Absolver is both a fighting game, and a kind of fighting game construction kit.
Due to be released for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC on Aug. 29, I played the Devolver-published game at E3 today. It encourages me to create my own unique set of combos, offering a broad range of options.
I’m impressed by its fidelity to the ideal fluidity and motion of the human body in combat, as well as its detailed customization options.
It pulls together stance, block, parry and attack in ways that will appeal to fighting game purists. Developer Sloclap's small team are all martial arts practitioners, with the company's animators the most proficient. This shows in the grace of character movement.
Absolver is a multiplayer world in which I take on a ninja-like persona and basically wander around a forest world looking for a fight. After choosing one of three classes — based on different martial arts styles — it's time to find some action.
Once other players are encountered I can choose to ignore them, partner with them or fight them. Players are matched according to ability, which is essential, because I reckon there’s going to be a wide gulf between beginners and advanced fighters.
Once fighting begins, I start to learn the opponent's style of play, the moves she has chosen to string together to create her own unique style.
After an initial sound beating I open up management menus in order to select combos mapped to buttons. This is a pleasant matter, nicely presented via a graphical user interface. I string together moves that suit my level of competence as well as my style of play.
Moves are offered as options only if they are physically adjacent to the end of the last move, ensuring fluidity. Each move has a damage value, with high damage hits taking a longer amount of time to execute, and thereby inviting a much higher chance of blockage and counter-attack.
I can pick different combos of between one and three moves, as well as alternative button versions, for four different stances. That’s a lot of options. During fights I can move between these possibilities at will, watching my opponent carefully for tells, patterns and openings.
With practice — lots of practice — I can also use feint moves and offer counter attacks in order to bamboozle my opponents. Weapons and armed gloves are also available, just to mix it up.
This is the sort of game anyone can play right from the start, but has an immense amount of depth for those who want to test their skills. It offers options for those who favor PvP, PvE or a mix of both. Teaming up into groups of up to three adds to the sense of teamwork.
If the final game gets its balances and timing right, it has the potential to give fighting and martial arts fans something genuinely fresh. Definitely one to watch.