Played on Windows.
Absolver is a free-roaming fighting game with a voiceless character who explores an unknown world where he must face bosses, can find other players to help or hurt, and discover the land at his own pace… So yeah, it’s Dark Souls as a brawler.
Graphically, Absolver offers beautiful locations to wander around and explore, as well as a number of enemies. Every character in Absolver wears a mask, and beyond that, the player must explore these wonderful worlds without a word. However, the locations offered in the game are varied and there are quite a few memorable moments that come to mind just based on the environment that the player is moving through.
Every character in the game is a humanoid but there are a lot of customization options and many enemies have something unique about them, though after a while, you’ll find most enemies blend together a bit too much to really stand out.
The big pull for Absolver is the combat, and while I’ll talk more about the combat itself in a bit, the attacks and defense look amazing and seeing a character hit or miss on an attack works well.
It’s not really hitbox porn levels of accuracy, but it’s still amazing to watch two characters attacking back and forth so realistically.
Absolver really doesn’t have a story. While I’ve watched a few videos on the story on Youtube, it turns out that the ones I’ve seen are lore made up by the youtubers or people reading from additional material, which doesn’t really work in my opinion. It’s like claiming Halo’s story is really good, but heavily referencing the books outside of the games.
That’s not to say Absolver is bad because of its lack of story. There are a lot of mood and thematic elements that Absolver delivers. A few NPCs will be non-aggressive and will talk to the player but most of their dialogue are focused on teaching small mechanics rather than delivering a story.
Again the environments do well to deliver the feeling of Absolver, but there’s not much more than a few moments that stand out here. The bosses in Absolver open with a cinematic that feels a bit out of place because nothing else does this, though they might have been put in place to allow the game to unload the current world, and replace it with the arena for the battle than to impart a narrative element.
This is the most dialogue the game has, and really it’s not that much.
At the end of the day, Absolver is more about the gameplay than anything.
As mentioned in the opening. Absolver has moments like Dark Souls, and I think it’s reductive to call any game that, but Absolver spends a lot of time setting itself up like Dark Souls. While it doesn’t have the Lore or the difficulty of that game, it also has a heavy focus on the gameplay where most people will ignore the missing story.
Combat though is the strongest comparison. Players and enemies will face off in a careful battle, throwing attacks and blocking them. The player can dodge, though the dodge in Absolver is a little short, however, the attacks need to be well-timed and a focus is on delivering damage without taking it.
While Absolver does have a similar feel to Dark Souls, there are a number of differences that really stand out. The biggest is that the multiplayer is seamless. If you’re in an area, another player can just run up to you or through the area. Players can attack each other at will, or can also officially request to team up in co-op and from there work together to explore or even take out an enemy that you’re struggling with.
This isn’t a bad system, as it also makes the world a little more dangerous or friendly depending on who’s in the area. If you’re fighting an enemy to a standstill, another player can come up behind you and kill you, or do the same to the opponent. I wish I was around when the game was extremely popular because I would have loved to see the world filled with life.
You can fight anyone, including other players if you wish.
The number of players in an area will also change the number of enemies and perhaps the type you’ll see. The video for my last look was shot in an area where there were two other players, neither wanted to team up but I found a boss that had two bodyguards that were very hard to challenge. When I jumped back to the main menu, switched to offline and jumped back into that same area, that boss didn’t have bodyguards. Though this does point out an issue.
If you are playing alone and want the multiplayer components, you will run into harder areas just because more people are around. If they’re not assisting you, you’ll get a harder game for no benefit and no way to control this challenge. I couldn’t tell the game “I’m fighting solo” until I switched to offline mode.
The other big difference that makes Absolver stand out from other games is that it’s a fighting game with a focus on allowing the player to create his own moveset and combo system. The player can design a moveset for unarmed combat, spiked glove combat, and sword combat, and can set up different moves for each. Each attack can transition the fighter from his current stance into a different stance, with four stances available at all times.
This is my list of moves by the end of the game, though notice how many I haven’t learned yet.
This allows the player to have an interesting and unique fighting style even if it’s mostly a similar style of moves. This feels like there is a lot of potential depth, and while playing with it I found some. In practice, I found I didn’t really need to play with this system too much. My initial setup and the one I set up shortly after learning about the movesets, carried me through the entire game. I don’t know if I lucked into a good combo or the game is that easy overall, but I didn’t really find it necessary to muck with this feature.
Absolver uses two buttons for attacks. The x button is more focused on pulling off combos and simple attacks, and Y is for Alternative attacks though it seems these attacks are able to be swapped between the two buttons and I believe the only real difference is the number of moves you can place in a row on the X button.
