Absolver is a fighting game at its core, but unlike any you’ve likely played before. Much of this has to do with the unique setting. The setup is that people have been placed in this realm in order to become stronger – in hopes of the best joining ranks with the Absolvers. The lands are lush with vegetation and wonder, but also full of potential friends and enemies. That’s the truly exciting part of the game. In a way similar to Journey, up to six others players can and will phase into each others’ worlds when nearby.
This means that you’ll never know who lies around the corner. As other players come face to face they’ll have all manner of scenarios play out in their head. Should they lash out immediately or try a friendly approach? Absolver allows for both methods of play via an icon-based chat system. There is intentionally no microphone or text chat support because the developers wish to keep up an air of mystery. There’s no doubt that would be squashed if you suddenly here a raging 10-70 year old shouting into their mic. In any case, the icon chat offers up a few key options. Players can request things like joining up or to stop a battle (if one was already initiated).
When this occurs, the game recognizes it and takes steps to modify gameplay accordingly. For example, once in co-op, friendly damage is lessened tremendously. This mode in particular ensures that the other player can stick with you rather than being phased out for another random person later on. It’s a cool concept but becomes even more impressive when you bring in the next, and biggest, component of Absolver: Combat Decks.
A Combat Deck is your character’s array of attacks and skills. The thing is, this is not pre-set per character like it would be in a traditional fighting game. Players have unrivaled customization options to make their character play exactly how they want. There are four stances for attacks and every stance has its own collection of attacks. Going into the menu allows you to set each attack chain based on that stance. Of course, you’ll also find special powers to use and amp up a fighting style even more. Things don’t stop there. You can also set up different customized movesets for when the player is battling bare-handed, wearing gauntlets or wields another weapon. With tons of moves to unlock, chances are each player will end up with incredibly divergent fighting styles thanks to the immense amount of potential customization.
Seriously, just try to imagine how many potential fighting style options there are. And yes, different clothes and weapons come with different stats to augment your character further. There is one caveat to all this. Certain moves cannot be chained due to the fact that they don’t “match up” from one stance to the next. Why was this done? It’s partially a matter of the visual aesthetic. By slightly restricting move sets in this way, Absolver ends up featuring incredibly fluid fight animation. Each move blends right into the next instead of looking stilted like in some other fighting games.
Absolver even takes a different route with how players gain new moves. It’s not a matter of simply grinding out some XP and then unlocking chosen abilities. Instead, it takes a slightly more realistic approach. Fighting against different attacks trains your character in said attacks. Successfully parrying them offers even more experience on those moves. So basically, in order to master moves you must experience them first hand in battle. Touches like this are exactly the sort that set this game apart from the pack.
Combine all this and you end up with a ridiculously unique experience. The online play ensures that each new encounter is meaningful (and potentially quite stressful). After all, there’s no way to tell what another player’s movesets are like. You simply need to throw the first punch or kick and see how they react. Or, you can do things like join up in a Mentor-Student relationship to gain temporary access to someone else’s attacks. The Combat Deck allows for as much or as little customization as desired. With that said, it seems likely that most who gravitate to Absolver will dive in fully to create a totally unique character to suit their play style when it arrives on PC and consoles later this year.