Thursday, July 25, 2024

Looking Back at 2017’s Absolver.

( Devolver Digital became known for games like Hotline Miami and The Talos Principle. However, the publisher has released many games by indie developers and some were initially previewed favorably before being released to players. One of those games is 2017’s Absolver by SloClap.

Looking Back at 2017’s Absolver.

This title was an online martial arts-themed action RPG and that instantly had my attention. At the time of its release, online games were heavily run by shooters, MMORPGs, and MOBAs. I found an online title without guns and aircraft to be intriguing as f**k.

Also, I’ll play almost anything involving martial arts, so this was right up my alley. Before we get into what works and doesn’t work for me here, Absolver takes place in the open-world setting of Adal and the player takes control of their own Prospect. These Prospects are skilled martial artists in training to become Absolvers, basically lawgivers in a ruined kingdom.

What Did Absolver Get Right?

Off the bat, the art style set it apart. Nowadays, the art style is nothing special but at that time less than a decade ago, it was fresh and fit the odd setting of Absolver. Like is this feudal? Ancient? What’s cool is the game world itself and some of the areas you fight Prospects in. There are a lot of high areas and bridges which make some fights easier to win—with some help from gravity.

There’s some degree of magic but it’s more in the vein of using chi or stamina for primarily close-quarters fights. So, we’re not lobbing fireballs or freezing opponents.

I’d say the moves and how they’re linked into combos really worked for this game. Some moves break defenses and leave opponents open to a shellacking. Again, attacks drain stamina and in the combat deck or skill deck, you’re shown stamina damage and speed.

Alternative attacks will get the job done eventually but I tend to set the stamina drainers to that slot. You have special techniques such as Healing—always handy never heals much—and Shockwave which knocks surrounding enemies back.

Fights in Absolver are pretty strategic but this is more so when fighting other players. The AI can be tactical as well but when fighting multiple AI opponents, the more frenzied attacks can result in a player resorting to button mashing.

This game punishes button-mashing. You’re expected to time attacks and switch up stances to utilize attacks effectively. Distance can give breathing room and since fights are hand-to-hand, you can lure an opponent into slobber knocker.

You’re left to your own devices as far as where you go and what order you fight Lost Prospects in. Loot tends to drop and the best stuff is either near or in possession of the more powerful Lost Prospects. You don’t have merchants—just gear that you pick up, repair, dye, or scrap for fragments. These fragments are used to repair or dye. They can also be used in the Essence Shop but they don’t have the greatest amount of uses.

What Didn’t Work?

The sharp spike in difficulty is something that didn’t work for me. Initially, it seems simple enough to grasp the controls and the game does a good job at explaining stances, blocking, dodging, and so on but applying this just seems like that is when the game cranks the difficulty up. I mean, the more powerful Lost Prospects really slap. Prepare to lose often if you pick up Absolver.

The difficulty makes some of these fights extremely fun but you don’t want to run into a headbuster after you’ve just learned proper fighting technique.

A minor thing that didn’t work was the lack of merchants. I can expect that in a ruined kingdom, you probably wouldn’t have many merchants or smiths but a smattering would’ve been great. Then again, what merchant would want fragments unless that was Adal’s currency before the fall?

With those two points, I’d say that Absolver is the start to what could be a good series. It’s far from bad but it’s not exactly a great game. It doesn’t seem barebones but it’s a pretty sparse world you’re diving into. In a potential sequel, I would like to see…civilization in the world of Adal. Also, being able to name skill combos and establish martial arts technique manuals and formal schools would be great.

If you’ve played Absolver or still play it, what are some things about it you enjoyed or hated? What would you like to see in a sequel or spiritual successor? Let us know in the comments!

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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