Everything is great except for the most important part.
I remember seeing Absolver’s first trailer and thinking “that looks interesting.” The art style and look of the combat seemed unique and thought out, but then, I forgot about that game until I was asked to review it. Now that I’ve played it, I can say that it most certainly is interesting in many aspects, but I feel that the execution of the entire thing is off.
First off, let me just say I’m not comparing this game to a Souls game. That seems like the first thing many people love to throw out there, and while there are definitely some comparisons to make between these two games, I am going to only talk about what Absolver does and you the reader can take it how you want.
Platforms: PC, XB1, PS4
Price I’d pay: $10
The game begins with players creating their character. The character creator is very minimal, but in the grand scheme of things isn’t that important. The important thing is which type of style one chooses to play as. There are three to begin with, and each has their own difficulty and mechanics. This plays into how the players want to take on incoming attacks using the right stick to either deal with attacks coming from the left, right, high, or low. The Forsaken style has players parrying an incoming attack, the Windfall style is all about dodging and avoiding attacks, and the Kahlt style has players absorbing the attack without being stunned. All of these styles play similarly, but offer up a different approach to combat.
Speaking of combat, this is where the game both shines and fails. The combat itself is sublime. All standard attacks are mapped to a single button. Timing and stances are what really matters. Players can string combos together with simple button presses, but what changes things up are the stances. Each player has four stances that they can utilize. The stances can be changed at any time, but they can also be changed mid combo using a stance change attack. This allows players to string a combo, switch stances, and continue a combo. This all comes into play when players begin customizing their attacks. This is done via the combat deck. Players can edit their combat deck in the menu to equip learned attacks into whatever combo they see fit. If I like a hard opening attack to drain the enemy’s stamina, I could equip a harder hitting punch in the first slot. If I really wanted to break an enemy’s guard mid combo, I could easily equip a guard breaker attack in a stance switch attack that would allow for me to drain some blocking enemy’s stamina then finish off their guard with a hard kick. It’s deep and very customizable. Learning new attacks is as simple as blocking those incoming attacks. Keep in mind, if one dies before making it to as shrine, they lose all the experience they gained from blocking incoming attacks.
Where the combat fails is in its execution. While the system is fantastic, the actual fighting quickly becomes a frustrating chore. As long as I was one on one with an AI enemy, I was fine and having a good time. It was when I was taking on two or more that it became infuriating. Now, I have played other games where I found myself surrounded and was able to make it out of a pretty bad jam. In Absolver, this is not really the case. You remember playing Double Dragon back in the day and when you had two enemies on either side of you, you were basically screwed due to them taking turns knocking the crap out of you? Yeah, that’s what it’s like in Absolver. While I’m trying to take out an enemy in front of me, there’s two other guys taking cheap shots in my back, making me take needless damage as well as draining my stamina if I decide to block their attacks. I’m not able to get in an attack, and for some reason, the AI decides to rush me every time I get in their vicinity. Needless to say, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the AI. Not to mention the other players that are running around.
That’s the next aspect of Absolver. The PvP. While other players are playing their own game, they enter areas with others. When this happens, they can choose to either help or fight players they run into. Keep in mind, they are still considered an enemy in game, and even if I decided to help another player, I could still accidentally kick them instead of the enemy AI. Players can communicate via simple gestures mapped to a radial menu.
Along with equipment that can raise defense and other stats with, of course a tradeoff of some kind, leveling up the character occurs. The players can choose to add a single point into a stat like vitality, strength, dexterity, and others. The progress of learning new attacks is reset on death, but overall experience is not.
The story is a simple one that is vague on purpose. It tells of a warrior that is chosen to be an Absolver who must travel to a land to defeat the bosses that are spread throughout the open world area. Of course, along the way, players will meet NPCs that offer up a little more context for the world. It’s nothing major, but there is a little here and there.
The art style is a big stand out for me. The smooth textures mixed with the almost muted color scheme really give off an almost claymation feel that looks great and really kick up the atmosphere a good amount.
And that’s really the long and short of it. Absolver is a great and interesting game as a whole, but the biggest part of the game, actually playing it, is both frustrating and unbalanced. The combat works and is very customizable, the pacing and level progression is nice, and the world is interesting and looks great, but in the end, it has all these great things about it, and I honestly don’t feel like playing it due to the fights turning into frustrating encounters. Now, that’s not to say everyone is going to feel that way and I’m sure there’s going to be at least one person saying I’m playing the game wrong, and I may very well be doing that, but in my time with it, I have given it my best shot and found it to be a great game in many ways that I just don’t want to play.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.