Absolver is one of the newest titles published by Devolver Digital and it definitely took me by surprise this year at E3 with its unique take on some old formulas. French developer Sloclap is made up of experienced game devs, though Absolver is the first project that the team have developed so far. Having no prior knowledge of the game, I found it to be a strange mix of Destiny’s shared world and combat that pairs fighting games with Dark Souls. Players take on the role of a Prospect, a masked warrior who takes a sacred vow in an effort to join the Absolvers. Prospects are seemingly devout worshipers, who put their ambitions above their own well-being. Their faceless presence is haunting in its own right, but even more so when you learn that their entire existence is based around fighting each other.
The Absolvers are an elite group of fighters who seek to bring stability and balance to the world. Players are monitored by the Guides who now rule the fallen Adal Empire. The lore seems interesting enough on its own, but most of the real stories will come from player interaction. Absolver features seamless encounters with other players online, for those who wish to experience the game with others. As players wander through the world fighting other Prospects, they begin to learn that only the strongest warriors will have what it takes to catch the Absolvers’ attention.
Players choose from three classes, each with their own unique playstyles. Forsaken are well-rounded and feature a parry ability that briefly stuns enemies. Kahlt are a bit stronger, with a focus on resistance and the ability to absorb hits in order to gain strength. Lastly, the Windfall class is dexterity-based and utilize dodges to find openings for attack. Allegedly there is a fourth class that may be available in the full game, but there is no information about it at this time.
In addition to the three classes, each is fully customizable with an emphasis on creating unique combos that fit your playstyle. For example, I found myself using the Square Square Triangle approach quite often, which is two quick attacks followed by a powerful blow. After downing a few enemies, I gained experience points that allowed me to unlock new fighting styles and attacks. This allowed me to continue to use the same button combo, but the animation and damage could be adjusted to my liking. There are four stances to master which, when paired with all of the combo actions, makes for a very diverse and customizable combat system. One stance that stood out to me was the drunken fighting stance, which has your character flailing around like a madman while landing powerful blows against the enemy. Fighting game fans will rejoice in this level of combat depth, while RPG players will feel right at home with its loot system.
Defeating enemies and exploring the dungeon mines of Adal will yield armor pieces and a number of melee weapons. The same combat rules apply when using swords and axes, though skilled martial artists can knock the weapon right out of their opponent’s hand, resulting in both warriors attempting to pick it up off the ground. This old-school knife fight feel makes for an interesting dynamic in 1v1 battles.
After being thrown into the open world, I began exploring alongside my companion, only to be attacked by literally every other person in the world. This particular demo was offline, but the full game will be full of other players in a shared world, similar to Destiny and The Division. As I ran through the world, I fought other Prospects in hand-to-hand combat. Every punch and kick felt appropriately weighted, emphasizing the brutality of the in-game culture. Faceless figures attack on sight, whose terror is elevated by heavy-sounding punches and precision deadly martial arts.
Absolver has a similar level of depth to combo-based fighting games, but also takes a lot of influence from Dark Souls. Dodging, parrying, and blocking will be necessary for achieving victory, even if you have your combos mastered. And of course, you won’t be able to do anything if your stamina is depleted. Locking on to your target makes it easier to dance around them and dodge away from dangerous blows. Prospects are indiscriminately hostile towards one another, which sometimes results in a gang fight. Often times I was fighting two or more at one time, which was nearly impossible for an inexperienced fighting game player like myself. However, Souls has taught me that keeping space between you and your opponents can make all the difference.
Though each Prospect is essentially fighting for themselves, players have the option to team up with friends and fight to the top together. Absolver features both PvE and PvP combat, with the former being the best place to acquire the strength and skill to take down other players. PvP takes place within battle arenas, where victors receive praise and recognition by the Absolvers. Gaining a greater reputation among them helps to ascend the ranks and receive spoils of victory. Becoming a high-ranking and respected player online will no doubt be difficult and Sloclap will hopefully find passionate players who are willing to put in the hours. If there is one thing I gathered in my 30 minutes of gameplay time, Absolver is not an easy game and wholeheartedly requires dedication, willpower, and skill.
There is no telling if the final product will live up to its potential, but I definitely enjoyed what I played at E3. Its influences are numerous, but the formula seemed to work well. This is definitely one to keep an eye on if you are a fan of fighting games, Dark Souls, and shared worlds online.
Absolver will release on August 29th on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.