Over recent years a number of highly anticipated games have fallen into the trap of being so over-hyped that, come release date, they can only fail to deliver on the marketing teams exaggerated promises. This, ultimately, leaves gamers frustrated and, in some cases, harbouring thoughts that we’d been hoodwinked yet again.
Martial arts fighting game Absolver has to be one of the most highly anticipated games this year. For as long as we can remember, we’d been counting down the seconds until the game was finally released. And when it was finally sent to us to review, even the editor was grinning and rubbing his hands like a randy uncle at a family wedding.
And after a few weeks working our way through Absolver we’re happy to report that the game is a credit to the (relatively) small but incredibly talented team at development studio Sloclap.
Admittedly the storyline of the game is thinner than a politicians promise. You wake up on a mysterious world called Adal with an equally mysterious mask on your face. The mask, which frees you from hunger, thirst and even death, has been created by a race of superior beings called The Guides. Their plan is to have individual fighters (referred to as ‘Prospects’) face each other in combat and earn their promotion to ‘Absolver’ peace keeper status. Ok, it’s not exactly War and Peace. But you know what? It doesn’t have to be. The meat and potatoes of Absolver is fast-paced adrenaline-fuelled strategic combat. And the game delivers that in spades.
After waking on Adal, you get to customise your character by selecting his or her gender, appearance and fighting style. You then work your way around Adal facing off against increasingly difficult opponents, learning new techniques and abilities. Progress is made by building custom combinations of strikes, parries, and feints. For anyone familiar with fighting games, Absolver offers a couple of unique features worth mentioning. First the game effortlessly merges single, cooperative and competitive play in the same campaign. This means that you can start off playing alone but then find yourself fighting alongside other players on quests or challenging someone in player versus player match-ups. Excellent.
The other feature we really loved about Absolver is its combat deck system. Ok we’ve seen something similar in Remember Me, but the combat deck is a brilliant idea that added an extra layer of depth to the game. In a nutshell players can customize their characters’ move sets or fighting moves by adding and removing cards in a “combat deck”, with each card assigned to a specific move.
Absolver also allows players to change the moves available to their character by switching between four fighting stances during combat. With these two abilities alone, Absolver guarantees that no two players are going to fight in exactly the same way.
Graphically, Absolver is nothing short of eye candy. Your character’s motions are fluid and dynamic. Every calculated action looks like something out of John Woo movie.
There are only a couple of buttons available to you on the controller. But when combined with your characters ability to feint, dodge and parry as well as strike, there’s a lot going on. When you string your moves together and successfully pummel your opponent to the ground, it’s both incredibly satisfying and visually rewarding to watch.
The only minor niggle we had on our playthrough was the occasional glitch that forced us to restart the game. However, this only happened a couple of times and, with the handy autosave feature turned on, we didn’t lose much progress. We would also like to seen some sort of navigation system in place to help us make our way around the world. But, to be fair, although the world of Adal is large, you will get your bearings pretty quickly and learn how to get from A to B without wasting too much time.
In summary, Absolver is a great fighting game that delivers on all its promises and offers hundreds of hours of action packed, strategic and, most importantly of all, fun game play. For fighting game fans, this is a mus-buy. For anyone new to the genre, there is no better introduction. Go buy.
8 out of 10