I played Absolver at E3 last year and lost my mind over it. WATCH OUT, because I’m gonna DO IT AGAIN! Absolver remains one of the more stylish action games I’m looking forward to, and major changes to its “class” system and UI make it a lot more intelligible and interesting (and possibly easier to explain).
To begin: Absolver is a really really complicated third-person brawler game in development by Sloclap. It’s coming out in August! It’s got PVE and PVP brawling, but it’s also got a pretty big focus on exploration. There are twelve distinct zones in the game; players can either spar with the real players they meet there, or invite them to help clear out the zone in a kind of ad-hoc co-op session. Drop-in, drop-out multiplayer means that Absolver will constantly serve up random strange and mysterious entities for you to either slay or ally with. Everyone wears creepy masks; there are a heap of mysterious kung-fu clothes for you to wear. In general, the game seems to be trying to deliver on everyone’s long-standing dream to become a legendary wandering warrior who kicks ass silently and leaves a trail of defeated young wannabes in their wake. (I’m not alone here, right?)
Absolver’s core combat system means that every mysterious silent battle is about ten times more complicated than it appears to be on its surface. You have light attacks and heavy attacks, but you have four “stances” to attack from, and each can have its own unique light and heavy attack combo sequence. You can choose which light attacks and which heavy attacks to assign to each of your stances; for example, you could design your “front right” stance to stun a player, but design your “front left” stance to do something completely different, and switch manually from one to the other mid-battle depending on what outcome you want to achieve.
But manual switching isn’t the only way to handle this. Each attack has a natural starting and finishing stance, too. This means that you could design a combo which would start in your front-left stance and, if properly completed, naturally lead you into your back-right stance, and put a combo in that stance which loops you to your front-right, and so on and so forth— and remember, you have light and heavy attacks, which means that you could potentially create a series of interlinked and overlapping combos which work seamlessly together in a genius way known only to your incredible kung-fu mind.
All this was in Absolver last year. This year, the new addition is a kind of “character class” system which adds a different layer of complexity on top of all this. Your class dictates which type of special ability is bound to your right analog stick. There’s a dodge class which gets big dodges from right-stick twitches. There’s also a ‘drunken master’-style class, which gets unpredictable dodge-punch moves. An “absorber” class gets moves which allow them to soak up hits. Each of these changes the way your character moves and idles during combat— my character started out as a dodge-class fighter, but when I swapped to the drunken class, her entire posture and movement changed. Add to this equippable d-pad abilities, like a heal, a pushback move, and an earthquake that inflicts stagger, and you’ve got a huge number of different moves, combos, and abilities to deploy at any given moment.
Indeed, the amount of stuff to think about when you’re playing Absolver seems, to a novice who’s barely spent two hours on this game over the past 12 months, incredibly intimidating. Luckily, I have beta access, so I’ll definitely be checking this out in greater detail.
Prior to this E3, my big questions about Absolver were always about the world. This time around, I did get a lot more detail from the devs on exactly what the world is like and how they expect you to play through it. Zones lead seamlessly into one another; they have checkpoints similar to Dark Souls’s bonfires and contain minibosses, loot stashes, and other mysterious stuff. I got to see a forest environment and a ruined town environment; both were spare and beautiful, and there were a few environmental features in each of them that seemed like they might be a lot of fun to fight on. (A massive and badly-boarded-up well in the center of the ruined town offered some appealing pitfalls.) Minimum paths through each of the 12 zones can actually be rather short, Sloclap told me, but there’s apparently a lot to explore and discover in each of them if you don’t rush it. (Each of the two zones we looked at took us less than ten or so minutes of forward movement and three or four big fights before we reached the zone’s boss.)
I’m obviously pretty excited for this game! There was quite a bit of new stuff to see this year, and it’s clear to see that the team has made enormous strides since they last came to Los Angeles. Absolver will launch on August XXX on PC and PS4; we hope to have a review for you when it does.