I had a chance to visit the Devolver Digital booth at PAX East and check out SloClap’s unique online co-op battler Absolver, a real-time martial arts action game that has incredible flexibility in its play styles and fluid action. The game has both a striking art style and innovative combat mechanics unlike anything I have yet seen in another video game. It is a tricky game to get the hang of, but once you do the depth of gameplay and interesting mechanics will keep you playing for hours.
The game casts you as a member of the titular group of fighters called Absolvers, in your case you are just starting the process of becoming one of these elite corps of warriors in the fallen ruins of the Adal Empire. You awaken with a mask on given to you by the Guides, the rulers of these lands, it frees you from hunger, thirst and even death as you strive to learn all you can to join the ranks of the Absolvers. Your quest will take you across the land battling new enemies, helping people you come across and learning more and more fighting styles as you progress towards your goal. The game is an online co-op experience so you will encounter and fight other players as well as NPC enemies on your way to achieving your goals.
The gameplay in Absolver is very intriguing, when you start the game you have an initial set of moves but as you progress and fight other people and NPC’s you learn their techniques. Over time you unlock new moves learned from battling others and these are added to your repertoire. You can also pick up melee weapons and learn fighting styles associated to them, weapons also merge with your fighting styles meaning kicks and punches are still executed while holding a sword as example. Once you have a stable of moves they are leveraged by picking a combat style, a weapon of choice, and arranging attacks in their Combat Deck to design their unique and personal attack flow.
The Combat deck can be customized by assigning attacks in sequence, high kick as first attack, spinning punch as second and overhand strike for the third as an example. Each of these attacks will end you in a particular stance, which means the next has to be able to start from that new stance as does the third and fourth. By setting up the deck your character will fluidly change stances as you trigger attacks from the initial starting stance of the combat deck sequence. It sounds complex, and it is at the start, but once some time is spent with the system it becomes fluid and frankly brilliant. There are four stance quadrants modified by moving your character via the controller, when you are in a stance that has a combat deck associated with it you will flow into the other stances by triggering the attack types listed in the sequence. When it is executed correctly the flow is brilliant to watch and really evokes traditional martial arts sequences.
On top of the combat sequences you program and execute there are also dodges, deflects and combat style specific abilities such as the absorb power that restores health when blocking properly. Weapons play an important part in the game and have a durability rating, if a weapon is continually used it will break, putting it away for a short time will allow it to be restored so it can be used again. Weapons can also be stolen if your character sustains enough hits to stumble and drop it, this generally causes a mad dash for the weapon that adds a movie like fighting scramble as each warrior tries to get to the item. You can also heal yourself by meditating during a fight if enough spirit is accumulated, but it leaves you vulnerable which can be a great risk.
Absolver is a game with a very interesting art style with stylized character designs and neo-modern fantasy environments. The game is truly beautiful to look at and the animations are buttery smooth as you transition from move to move, it is a sight to behold when a truly great sequence of moves is executed. In the game your character is faceless, but as you progress your armor, mask and clothes can be customized with found items to make your character truly unique. This is a game that came out of the blue for me and I was happy to hear it would be launching as a full retail game and not free to play meaning the full experience would be available at launch. Absolver will be available this summer and will release on PC as well as Xbox One and PlayStation 4.