Devolver Digital is known for their work alongside many studios that offer quirky and often irreverent titles with extreme violence like the terrific Hotline Miami and the hacky slashy Shadow Warrior. The one thing Devolver games have in common is that there’s a ton of violence. They teamed up with SloClap, a dev with some French industry veterans, for their latest title. Absolver, Sloclap’s debut title, is a tough brawler for people that like fleshed out melee combat. Do they manage to pull off a competent fighting title? Let’s find out
The game puts you in the shoes of a prospect, a fella who knows a handful of fighting style. In the short introductory cinematic, you are chosen by your master and tossed into a strange world, full of dangers, when you put a curious mask on your head. Past that you’re on your own without any instruction, except the general guideline that you have to knock down a bunch of baddies
As far as storytelling goes, Absolver favors the more minimal style, and there’s barely any story on display here. You run into some folks, you chit chat, etc, but for the most part this ain’t a Telltale game. It doesn’t feel like a very involving world, so the game doesn’t come off as mysterious so much as it comes off as quiet.
Nevertheless, the whole is visually very charming, with lavish decoration that takes cues from ancient Wonders of the world. The set decorations are visually very attractive, and if most of them are made up of ruins of with a classical Roman vibe mixed with natural decay. Absolver’s graphic style is definitely unique, mixing cel-shaded visuals with more serious graphics.
And what’s good about all this is that Absolver is not going to rely on artistic direction to seduce the players. After the – admittedly brief – creation of an avatar, you are launched right into it for better or worse. A brief first level, punctuated by a Boss battle, will give you the basics of the title’s gameplay, before opening on the large open area with two major areas to explore, and a third that will serve as the hub world
I know it’s common for every review nowadays to bring up Dark Souls, but Absolver definitely has the same vibe in its level structure. One reason I don’t like comparing games to Dark Souls is that ultimately, some similarities are fairly surface-level. In the case of Absolver, while there is a large level structure and a hub world, the levels are fairly linear and there’s not as much emphasis on exploration. Additionally, there’s not all that much variation in terms of level structure. Most of the levels will be on the smaller and narrower side.
RPG gamers will feel at home here, as Absolver is very much focused on leveling. Indeed, the level-up system is very much inspired by standard RPG design, with the possibility to reinforce the attacks based on strength or dexterity, according to your choice of combos – we will talk about it later – but also increase his life, endurance or will power, which will be greatly related to defensive powers. And it is mainly according to your choice of starting class that you will make evolve these characteristics.
But for the most part, Absolver remains a brawler, and a hacky slash game at heart. Combat is built around two attacks, normal and powerful, as well as a guard, all using an endurance gauge. The timing of attacks is similar to the timing in Nioh.
Another reason I don’t like making too many comparisons in a review is that each does end up having its own unique ideas. In the case of Absolver, there are four combat stances: You choose where you face and what side you approach. Based on this stance, you change your positioning
In a pinch, attacks breaks or can stun the enemy, or other blows that allow to dodge while striking. The system is really interesting and allows to design very elaborate fighting techniques. And according to the class you adopted, you will have access to an additional capacity to help you to get rid of the most frustrating enemies. The Forsaken style will allow you, if you choose the right direction, to parry the opponent while setting up a brutal counter attack. There are also Windfall and Kahit, which let you freeze time and absorb damage.
Now, while the devs tried to flesh out a good combat system, it doesn’t always work. Fighting movement can feel kinda rigid at times, and many enemies are damage sponges. Ultimately, Absolver doesn’t manage to be a classic beat ‘em-up, instead going more for a ‘action-adventure with combat’ experience.
That’s not to say it’s not worth playing or even replaying. I just feel it works better as a PvE experience. The game’s PvP doesn’t manage to motivate or reward you, and it actually ends up feeling kinda grindy. This is definitely one for solo and co-op
Absolver was reviewed using a PC downloadable code of the game provided by Ubisoft Middle East. The review was tested on a PC running Windows 10, with an 8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 via digital store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Smooth, fluid combat
• Unique visual design
• Variety in combat styles
• Leveling can feel grindy
• Some fights stretch too long