Absolver is hands-down the most complex melee combat system I’ve encountered in a game, and the game will live or die by its ability to communicate that complexity to its players in a clear and steady learning curve. That’s my prognosis after a lengthy demo of the online martial arts action game, in which one to three players team up to explore the ruins of a city destroyed long ago. Plenty of AI enemies are scattered throughout the world, but, PvP is also enabled throughout the world, so there’s a constant need to improve your skills and be ready for anything. The combat system includes options for multiple stances switchable mid-combo, combo chains with multiple alternative finishers, dodges, blocks, feints, an active-reload style timing system for connecting moves, and distinct abilities for every potential class.
Between battles, you can meditate to completely customize your own combos; develop a particularly great set of moves, and you might even found a martial arts school, and other players will adopt your style. Beyond in-world competitive or cooperative play, you can also opt in to dedicated game modes like 1v1 duels or 3v3 domination-style play styles. As you play, NPCs and players who use a particular attack on you begin to teach you – get attacked by a certain move enough times, and you learn it yourself.
When you start to nail the flow of movement and attacks, Absolver really nails the martial arts vibe it is shooting for; in a couple of battles I marveled at the slick animations as they connected to my opponents. But at other times, I felt completely confused by the options at my disposal.
Austin Wintory composed some gorgeous music for the game, and the visual presentation is smooth and stylistic. I also really liked the new stagger martial arts style (drunken master) which was introduced for the first time at this show; it has a wild sense of constant motion about it that is thrilling to both watch and play.
Absolver has a lot of innovative and exciting ideas at play; here’s hoping Sloclap can make the learning curve accessible and engaging, and we get an amazing martial arts epic out of the deal.