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  • Absolver (PC)

    September 29th, 2017GamespotUncategorized

    It's rare for a game to capture the essence of martial arts combat.  The fluidity, precision, and spirit are often challenging to convincingly portray.  Indie developer Sloclap is the latest to attempt this feat and largely succeeds at showing off the complexity of martial arts combat.  Of course, there's more to a successful martial arts game than authenticity.  Fortunately, Sloclap understands this and has successfully created a challenging and deep game in Absolver that blends parts of other games to forge its own identity.  However, hampering issues keep it from being a remarkable title.

    Although Sloclap is an indie developer made up of former Ubisoft members, amongst others, the presentation of Absolver maintains a high quality through most of the experience.  The open world of the ruined Adal Empire is beautifully realized.  Players will journey through shattered towns, fallen buildings, murky swamps, and more on their quest to become an Absolver.  The interconnected environments all have unique visuals with an interesting style that really helps engage the player.  My only gripe with the environments is that I wish there were more to see and explore.


    A key drawback for the visuals in Absolver are the character models themselves.  What's there is well done but after a few encounters with common enemies and players, they seem to blend together with little to differentiate them.  You can equip different pieces of armour but as of now options are limited and they all share the same dull colours.  Sloclap has promised to help alleviate this in future updates but as of now character models are repetitive.  One part of the visuals that stands out are the fight animations.  They are fluid and smooth and clearly prove the developers took care in ensuring they were authentic.  
    Much like the visuals, Absolver’s sound design is strong but more variety would help.  The sounds of combat are particularly praiseworthy, providing satisfying feedback to your actions.  Music seldom plays but when it does it is evocative and effectively draws players into the world of the fallen Adal Empire.
    Absolver’s presentation supports a game that is an interesting blend of genres which easily stands out in today’s market.  At its core, it's an action RPG that focuses on melee combat.  As such, fighting through the interconnected areas actually reminded me a bit of the Souls series.  Overcoming opponents requires awareness of your surroundings and responding to their actions accurately.  You need to know when to go on the offense and when to play more defensively.


    Like other RPGs, when enough enemies are defeated, you’ll gain experience to level up and enhance your stats.  However, to learn new moves you actually have to block or dodge moves enemies use on you enough times to unlock them.  Once you've learned these moves, you can deploy them like you would in a card game with a Combat Deck.  With the right combination of move sets matched up to one of four stances, you can chain together more effective combos.  The system here is very robust and allows for a high degree of customization.
    Of course, experimenting with the Combat Deck would be little fun if Absolver's actual combat was lacking.  Fortunately, Sloclap clearly dedicated a lot on this particular part of the game.  Beginners can have fun mashing the two main attack buttons but the combat is deep enough that once you start understanding the intricacies of deploying proper move sets to unleash devastating combos, you can get so much more out of it.  Add in different move sets for weapons, abilities to unlock, various fighting styles, as well as a blocking, dodging and feinting system and you have all the makings of a complex and deep fighting game.
    Utilizing all of these complex systems through the short campaign is often necessary, particularly against tougher bosses.  There is a story which is told indirectly, but it is generally forgettable and lasts about 6 to 8 hours. It really only serves as an introduction to the game.  You can choose to tackle the campaign with other players cooperatively or against them through a seamless multiplayer which adds an element of unpredictability.  When you’re done with the campaign, you do have the ability to open your own fight school which other players can join, enabling them to use your Combat Deck.  Overall, though, there is actually very little to do on your own or even cooperatively.


    Fortunately, dueling against other players is often exciting and gives you a good sense of progression.  Even after many hours of PvP battles, there’s bound to be something you can learn and help you improve thanks to the depth of the systems.  A drawback for this mode is that the servers were inconsistent early after launch.  This has somewhat settled but there’s clearly still work to do.  Unfortunately, as of now, only 1 vs. 1 battles are available.  Sloclap has promised plenty of free post-launch content for Absolver, including a 3 vs. 3 mode, ranked matches, and a spectator mode, along with new moves and martial arts styles which will give players much more to do.
    Even though I wish there was more to do, particularly in the PvE modes, I enjoyed my time with Absolver.  The combat systems are deep and mesh together well, ensuring you can spend hours creating your perfect Combat Deck and learning from your encounters.  Environments are gorgeous, engaging, and really portray a fallen empire effectively.  However, the character models do need more variety and the sound design could be stronger.  Overall, though, Absolver’s core systems are very strong and I am eagerly looking forward to revisiting the Adal Empire when Sloclap drops new content.

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