Absolver gameplay, although similar to some fighters with a touch of “Souls” mixed in, has the potential to be the best fighting game on PS4 for those that enjoy tactical combat and abhor “skill-less” button mashing . Because of the Combat Deck, a tool that players can use to fully customize their combos, the possibility that you will ever face the same style of opponent is next to absolute zero. The PvP encounters in the game simply have chasms of depth for those that wish to spend the hours learning to fight. I say learning because for all intents and purposes, you are doing just that, training to fight by learning new moves from players or enemies, testing these out and seeing how they feel to you, and finally perfecting your combos, their timings, rhythms and stances until you are a true master of martial arts and can Mentor others.
In the brief time I was able to spend learning some of the nuances of Absolver with one of their devs, I found there can be a very large gap between the apprentice and the master. At the start of my hands on, I was shown the basics of the game, at which point we briefly sparred. Having played once before, my opponent underestimated my skill and mistakenly took it easy on me, which he paid for. We promptly rematched, with a note from him that he wouldn’t take it easy on me this time, but I was feeling confident after defeating him pretty soundly…little did I know…
In part two of our showdown I was given an ass whooping for the ages and I was barely able to even scratch him while being beaten soundly in a matter of 20 seconds or so. Since we were playing the 1 vs. 1 Game Mode, which you can select from any checkpoint, it was the best of 5 and I got some more chances to live down my shame. In Round 2 I held my own a bit longer, but was once again soundly beaten in just under a minute, and any confidence I had was nowhere to be found. In Round 3, I got a bit smarter and started to notice patterns in my opponents attacks, and along with getting more familiar with my own moves and combos was able to get on the board with a hard fought victory. In Round 4, he removed the gloves (figuratively) and I was killed within 15 seconds and the match ended with a whimper and promises that I would be back after practicing for revenge.
The point I am trying to make is that in order to be good at Absolver you have to play it a lot, but to be great at Absolver you must play it A LOTTT. In some ways Sloclap has made a virtual martial arts simulator where you literally have to practice and train in order to “Git Gud”. Learning to stay calm when being struck, learning not to button mash, learning your moves and combos and their timings and recognizing patterns in your opponents style all give the game a sense of realism that could only else be achieved by taking a martial arts class. The thing that totally blew my mind was that you could feel yourself learning and improving as you played in the smallest increments, and even though I got my virtual ass totally obliterated, I felt better at the game then before we fought and I KNOW I would be even better after another session. This is the thing Absolver does right, there is literally infinite progression as a player because the only limit to your skill is of your own making. If Dark Souls fans don’t just eat this up, I don’t know what they ever will…
You may notice that I haven’t spoken much about PvE and that’s really because it is almost an after thought and not the focus of the game. Don’t play Absolver for Co Op or PvE, play it for the PvP, because it really isn’t an RPG, it’s simply a fantastic fighting game dressed up in a beautiful world, that provides players with a little something else to do when they aren’t beating the virtual crap out of another or losing sleep by tweaking their combos in the Combat Deck. We were told that the campaign cannot be completed in its entirety as a single player and that it would take a few hours to complete the PvE portion of the game (think Necropolis).
All in all Absolver is shaping up to be the best fighting game this year and possibly this generation of consoles. Players who wish to play casually can do so as they will be matched with other players of their skill level, and hardcore players, the ones this game was really meant for will find nearly limitless depth in the game’s combat and mechanics as they troll noobs and teach others to fight. Or if they prefer can fight in the game’s 1 vs. 1 mode or the 3 vs. 3 mode, which provides a Conquest-like experience as players must hold specific locations on a large map in order to earn points. Sloclap has been extremely ambitious with their goals for this game, but have since narrowed them to focus on what is really important: the combat. What more could a PvP player ask for?
Stay tuned for more updates on Absolver in the future as we are now in the Beta and will provide some more feedback in the not too distant future.
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