Absolver PS4 Review

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under PS4, Reviews & Features, PlayStation

Publisher: Devolver Digital  Developer: Sloclap  Genre: Fighting  Players: 1-3  

Age Rating: 12+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

Absolver soon sets the tone with its haunting and lonely world, and it’s also a world of faceless combatants. The game takes place in the ruined empire of Adal, whereby you’ll stumble across statues who were once people, turned to stone while they were just doing everyday things. Sound is also used sparingly, with the sight of other players as well as enemy combatants being welcome in such a lonely place. With all that said, Absolver definitely has the atmosphere, but it is also a very unusual game.

Absolver is a fighting game, but the difference is that it is a fighting game that allows you to heavily customise your characters moves. Speaking of customising, you begin the game by creating your own character (a masked Prospect who is looking to become an Absolver), choosing things such as their origin, gender, hairstyle and hair colour. Character creation is minimal, allowing you to alter few cosmetic options, although you can opt for one of three fighting styles. One of the styles allows you to parry attacks, another allows you to absorb enemy attacks, and the final one allows you to dodge attacks.

Bosses and other enemies return after being defeated, which makes perfect sense being that you are able to learn moves from them.

It’s the beautifully fluid and well animated fighting that is Absolver’s most interesting aspect. The game has an option called the Combat Deck, which allows you to set up your own combinations of moves, and it’s even possible to string large amounts of moves together through your characters stances and skillful play. Even though the game only has two attack buttons, a block button and a dodge button, there’s still an immense level of depth to be found here. You also have to keep an eye on your stamina bar, with stamina loss occurring through attacking as well as defending yourself during fights.

If you want to play the game skilfully, then you’ll have to time your button presses, as well as fluidly switch from one stance to another. You’ll also have to make use of your characters powers, powering up Tension Shards by defending yourself, and then unleashing them. Powers allow you to do such things as draw a weapon, heal yourself, force opponents to use extra stamina when attacking, stun your opponent, and so on. As you’ll find that even some of the AI opponents in the game will put up a fight, it’s certainly worthwhile to learn the intricacies of the combat system to truly glean the most out of the game.

There’s 180 moves in total, but they aren’t all there ready to be used from the off. In order to increase the amount of moves in your Combat Deck, you’ll have to put some serious work in. To unlock extra moves, you’ll have to block or dodge out of the way when an enemy attacks with them, which earns you experience towards learning the move. The thing is, if you are defeated by the enemy, then you’ll lose any of the experience that you earned during the encounter. Also, don’t be a coward and run away and expect to bank the experience you earned towards a move, as such a spineless act will result in losing any of that experience. In reality, the game can be a bit of a grind, and some players won’t like the time it takes before they can boast that they have a wealth of moves at their disposal, but it also has to be said that the game feels more rewarding based on putting the time in.

You’ll also earn XP towards levelling your character up, and when you do actually level up, you are awarded with an attribute point to apply to your stats. You can increase your strength, your health, your stamina duration, increase the damage of attacks based on mobility and dexterity, and so on. You’ll also unlock extra slots for your Combat Deck when reaching specific levels, allowing you to add extra moves to your repertoire.

You can also equip your character with equipment, which includes masks, elbow pads, shoulder pads, undertops, overtops, gloves, trousers, shoes and belts. This equipment not only alters the character cosmetically, but it also increases or decreases your stats. Lots of heavy armour will offer you good protection for example, but will slow you down during a fight. A lack of armour meanwhile will mean that you move really swiftly, but lack defence when attacked. Equipment can be found lying around the environment, can be looted from enemies, or earned when facing other players in the combat trials.

Adal is an interesting and beautiful place, and your task is to explore it and find and defeat a number of bosses. The world is deceivingly large at first, but you soon realise that it is actually a pretty compact place. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t feel annoying in its exploration at times, as it does. Without a proper map as such, getting around can feel a little frustrating at times, although you are able to view a mini map at save points, which does give you a general idea as to where to find each boss, but the map doesn’t reveal the direction that you are facing, which isn’t very helpful. There’s little story and not much else to do in the world other than fighting, so the game might even feel a little limited for some.

The environments and art-style are beautiful. It would have been nice for the game to have had more of a backstory to explain what caused the fall of the empire, however.

As a multiplayer game, you’ll sometimes come across other players, which you can either help, fight, or completely ignore. At save points you can also select combat trials, allowing you to set up one-on-one arena fights, which are best of three rounds, and it’s largely when facing human competition that you realise just how flexible the combat system is. You really do have to observe each opponents fighting style to determine how to best take them on.

The game also has a fighting school option, which allows you to join the schools of others, or even set up your own school eventually. If you join a school, you’ll get access to the mentor player’s Combat Deck, and if you have your own school, other players will have access to your Deck upon joining your school. It’s an interesting option, and one of Absolver’s most unusual features.

Staying with the online options, the game is sadly currently experiencing major issues from time to time, and there are also a number of bugs. I have come across a number of issues, which involved lag, the game has crashed three times, I have even been attacked by enemies from a distance, and there was even one occasion which resulted in my save file being corrupted, forcing me to have to start the game again from scratch. There was even a point when one of the AI enemies was invisible, so the game is definitely lacking in polish right now. Hopefully the developer will get this sorted out sooner rather than later.

Absolver is definitely an unusual game that is sure to evolve in to something that better compares to the developers original vision, and free DLC over the course of the next six months is already promised, but at this point in time it does have a few issues holding it back from true greatness. The game is also going to be too much of a grind and overly intimidating and vague for some, which may put some players off from venturing too far into the game.

Its broken and atmospheric world, however, and its deeply customisable combat system and its fighting school option will be more than enough to keep certain players hooked. With everything said, this is definitely one game that is well worth a try, and one game that will hopefully get better and better over time.