GAME REVIEW | Technical Issues Can't Pardon Design Sins In "Absolver"
Absolver at first glance sounds like an interesting game. Play as an unknown avatar character of your own making, and go forth and fight martial artists to achieve some kind of goal. I'd like to tell you what that goal is, but the game itself makes that goal ambiguous unless you keep playing. The only problem there is having the desire to put up with it's design choices and the technical issues that crop of because of them.
Absolver thrusts players into a martial arts competition for some unknown purpose. The game will first put you through a small tutorial section where you'll learn the controls and mechanics. You can pull off light attacks that can lead into combos, and also vary depending on the stance, direction, and delay that goes into your strikes. There are also finisher or heavy attacks for wearing down an opponents guard or for creating openings. Eventually you can fight with bladed weapons or war gauntlets for pure fist melee attacks with extra oomph.
Enemies also can drop equipment for your use, or you can find some by rummaging through boxes or whatever the environment constitutes a 'loot chest'. Armor can provide protection for a either blunt or cut protection, in addition to elemental protection. The more protection against attacks you receive will often cut into your speed, as there is a weight mechanic to consider. Heavier equipment makes for slower attacks. You'll of course earn experience, and once you gain a level, you'll get skill points for you to spend on various attributes.
Raising mobility will help increase your tolerance to heavier equipment, allowing you to move faster while wearing it, or with lighter equipment it will make you incredibly agile. The other stats are pretty explanatory. You also go exploring in an open-ended environment that's inter-connected not unlike Dark Souls. But the similarities to that game mostly end there. And this is where the good ideas of the game begins to falter under the weight of it's inherent design.
Absolver is a game that makes heavy use of its online elements by being an 'always online' game. This means that for as long as you are playing, the strain of your internet connection depending on your provider's plan will negatively affect gameplay. That is to say nothing of how the game is affected server side should something go wrong. While I can assume that the game won't boot you to the title screen should you disconnect, there's no way to switch to offline play, since the idea behind the game is that's it's meant to be played online. I found this is weird since the game does seem designed to be play by yourself should you desire it, although the constant connection means people will constantly pop in and out, making notification noises all the while. However this also means that you can get ganked by players who just want to mess you up while you are in the middle of exploring.
Speaking of exploring, it's hard to know where you are going as you attempt to not walk in circles, since the level design is so bland and repetitive with a lack of map of any kind to guide you. At least Dark Souls has a clear path and good level design to help to identify landmarks, but there's no such luck here. I got lost easily, and on top of that I'd get ambushed by another player or enemy NPC (which of course respawn and are random). There are plently of checkpoint areas, but there doesn't seem to be anyway to fast travel between most of them. Add to the fact that the netcode being terrible and lag spikes being frequent, it's hard to enjoy combat as it is. Absolver might get fixed to be more enjoyable in the future, but at this stage, it's hard to recommend to players.
The Good: The fighting mechanics are interesting and well thought out.
The Bad: A lack of a strong narrative that drives you to complete the game.
The Ugly: Forced online play means lag spikes negatively affecting gameplay and unwanted player intrusions.
SUMMARY: Absolver is a neat concept involving martial arts and an open-ended RPG, but without a strong narrative, forced online play, and other technical issues, it's hard to recommend this game to anyone.
Promotional consideration provided by Thomas Schulenberg of Tinsley-PR. Reviewed on the PS4.
Eric Kelly is a freelance writer who you can support on Patreon here.