Let’s face it, Absolver hasn’t had an easy ride, ironically suffering from a downfall on alternate platforms. This game first caught my attention back when it released at the tail end of 2017, receiving a mixed bag of feedback from fans and critics alike. Now, it’s finally made its way to Xbox One, but has it found its footing all this time later? Personally, despite its refinement and its added extras, I’m not totally convinced that it will stand the test of time. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like, but its issues pull it back in the long-run.
There’s a compelling, somewhat endearing personality running through its veins. Something that struck me immediately is that there’s a respectful vibe to the game’s design, further complemented by the systems that are in place within. We’ll touch up on that soon. Those that are unaware, Absolver is an online multiplayer combat game, in which players take on the role of a masked Prospect that’s been dropped into a location known as the empire of Adal. Here, you’ll share this world with other players, A.I. enemies, NPCs, and so forth.
The general crux of play sees you fighting through a small range of fairly open locations, in an attempt to prove your worth and ultimately join an elite band of enforcers, otherwise known as the titular Absolver. Starting out, you’re able to lightly modify the appearance of your fighter; gender, hair color, and so on. The most vital choice is your choice in combat style, which, by and large, will determine how you play the game. Once you’ve made your selection, the game welcomes you in with a short, yet intuitive tutorial to get you going.
Here, you’ll learn the basics of play before being set free to take to the adventure at your own pace. It’s briefly explained to you that you need to track down the Marked Ones, a few enemies that are loosely littered throughout the empire of Adal. You’ll also be introduced to a large stone slab that highlights their locations. Once you’ve located them all and defeated them, you’re free to make your way to the game’s end section and prove you’ve got what it takes to be an Absolver; which amounts to little more than just one additional, similar fight.
Outside of that, Absolver does very little to relay much of its story. There’s a few NPCs and a small band of cutscenes to enjoy, but in broad terms, the story is likely the weakest element of the game. It’s a shame really, because the premise is certainly an interesting one when grouped with the game’s design foundation. Nevertheless, if you’re here in the hopes that you’ll get a worthwhile plot, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. In fact, I found the interaction and engagement with other players to be the most interesting aspect on show.
You see, the world that you’re in is shared at most times. You’ll almost always bump into another player as you go about your business. Players are free to attack you at any given time, or indeed, aid you on your way. That said, it’s fair to summarize Absolver as a PvPvE. Several times did I find myself stuck on a tough boss, only to have someone offer their assistance before we set off to kick some ass in unity. It’s moments like this in which Absolver shines at its brightest, lending the game a degree of respect and mutuality.
On the flip-side, there were no shortage of moments in which I would find myself challenged by another player, or surrounded by a group of them. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing more satisfying about this game when you’re laying waste to human opposition, only to then help them back up, and go your separate ways. Sloclap clearly had this intention in mind, given the fact that most of the primary emotes consist of bowing emotes, bring-it-on emotes, celebration emotes, refusal emotes, and other like minded tidbits to swiftly relay answers.
I’ll credit the game for its accessibility too. You’re free to offer an alliance with another player whenever you’re nearby one (or more), via the emote menu. Simply bringing up the dial and selecting the invitation/request is all that you need to do, with the option to join/refuse equally as simplistic. So, clearly the core structure is well set. The game’s foundation is easy to digest for newcomers and fighting fans alike, regardless as to what your intentions in Absolver may be. Then, what’s the problem? It’s not very well built upon.
The empire Adal is a beautiful place, one that offers some gorgeous sights if you take a moment to soak it all up. However, it’s also unforgivably empty. Outside of nabbing items, obtaining currency, fighting enemies, and speaking to a few NPCs, there’s naff all else to do. It doesn’t help matters that the game’s few locations can be run through in less than two minutes, despite how labyrinth-like they’re designed to be. Rounding that off, once you’ve done everything you need to do, the incentive to re-run it becomes far less attractive.
You read that correctly. Once you beat the core game, which took me just four hours, you’re expected to do it again with tougher bosses to boot. This is where the game’s main PvP elements come into view; clearly where the developer anticipates most will spend their time – more on that shortly. Let’s talk a bit more about the actual gameplay, shall we? If there was ever a game that focused heavily on acquisition, it’s Absolver. The game’s world is split into a few sections, with each section encompassing their own unique locations.
Throughout these locations rests hidden items, stone piles known as cairns also offer new items, and breakable pots that house, you guessed it, more items. You’ll also stumble upon alters that can be accessed to not only save you from danger, but to enable you to browse your menus too. The game is chock-full of A.I. enemies, oftentimes idly standing around until you move into their field of view. Most of the enemies are generic and unnamed, but formidable nonetheless. I can say the same about the named enemies and the few bosses.
Absolver is a game that takes practice, an experience that’s easy to pick up and play, yet hard to truly master. If you want to get the most out of this game, you’re clearly going to need to put in the time and the effort. That said, I’m an amateur at fighting games, but despite the several ass kickings I endured, I still managed to get through in a handful of hours. It pays off to never underestimate your opponent; generic enemy, boss encounter, or player. Here, if you get too cocky and make even a minor misstep or mistake, it’s trouble.
