Absolver Review

By Kevin Tavore, 1 month ago
At this point, it’s become quite tiring to call things Dark Souls-inspired or “soulslike” to the extent that I’m actively trying to call them something else. For instance, Absolver is an open-world, 3D fighting RPG with an intense focus on competitive multiplayer. That sounds nice, but it’s clearly inspired by Dark Souls and to some degree must be held to that standard. After all, if a game is modeled after the best in a new genre, it’s going to have to be better than that to continue moving the needle. Unfortunately, Absolver simply doesn’t get close to living up to its inspiration on any level despite its gameplay innovations and that makes it very hard to recommend.

07/01/2019 - Carousel

The innovations in question revolve around its combat and they are definitely interesting. This is essentially a fighting game where you’ll need to pay attention to your stance and string together combos with parries and feigns in between to counter, trick and eventually beat your opponents into submission. Your character’s moveset is fully customizable thanks to a “deck” system whereby you can customize what attacks are a part of a given combo. This can be simple button mashing, but there’s an abundance of strategy at play too as you want to ensure your combos loop between different stances to keep your opponents locked down and unable to anticipate your next move. I’ve never seen anything like it in an action game and it’s a clever way to add depth and strategy to genres that traditionally focus on static abilities.

That said, this innovation is betrayed by the other gameplay systems top to bottom. As a single player adventure, Absolver is an outright failure. The game has practically no story or lore and can be completed in about five hours. Through your adventure you’ll utilize a map with dots on it to indicate enemies you have left to kill. This map is vague to the point that it is practically worthless — it divides the world into three zones, with no indication as to which is which, and ignores the fact that the world is actually built of eight or nine different zones. So you’ll know there’s something left, and you’ll know there might be an enemy in a general area that you need to kill if you’ve been paying attention to what dots flicker away when an enemy dies, but you’ll mainly need to resort to aimless wandering to find your targets. I think this is supposed to be a soulslike element, but a good soulslike is still designed to subtly guide you toward the next path. Absolver just leaves you to wander.

Review

Once you kill your targets, you’ll finally be able to open a door to reach the final few zones and the final boss. With the kill of that final boss under your belt, you’ll be rewarded with a loop back to the very start only this times enemies will go up in level slightly. You’ll do this again and again until you get tired of it and simply quit. The only reason to keep playing is to keep getting stronger, but that endeavor feels entirely pointless.

The problem is that there’s no real reward for exploring and playing in the world except to learn moves and to get marginally stronger. Learning moves is undoubtedly important, though learning them entails simply blocking or parrying them when your enemies attack, which isn’t remotely fun and is a very slow process which hardly entices you to return. Outside of that, you can get gear to change up your stats slightly and you can gain experience to level up.

Review

Leveling up itself is likewise a problem as it seems the game tries to straddle a line between being an RPG, which is inherently unbalanced, and being a competitive fighting game. The game makes the improvements from gaining levels relatively minute to the point of irrelevancy, with each level giving you about 1% progression toward the attribute of your choice. This means leveling up feels worthless but at the same time, competitive fights will always have a tinge of unbalanced play as one of the fighters will have an inherent advantage thanks to their level. These dueling gameplay designs don’t work together and the game feels like it’s never sure what it’s meant to be as a result.

The achievements are going to be a grind. There are a few story-based achievements you’ll get along the way, but most of the list is about seeing and doing everything a whole lot. It seems you’ll need to beat the game 100 times. You’ll also need to sit around and block as you learn every single move and complete a few miscellaneous achievements ranging from easy to difficult. Overall, the only person to complete the game at time of publishing has estimated the game will take 40-50 hours to complete, and that seems fair.

Check out our Best Xbox Fighting Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

Absolver had a chance to be something new and fresh. Its combat system is unlike anything else and comes packed with plenty of depth and skill that could get fighting fans pretty excited. The problem is the rest of the game. RPG elements have no place in a competitive action game yet here they’re front and center, granted with muted effect which makes it clear the developers were aware they were hurting their competitive balance and did it anyway. Perhaps worse for those of you who’re looking to play alone, the single-player adventure is dreadfully dull and plays like a short and mediocre Dark Souls. There’s promise in a sequel and I’d happily look forward to it, but this first attempt is better left defeated.
2 / 5
Absolver
Positives
  • Combat is innovative with plenty of depth to suit competitive duels
Negatives
  • The adventure has almost no story or lore
  • The game world is confusing and aimless, causing you to wander around hoping to find the right enemy
  • The RPG elements don’t mesh well with the competitive nature of multiplayer
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 5 hours exploring the world, fighting enemies and bosses and finally completing the game. He also dipped his toes into competitive multiplayer where he fumbled into wins he didn’t deserve. He earned 10 of 22 achievements. The game was played on an Xbox One X. A review code was provided by the publisher.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.