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Absolver

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Sloclap
Release Date: Aug. 29, 2017

About Michael Keener

My name is Michael, and although you don't know me and I don't know you, I reviewed a game you're obviously interested in since you came here, so that sort of makes us friends now. I hope I'm able to help you decide which game to buy next or avoid wasting money on, new friend!

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PS4 Review - 'Absolver'

by Michael Keener on Sept. 8, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Absolver is an online combat RPG that puts you behind the mask of a Prospect, who has taken a sacred vow and chosen to join the Absolvers, an elite corps of combatants fighting to maintain stability in the world.

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Absolver humbled me in my hand-to-hand combat knowledge, which I thought was pretty on point after repeated viewings of "The Karate Kid." In the same vein as the recently released For Honor and the infamous Dark Souls series, players go into a world that's intended for up-and-comers to spar and show off their skills. Absolver seamlessly blends an online multiplayer experience with a single-player campaign, and it ends up being a rich yet simplified example of a challenging game that can be fun for everyone. The title isn't perfect, but players who can look past its few issues will see art that's masquerading as a video game.

In the opening scene, players stand among other recruits, who are all wearing masks. One of the higher-ranking people selects you and infuses your mask with magic. After donning the mask again, you teleport into Adal, a world of ruins and fighters. Character creation is the first step, and the choices are varied but few. Players have several choices of hair color, hairstyle, name, and origin (skin tone), but the most important choice is the fighting style. There are three choices, each one representing the skill needed to succeed. One is for absorbing blows (easy), one is for dodging attacks (medium), and one is for stunning your opponents by parrying their attacks (hard). I spent most of my time playing with the dodging style, and it had a learning curve, but I quickly picked it up and felt comfortable. Players are thrown into combat before long, but the game eases into it with some quick tutorials.


Those who have played For Honor will have a good idea what to expect from Absolver's gameplay. The two are similar in setting up encounters, changing stances, and the emphasis on patience and timing. The plot only takes a few hours to wrap up, depending on how quickly you learn the mechanics and your success in finding and beating the mini-bosses. There isn't an overarching story that will win awards, but it essentially boils down to proving yourself worthy of becoming an absolver via trial by combat.

Enemies vary in fighting style as well as numbers. Maybe you'll run into one foe or a few of them. There was initially a major difficulty spike in taking on two enemies, since you can only lock on to one at a time. I quickly learned to keep them lined up, so it still feels like a one-on-one fight, but it greatly increases the odds of winning. Later on, the six Marked Ones possess special skills and increased statistics, so that'll push players to work hard to level up and be better prepared to face them.

As you progress and encounter more enemies, you'll unlock new skills and combat moves. Finish off enough opponents using a given move, and that card will be added to your deck to integrate into your move set. You have a basic attack and a heavy attack, but they represent different moves without drowning out the simplicity of the game. It's not an exaggeration that there are a lot of moves to learn, which leads to interesting encounters and varied gameplay.


The multiplayer portion is an experience in and of itself, even though it seamlessly integrates into the story. You also have the option to play offline; it's always a bonus when a game can cater to both preferences. Staying offline takes away a huge part of the fun, so you never know who you'll run into, and every encounter has you on your toes. Sometimes there's a rogue fighter who wants to fight everyone, which may seem unfair when you just defeated two AI fighters. Other times, you may be getting beat down by AI fighters when another person jumps in to help you. This usually sparks a continuous co-op experience where there's a mutual agreement to be friends. You never know what will happen, but it's also possible to grab your friends and run around as your own mob of fighters.

The graphics in Absolver are akin to artwork. The setting of Adal looks like a lost world rather than a dark, postapocalyptic one. The character models look great, with a realistic representation that is slightly elongated. There are enough distinct differences in the masks and outfits so your character feels like an individual. The color palette also fits perfectly by giving the game a ruined look that manages to avoid feeling depressing. The only complaint is I felt discouraged from looking too far away from my fighter, as the motion blur is a little sickening. I cannot stand motion blur and will usually slow down my camera movement to avoid it. It wasn't as bad as games like Final Fantasy: Type-0 and Just Cause 3, but it was noticeable enough for me. I'm hopeful that a future update will provide an option to turn off this setting.


In regards to audio, there's very little talking and ambient environment noise. There were times when it made the world feel empty — until I found myself in another fight. Each and every punch and kick is delivered with insane power, and you can hear it. All this is intensified when players successfully manage to pull off a chain of attacks. The audio is somewhat repetitive, though.

In my opinion, Absolver is in the upper echelon of recent releases, but it still has a few issues. The camera can work against you at the most inopportune times, like when you're cornered, but that's more bearable to me than the motion blur. Other than those complaints, the game slows down its offerings after a dozen hours or so, unless you're playing co-op with friends. On the plus side, there's supposed to be free DLC in the future, and it seems like a pretty solid promise. Given Absolver's $30 price tag, you can't really complain about this purchase.

Score: 9.0/10



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