Enemies throughout the world never seem to leave their positions, and will oftentimes not stray too far from where they’re situated, even when engaged in combat. It would have been nice to see some more fluidity on this front, but as it stands, it comes across a bit robotic and flat. To engage in combat, you simply need to approach an enemy. You’re also free to fight these enemies over and over again, seeing as they respawn when you leave the area and return; with the exception of boss battles, which require a higher level to redo.
The game’s combat system is easily its best aspect, however, it’s sullied by a mixture of both framerate inconsistency and lag. Granted, these issues are not too frequent, but saying that, these problems are present through all of the game’s areas. When engaged in combat, you can lock-on to your target, and fast swap between other targets at will. Attacking is tethered to the controller’s face buttons, with your special abilities tied to the D-Pad. To begin with, you’re afforded the ability to slightly heal yourself, with more abilities unlocked later on.
You’ll unlock these abilities when you defeat the game’s Marked Ones, allowing you to make use of some decent, varying skills. Your stamina bar is situated in the bottom center of the screen. You’ll use stamina for most of your actions; dodging, attacking, blocking an attack, running and so on. The kicker here is that if you run out of stamina, you’re wide open for attack until it replenishes, encouraging you to find a technique. Going in all guns blazing is tempting, but a heavy chain of combos will mean very little when you’re a sitting duck.
Combat here is about utilizing your options, and finding an unpredictable string of attacking and defending to overcome your opponent. Your stance is equally as vital, too. You can alter your stance through holding RT and moving the right stick, which in effect, will alter your standing posture. Adjusting this will also benefit you with unique attacks, allowing you to further lay in some damage on an unsuspecting foe, or indeed, discharge an attack. It takes practice, but once you suss out how to parry, block, and attack correctly, it’s empowering.
Through customization and perseverance, you can truly become an unstoppable force if you allow yourself to become immersed with its mechanics. I found that I would constantly get my ass handed to me early on, but once I worked out how to throw my opposition off, the hunted became the hunter. This, again, is where Absolver shines at its brightest. The problem, on the other hand, is that its social aspects and its combat alone, is not nearly enough to justify meaningful longevity. It all gets fairly repetitive, pretty damn quickly.
The game’s progression system is fairly robust, mind. When you beat opponents, you’ll gain EXP and points that can be used to increase your base stats, and you’ll find yourselves learning new moves as you engage in combat and defend against differing outputs. This feeds into the combat deck, a customizable move-set that you can tweak to create a diverse fighting style. Gear plays a large role too, with each piece and set altering your stats in a range of different ways, encouraging you to experiment with the items that you pick up.
When all is said and done, Absolver is a lot deeper than it appears to be, it’s just a shame that this depth wasn’t spread evenly across the board, a very, very big shame. When you’re done with the campaign, if we can call it that, other elements of the game will be ready and waiting for you. Now, as alluded to above, you can run through the game again and face repeated opponents at higher levels, mop up any missed items, or even open a school; achieved via the social hub. Schools work quite simplistically in the grand scheme of things.
You can join a school (faction) at pretty much any time, and in doing so, you’ll enjoy additional extras for being a student. There’s already several schools available to join, with players free to open a school once they hit level fifty in the combat trials. Combat trials is where the PvP is at. Here, you’ll take on a human opponent 1 on 1, in a first to three wins round. This section of the game has its own ranking system, which for the most part, feeds into the social aspects of play, such as the aforementioned school system. It’s quite neat.
There’s more to get up to if you want to stretch out the game’s length. On top of the 1 on 1 Duels that you can take to, the game also supports 3 on 3 Overtake. Here, three players will fight against their opposition to control zones, with points granted to the team that has control. Then, there’s the PvE offering; Adalian Mines. These can be taken on alone, or in a group with other players. On the visual front, Absolver sports a stunning design. The empire of Adal a desolate and desperate, yet lush collection of varying ruins and villages.
There’s some texture issues to contend with, as well as the technical flaws that I’ve mentioned above, but even with that in mind, it’s hard not to appreciate the beauty on display. Frankly, I would have liked to have seen more depth and meaning. In its current form, this beauty is only skin deep. The audio is great, relaying the impact of combat nicely, whilst capturing the world’s vibe quite well. The bottom line here is that Absolver is like a diamond that’s lost in its own mass of rough.
The game’s combat is deep, engaging and well developed. Excitement is found in learning new skills and acquiring new weaponry and gear, with the game’s uncertainty left to the fact that no two players are likely to sport the same style; making encounters all that more tense. Unfortunately, much of this excitement is lost amidst the game’s poor performance, its lame campaign, and its meager world content. That is to say that unless you’re going to be happy with the game’s combat and social aspects alone, you’re going to be left underwhelmed.
Technical issues aside, Absolver’s deep and innovative combat system, together with its seamlessly integrated social elements, easily stand as the game’s greatest achievements. Unfortunately, the game’s gorgeously ruined world is merely superficial beauty, being that outside of necessary acquisition, there’s little else to enjoy. This lack of overall depth is surely going to have a negative impact on its player count before too long.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.