The dreary world is also split into different biome types with different settings supporting visually different elements and enemies each with their unique fighting styles and boss levels. Unlike most other games, there isn’t much of a mini-map here and Austin Wintory’s fantastic score has been spaced out, and used opportunely so half the time the ambience around you starts soaking in as you travel through an eerie silence complemented only by the impressive range of sound effects from cracking blows to the swaying wind.
Most of the campaign serves as a training guide of sort for the main aspect of the game, which is PvP combat, which is the game’s main draw. Excellent thing about the way it is made is that it manages to still feel like a part of Absolver where you can still learn and adapt to a player’s move-set the more you play. In fact they can take you under their wing as a student and teach you or vice versa, giving more precedence to the whole “you are only as good as your training” mindset of the game. Even with the moves you pick you have to think of the strategic tradeoffs, for example do you want fast jabs with less effect against a quick enemy or something more slowly but powerful.
There are weapons available in the game as well, but with it comes a whole new layer of learning and deck building where you have to account for all their stats and how you use them. Weapons can be picked up in combat from your opponent as well, provided you have bombarded them with attacks but the same can happen to you as well where there is this risk element involved if you were to always use your weapon.
Obviously with anything that is multiplayer oriented, customisation and personalisation of how you look is an important factor as well. The game fortunately provides you with different masks, clothing and the like which are not always cosmetic and come with different buffs. The mask designs are my personal favourite and can either intimidate your enemies or confuse them with awkwardness. Not to mention there is no proper chat function in game and you have to communicate using emotes which makes everything more ominous and exciting. It also prevents some people from ruining the mood with their toxicity.
The main complaint I have with this game is in regards to the amount of content as it feels to cater towards the PVP side, compromises have been made to both sides of the game where not only does the story not reach a satisfying conclusion with its limited amount of areas but the PVP itself is compromised of a few game modes itself. However, the developers have acknowledged that they are adding more content to the game which I cannot wait for. I would also have liked for the stats points to not be so locked just so you could customise your fighting abilities to what suit you more by trying out different things here and there in order to find the right fit.
Still all in all Absolver is by far one of the most interesting and innovative fighting games I have played in the recent times, where the appeal of learning martial arts and getting good at it is satisfying due to the way it presents its world and fighting mechanics through combat deck. I truly hope the developers add more content as it does feel lacking at certain points but whatever is here I will be playing more of for some time to come as the game is ultimately really satisfying and dripping with ambience.
+ Impressionable Ambience
+ Responsive Fighting Mechanics
+ Combat Deck Makes Each Fight Personal
+ Learn From Mistakes Gameplay
+ Customisation Options
+ Austin Wintory's Eclectic Yet Ambient Score
+ Boss Presentation and Game's World Takes Cues From the Soul Series
- Needs More Content