By: Johnny Big Fudge Marcondes
Starting a Journey:
Absolver has finally been released today and before heading off to work I couldn’t help but get some time alone with it. Ever since I first saw the game art for Absolver I’ve been hooked, it’s on my personal list of most anticipated game releases and now that it’s finally out I have to say that it’s far from disappointing and truthfully desired a spot on that list of games to be excited about. Absolver is this beautiful rendered martial arts based action game that borrows influences from real life fighting styles, gorgeous simplistic painting aesthetics similar to Journey and many attributes found in MMOs. Within seconds of creating your character and choosing your fighting style you’re thrown into this world where your hand’s are your main weapons and without the needs of spoken words you already understand the importance of your journey.
You play as a prospect who earns his mask and is set out on a journey to travel through the land of Adal. Along your way you encounter both CPU enemies and other online players making Absolver feel like this unique blend of single player and MMO. As I was running through each section of the level I’m in I would encounter computer controlled enemies and randomly find another character with some fairly nice gear. At first I thought they were just different enemy A.I but as I noticed the lower right hand of my screen announcing multiple players near by I saw that I had encountered my first online prospect. I keep comparing my experience to game Journey and there’s a reason behind that, a lot of Absolver has that charm found in Journey from the gorgeous simple and clean aesthetic to feeling you get meeting a new player online.
Here I was running around and fighting everyone in sight when randomly I found myself in a more complicated fight where I was rushed by five A.I enemies and then a random online player rushed in and helped fend them off. We signaled to each other a thumbs up and one thing led to another and he/she asked to form a party. Suddenly my single player experience wasn’t so single anymore and the two of us ran through a wave of enemies before deciding to part ways. One thing that should be noted about the game which is a little odd is that even if you’re in a party with friend there’s still friendly fire rules. If the two of you are both fighting an enemy one of your strikes may land on your friend and cause damage which is fine, except even with the target focused on the enemy certain styles in the game have a broader range which would still hit your teammate.
Finding your way of the fist.
Upon the games opening you’re not told much and due to the fact that there’s no voice acting in the game a lot of the pacing and emotional emphasis are placed with music and sound cues. This is something I actually enjoyed from my current run of the game, having music play a big role in signaling the importance of something feels more important or heroic in a way. Once again it draws comparison to game Journey which I felt myself thinking about a lot throughout my experience, while written dialogue is there and you do interact with characters it never really feels as dynamic or grand as your encounter with bosses and the music shifts.
When it comes to character creation there isn’t much of an option from the get go, other than choosing your hair and sex the only distinct customization you have is choosing your fighting style which will drastically affect the way you play the game. Each fighting style has it’s own unique properties that really adds to the game, one may deal more damage while another may absorb more blows to allow you to charge an attack. One thing that I found extremely interesting was that the fighting styles all felt different enough to have legitimately interested making the style you choose seem important. It wasn’t one of those moments where you’re offered an option of a play style in a game and they look cool but in truth they’re all essentially the same. Styles that focus on strength have different strikes and abilities while those who focus on parrying and counters are more difficult to use as they require a more precise timing attack and guard.
Martial arts is key in Absolver and a lot of the moves you see are based on real life styles that chain together smoothly making you feel like a legitimate practitioner of that style. Unlike tradition fighting games where a character has a fighting style and burrows through them, Absolver is more calculated and practical with it’s fighting. This isn’t the type of game that you just rush in and start striking, while that is an option it isn’t exactly the best option. Some of the boss battles you encounter or online players who challenge you to a fight are more strategical and the pacing is a little more slow similar to say Dark Souls. Each fight has it’s own rhythm and sometimes rushing in isn’t the best option. Parrying, dodging, counter strikes and chaining light and heavy attacks with hard feints are so critical to the combat that every fight feels tough.
Fighter with RPG elements.
Attention to detail is something Absolver excels at and it’s made clear by their battle style that this isn’t your run of the mill fighter. When it comes to progressing your character Absolver really stands out as there’s this RPG element where you “meditate” to unlock new skills or increase your attributes. As you level up you earn points to increase things like your vitality, endurance, strength and more. Each fighting style upon choosing it tells what increased state will benefit that style but the game never forces you to follow it which is nice. Throughout my current run of the game I never felt tied down to anything, the gear I’ve found, weapons, abilities and stats have never made me feel as if I need to play a certain way or use a certain skill to get a head. Absolver does do a good job at allowing you try new things be it equipment that will alter your stats such as damage taken or weapons that will increase your range but change your strikes.
Every enhancement I’ve come across so far has been nice but unlike traditional RPGs they never really felt needed. At least not to me, meaning my character could hold his own against a boss or enemy without enhanced weapons or gear albeit at the damage inflicted and speed would be different. Fighting styles and properly timing counters and strikes plays a bigger role in the game than you’d normally think making enhanced weapons or gear nice but not really needed. Leveling up your character is achieved fairly easy and unlocking new moves to alter your “combat deck” (moveset) is something that I had the most fun with.
Changing the combat deck felt as if I was actually added to my character. While the new gear I’ve picked up looks aesthetically pleasing, the combat deck is by far the only thing that made my character feel different and exciting. Adding new mix ups to your combos or heavy attacks really helps tie in the martial arts aspect and keeps fights fun. Challenging players online to a fight is fun and for the most part at least in my encounters they’ve been respectful. While you can run through the game and never really accept a battle from another player to keep the experience single player, the option to play offline isn’t really there other than just going about your business.
Even though I haven’t completed Absolver and only played for a short time, the time I did spend with it was enjoyable and left me wanting more. Indie games have been some of my favorite the past couple of years and Absolver embodies everything I love about indie games, it’s different, it’s exciting and creative and just gorgeous to look at. There were numerous times where I just had to take a step back ad look at the landscapes, fellow prospects and more.
As someone who’s a massive martial arts fan, everything in Absolver revolving around the combat is beautiful and fun. There’s something so refreshing about it’s approach, from the stiff strikes to the powerful ax kicks and butterfly kicks there’s this smooth blend of mixed styles that not only work well together but chain perfectly in a way that comes across as natural. In the short time I’ve had with it I already experienced a lot in terms of play styles, I’ve seen online players rush into battles to try and dominate others through sheer strength and I’ve seen others disarm stronger foes of their weapons and take more strategic approach to their fights.
What makes this game so great is that no matter how you play it, there’s always room for growth. Much like martial arts in real life, no one style out weighs the other. While some may be easier to control than others, each style as well weapons you may pick up have their own set of perks and faults that leave the game open and fair. Balance is something dev team Slocap thrived for and boy did they succeed. As I continue to progress through the game and level up keep an eye out for my upcoming review of Absolver here at Pixelated Rampage. Throughout the week keep an eye out for streams of Absolver as well.