“What For Honor should have been.” This is the thought that keeps going through my mind while playing Absolver, the new fighting game from Paris based studio, Sloclap. And that comparison isn’t meant to take away from Absolver at all in fact it shows that smaller developers can still come up with and put together much better systems and gameplay than the AAA titles that we see today.
Absolver is an online multiplayer game that excels in giving you the ability to customize your character and create a fluid fighting experience. I have never experienced a game quite like Absolver before, actually I might go so far as to say neither has anyone else. The game’s unique design creates an unusual difficulty spike right at the start and I found that the first hour or so of gameplay required a little bit of luck and guessing on what I should do exactly. While finding my footing I was struck by the beautiful graphics and overall design of the world you’re thrown into. Not everyone is a fan of the game’s style of cartoon-ish graphics but I think it looks great. To complement the graphical aesthetics the game features an excellent soundtrack that transitions smoothly between game combat sequences.
Before jumping into the combat, you’ll spend some time with a small character customizer that allows you to choose between some very basic things like skin color, hair color and hair style. Nothing really too complex unfortunately. Part of the story involves all of the Absolvers (which are the characters) wearing masks so I understand there is no need to customize facial features, but giving the ability to customize weight or height would have been welcomed additions. Lastly in your character customization you get to choose between 1 of 3 schools of fighting which is a fairly important choice because you gain a certain ability based on this choice and it really affects the style your character fights forever. One school offers you a dodge ability (all classes get a dodge but it isn’t as fast or flexible. The second school allows you absorb some attacks and even gain health if you absorb the attack at the right time. The third school allows you to parry an ability and even briefly stun the enemy. Which school you choose has a very high impact on your play style and will shape your gameplay experience. I would recommend trying them all out briefly as creating a character and playing with the school abilities are easy since they are built into the character from the beginning. As an aside note, I hate players who choose the absorb ability, it’s not overpowered or anything it’s just annoying to fight against because I can’t string my attacks together as I would like instead I have to mix things up to catch the other player off guard. Fair and adds depth to the gameplay but annoying to fight against.
The combat seems simple enough at first. One button performs basic attacks and another does “alternate attacks”. The complexity comes soon enough when you want to string attacks together based on the different stances you can use. Now stick with me here this is going to get a bit convoluted but combat is extremely important in Absolver and I feel I need to walk through the logical flow of the combat for you to get a good sense of what it involves.
When fighting you can face 1 of 4 directions when approaching an enemy and depending on which stance/direction you are using your basic attack or alternate attack buttons will perform different moves. Then after you perform an attack facing one direction your character will be facing a new direction so your next attack will be something different. Now you learn different abilities over time and through fighting other characters that allow you to make different strings for your character to perform. Creating diverse and impactful attack strings allows your character to be more powerful when utilized correctly and allows for great creativity in the game. Not any one string of attacks I have found thus far are a must have, it is just a question of if it fits your style and what you want to see from your character. There are different attack strings you can combo together. for instance one of the first strings I put together was a quick jab with my right, elbow slam with my left, into a leg sweep and then an overhead kick. This all flows so cleanly and you have such a wonderful feeling when you create the string in the attack editor and it gives you so much pride when the attacks land and you wreck an opponent with it. There are from what I can tell an almost endless amount of combo strings you can build with attacks starting from one of 4 stances and 3 attacks in a string.
The attacks feel solid and impactful. The blocking of attacks even feels great and gives you the satisfying feeling that you did something right. On top of the basic combat there are some extra power ups that you can perfor. Abilities like earthquake, heal and gravity give you a special to utilize against your enemy to get the upper hand. You need to use crystals that build on your belt in order to utilize these special abilities and the crystals build by landing combos and blocking or dodging enemy combos. There is also the ability to summon weapons. From what I can tell in my few hours of play the only two weapons are swords and some gloves. My only gripe with these weapons is the ability to summon them utilizes the same crystals that the other special abilities utilize and abilities like heal or gravity are much more impactful than summoning a sword that can be kicked out of your hand or break after a few hits. I think there needs to be consideration puts towards this from the developers to make the weapons more interesting and worthwhile to utilize.
Surprisingly to me there is a solo campaign-ish type game to Absolver. The game consists of a persistent online world that you share with many other real players that can engage you in PVP combat at almost anytime but there are a lot of single player light story driven objectives to complete in order to progress from Prospect to Absolver. I cannot confirm this as I have not gotten far enough but the game’s wiki eludes to the ability in game to join with friends and do dungeons for loot and experience. If this is true I can say there is plenty in this game for even the non-pvp player. I will update this posting once the game releases and I can get to that point with some friends.
The PVP has been standard so far. 1v1 matches is all I can accomplish as I do not have any friends to play the game with in its pre-release state but there is the ability for 2v2 and 3v3 game modes. The 1v1 is very standard fight in an open arena, no obstacles or anything to move around which is nice. The combat really carries this game and it is no difference in PVP. Landing combo strings and dodging or absorbing hits at the exact right moment to counter your enemy is a wonderful feeling throughout the game and especially in PVP because it is against another person instead of a computer. I feel like it’s most likely that this will change when the game officially releases but the matchmaking was terrible. I was level 7 and got matched up against a level 62 one time and all other times it was bad as well just less disparity in levels that this one atrocious instance. I don’t know if there is some sort of stat balancing that happens because I was able to get close to beating this person, me winning 2 out of the 5 rounds (it’s first to 3 wins). One thing is for certain though was that this person I played against had a lot more abilities to choose from in his kit because he was using attacks I had never seen before which gave him quite an advantage. This was something I expect to also see fixed on release.
I have gone on long enough. I could talk more about combat, the story, the music, the graphics but I feel I have given a pretty good rant on the basics of the game. Absolver is an innovative game with a ton of creativity in player choice. I know once the official release drops I will play for many hours and given its $30 price tag the investment will be well worth it. Like many games that are primarily PVP focused I don’t know the staying power unless there are additions or innovations to the game, but in its current state there is plenty to do for your hard earned $30.