Absolver is a solid blend of Action RPG, Kung Fu fest, and mysterious Souls-like journey. Its real legs come in the form of PVP and sharing/creating Schools of combat, but the short-lived story campaign is nothing to be sneezed at either. Read on for our review of Sloclap’s online combat-fueled ARPG, Absolver.
I’ll be honest. If you’re not a fan of 1v1 PVP a la Street Fighter, you might want to hold off on buying Absolver. It’s not that Sloclap’s debut isn’t delightful, because it is. It’s that the PVE campaign is dreadfully short. Even an average player will be done with the story in around 5 or 6 hours, leaving the remainder of your time focused on building your move list, collecting new gear, and climbing the ranks in PVP matches.
The world of absolver is in ruins. All that remains to rebuild and hold order over the darkness are the Absolvers themselves. That’s you, or what you’re trying to become. The story of the game has you donning the mask of one such warrior, and fighting to prove yourself by defeating the Marked Ones and ultimately rising to the rank of Absolver. From there, your goal will be to learn ever more about the combat arts, improve your personal skill set, and possible even found your own combat school and find followers to join you.
Founding a combat school is kind of like a guild or a clan in any online game, but mostly it’s about creating a deck of moves for your fighter and then sharing that deck among your disciples. It’s like being really good in Hearthstone, and posting your deck online, to have others use it and rep your deck. You can only ever have so many moves “equipped” to your fighter at one time, so this comes down to who has the best combinations and makes effective use of the right combos at the right time.
You can attack and defend from four directions, shifting your stance with the touch of a button, and naturally through using your moves (starting in one stance, a move may shift you to another). In a way, it’s like For Honor, but far easier to control on the mouse and keyboard. What I will say is that while Absolver’s combat is easy to pick up, it’s hard to master. There’s a depth here that takes practice, patience, and trial and error. You can cheese your way through the PVE, even dying a lot, but to do well in PVP, you’ll want to test and practice your deck.
Leveling a character comes into play too. You’ll find and equip tons of items throughout the game, some have bonuses to defense, but also weigh you down, decreasing your speed and making you do less damage thus. The challenge then becomes about finding a good balance of armor to match your preferred combat moves. There are also weapons like spiked fists, swords, and so forth. These can be used by spending “Shards” which are essentially the “mana” of Absolver. You fight to charge it up, and then your weapons and two chosen special skills expend it. Special skills are earned through defeating the “Marked Ones” and are kind of your super powers as an Absolver. Some recharge health, others act defensively, and some add buffs to your character for a time. They’re like tools on a toolbelt to aid you in tough or outnumbered fights.
The exploration of the world of Absolver is a winding and dizzying path through larger set pieces. Fall damage is a thing, and you cannot swim, do death is sometimes as simple as a missed step. The world isn’t interactive at all, though the game’s early moments have you busting open doors that are later rendered unbreakable (a curious design choice that belies the idea that they weren’t able to fully fill in what’s behind the rest of the game’s doors). No, Absolver’s exploration is more about finding the next fight, uncovering a pile of loot, or finding the next safe spot to meditate (think Dark Souls’ campfires).
The world itself is interesting, but with little to no interaction outside of fights and the occasional mysterious NPC, it feels mostly hollow. Combat is what Absolver does best. The RPG aspects of leveling up, finding new gear, and learning new moves through fighting AI and other players is awesome. But it all feels like it’s missing something, because the world feels empty and more like a soundstage than a world.
The beauty of Absolver’s multiplayer comes in waves. On one hand, if you’re other-player averse, you can make the game private (much like Diablo 3, for example). If you’re brave, you can let it feed you random other players as you navigate the game world. The most you’ll run into is 1 or 2 other people at a time, and then comes the tenuous partnership/rivalry where you work with and/or against each other. It’s fun, because death doesn’t have much meaning in Absolver. You lose any XP towards moves you were gaining during a fight, but no gear or anything like that. And then, for some real fun, teaming up with a friend or two and running around as teammates is a blast. Friendly fire is a thing too, though, so accidentally killing your buddy is not only possible, it’s hilarious.
Absolver is a great combat game, and a fantastic blend of genres. It’s just sad that the PVE side of things is so short, because I’d really have enjoyed the game if there was more of an adventure to play through. Still, if you’re an old pro and fan of fighting games then Absolver may very well be worth the buy. It’s unique blend of ARPG and traditional kung-fu mastering is a whole lot of fun. Sloclap plans private 1v1 matches, a spectator mode, and 3v3 PVP, as well as more zones in the PVE side of things to be opened up. For $30, there are definitely worse things to spend money on. For those wishing for a more robust adventure, wait for a sale. But if what I described sounds ideal to you, jump in. You’ll be happy.
Score – 7/10
- Fantastic, fluid combat
- Loads of moves and gear
- Great art direction
- Lifeless world
- Short campaign