Ever played a game that sounded excellent on paper, looked great, played great, was actually entertaining, but didn’t deliver as much as you were expecting? That’s basically my summed up feelings with Absolver. It mostly hit all the right notes, but it also left me wanting more, feeling that the game could have been a lot better than it was.
Absolver is a multiplayer-focused martial arts game. It borrows elements from classic beat-em-ups, the combat and camera style of Dark Souls, as well as artistic influences from games like Journey and Rime, with a nice mix of rich and detailed environments with some minimalstic influences, especially when it comes to some character designs. Your objective in the game is very straightforward: defeat a series of bosses, learn their fighting patterns, gain access to the top of a mountain and fight a final boss. Once that’s done, you become a full fledged Absolver, and in true Destiny fashion, that’s when the game actually begins.
The single-player “campaign”, if you can even call it a campaign, is extremely short and abrupt, as it acts more like a tutorial of sorts for the PvP arena that acts as Absolver‘s main mode. That’s definitely a shame, because exploring the beautiful landscapes of the introductory area was very fun, as well as learning more about the game’s lore via its minimalist narrative. As previously stated, this acts more as a training mode for you to learn about Absolver‘s combat, the game’s bread and butter.
Absolver‘s combat is great. It’s easy to learn, given the fact it only uses two attack buttons, but very hard to master. It’s amazing how deep and customizable the combat system can be even though it only uses a couple of buttons, as you can constantly change fighting styles when battling, creating lots of combos and different outcomes. Your fighting styles can be fully customizable, as each attack is locked to a card. You can collect different cards by battling people with fighting styles you haven’t learned yet, emulating the real-life experience of learning new martial art moves by sparring with other people. That’s easily the best aspect of Absolver, as the more you play the game, the more frequently you’ll meet new people with completely different fighting styles, and the more you’ll be able to customize your own style, just like a real martial artist.
Once you beat the campaign, all that’s left is roaming around the overworld, looking for adventures of your own. There are no quests to partake of. All you can do is look for people to fight with, and, well, fight with them. There’s no way to actually die, so the entire online experience feels more like a gigantic training session overworld than a proper multiplayer arena. Fighting against one other person is actually pretty fun, as the combat will be fluid and totally unique from battle to battle. When you meet three other people and partake on multi-man brawls, on the other hand, everything feels a lot messier. The only thing missing in these chaotic episodes was a dust cloud in order to fully become a stereotypical cartoon fight. That’s all Absolver has to offer. A super short campaign and a vast multiplayer playground with not much to do. The foundations for a fantastic game are there, but the execution turned out to be very limited.
Absolver is a beautiful game with a fantastic concept and a great combat system. Creating your own martial artist with your own fighting style is incredibly engaging and addictive. But sadly, its incredibly abrupt campaign and somewhat lacking multiplayer limit it from being a much better game; one that could easily become part of a Top 20 list. There’s an immense amount of potential in this franchise, though, so one can only imagine Absolver 2 could become a staple multiplayer game, should the developers care about developing it in the future.
Also available on: PS4