While you could try to throw every attack at an enemy, there’s a stamina system that wears out every time you attack an enemy or block an incoming attack. While the stamina will recharge over time, a concentrated attack will overwhelm the player. Enemies have a similar stamina bar which can be useful, though most enemies do drop their guard rather readily.
There are a limited number of moves you’re able to use at the beginning of the game, but Absolver allows players to learn moves from fighting opponents. Blocking an attack will allow the player to gain Experience to master that new move. If the experience level is maxed, the player can then slot that new move into his moveset and use it himself.
Fighting two enemies at the same time can overwhelm the player quickly.
It’s an interesting system, but as a mechanic, it has a big flaw. After beating the game, I had never learned a move this way. I went back to ensure my understanding of the system and had enemies beating on me for almost five minutes to learn one move. It’s an interesting idea, but I would have preferred a way to learn a new move quickly, and then have the player have to use the move to master it over time and get the full potential out of it. As it is in the game, the player will just have to let enemies wail on him in the hope he’ll glean some understanding of the moveset.
One other trick Absolver has is that if you lose the battle, you lose your new experience. This means that you’ll have to fight enemies you know you can win or make sure you don’t risk losing the battle while trying to master a new move.
Enemies in the game are not that hard. While some of this might depend on how many people are in an area you’re fighting in, as I mentioned above, I was able to beat all but two major enemies on my first attempt. The Third Marked One gave me a lot of trouble, though partially it was because there were two additional players in my area not helping me. The final boss also took me two attempts, though I was close the first time.
Again, this is with mostly default attacks. I chose the Strength option for building my character and played with it, but I didn’t struggle that much. Part of this could be because of where I allocated my points when leveling up. I focused mostly on building my strength as well as increasing my health and stamina bar. You can allocate points at any time by meditating and levels come often enough. Though this is a permanent upgrade, at least it was until respecing was added to Absolver, though it is still quite permanent until you reach the top level.
How you award these points does seem to have a major influence on the gameplay.
After playing most of the single player game, I entered into the combat trials and got my butt handed to me by a character who was twice my level. The multiplayer component of the fighting game did very well, but the problem is the combat trials are the entryway to a whole other part of the game. PVP.
Combat Trials allows you to go head to head (and possibly 3v3) against other players. This would work, though the player counts for Absolver is going down, and it took me a significant amount of time to find my first and only opponent. PVP is where players can fight using their moveset decks against someone else and see who’s the best fighter.
Much of the community around the game call this the PVP sections the “Real Game” and I’d accept that for a few reasons, but with a low player count, this will become harder and harder to recommend. If no one is using the mode, then it’s problematic even if it’s a major focus of the game.
In addition, after beating the game, a Downfall mode is unlocked. Single player or groups enter a mine and dig down taking out enemies along the way. This is very similar to the combat of the main game, but this is a little more randomized and players are trying to reach the end of the area. There is also a new currency, called Gleam, and new bosses, but it’s very similar to the rest of the game, and not enough of a change to keep me interested.
The biggest problem though for Absolver is that the main game and areas only took 4 hours for me to explore and beat the game. That’s frighteningly fast and it’s why I’ll accept the main idea is to play PVP, but that’s not a very appetizing option for me. Though, reading the description on Steam makes the PVE sound like it’s supposed to be equally valuable. There’s a reference to chasing gear which makes me think that perhaps they were considering this a looter, but it doesn’t really directly lend itself to that.
Absolver does a lot of interesting things to make a fresh new game and it succeeds at a number, the fighting engine here is solid. It’s just a shame it doesn’t have the length it needed to keep me playing. I know I called it Dark Souls and I still think it has a lot of the same flavor in its map design, and challenge. It just needs to be a little more difficult, and have a lot more content to live up to that. Maybe a few non-human bosses as well could have helped as well.
But the fact is Absolve has a really interesting battle system, it just doesn’t do anything with it. If you really want to try a 3d Fighter, Absolver does it well, but I still think it’s hard to really recommend this game due to how quickly the main game is over.
I give Absolver a
As part of the Humble Bundle, it would get a 3, but then I saw the full price for the game is still 30 dollars. That’s entirely too much money for not enough content. It’s a really interesting fighting engine, but the value proposition is completely whacked.
Final Thoughts: Absolver is a 3d fighter that shows off a very interesting engine, but doesn’t do enough with it. The game short, and the PVP is dying with player counts in the low triple digits.
Stats: 5.7 hours played, 9/22 achievements earned.