Absolver is a strange game. It’s an adventure with few zones, several bosses, and an interesting combat system that lets you learn skills and abilities from enemies and apply them to your own fighting style. It’s filled with other players you can team up with to accomplish your adventuring goals, mentor by forming your own school, or simply pummel into the ground when you see them. While that may sound like fun, the building blocks never coalesce into anything meaningful over the scant hours offered.
Absolver’s strength is its combat, which is formed via combat decks and is mainly handled with fists, kicks, and body blows. Weapons are available, but they are limited use items or special activated abilities that only last for a short duration. The concept of tying your core stats to these skills is cool, like a heavy punch gaining more damage as you increase your strength, or a flying kick getting a bonus from more dexterity. Linking together chains of abilities and switching stances to execute powerful maneuvers is the best part of the game. Learning new abilities by sparring with enemies and other players is also quite satisfying, and complements the combat systems nicely. While the excellent combat leaves lots of room for performance and features a high skill ceiling, you can muddle your way through the entire game by smashing one button if you really want.
Outside of combat, the world is puzzlingly barren and small. Absolver features three core “zones” that players can explore, and although it can be tense and interesting to move through these areas with other players coming and going at will, the environments feel dull and lifeless.
The enemies are incredibly bland, and the mini-bosses and boss encounters are barely different from your average humanoid fighter out in the overworld. While a few nooks and crannies have neat items, the stages are linear and generally have only a few encounters in the way of each key battle.
Absolver is notably short and conspicuously compact if you’re looking for a single-player experience, and should only take you a handful of hours to barrel through even if you’re not the fastest adopter of the combat systems.
You should not play this game for story, but you do have the opportunity to forge your own tale should you decide to go down that rabbit hole after completing the game for the first time. As an Absolver, you can travel the world freely and recruit other players to your cause, take on “new game plus” versions of previous encounters, and even start your own combat school. For players looking for a post-game experience and more things to do, this is a decent reason to keep playing, leveling, and tracking down those hard-to-find skills. However, I didn’t really feel especially drawn to the post-game PvP-focused content after beating my way through the campaign offerings.
Sloclap’s first foray shows glimmers of brilliance in the combat and the somewhat intriguing aesthetic of masked martial artists going at it in strange lands. Even so, Absolver feels like a collection of little pieces from something larger that just never happens. It’s as if someone has set the table for a fascinating three-course meal and the appetizer is the only thing that ever comes out of the kitchen – and by the time you take your first bite, you’re being ushered out the door.
This review pertains to the PC version of Absolver. Absolver is also available on PS4
Cool combat and mysterious masks are the high points of Absolver.