Developer: Sloclap Publisher: Devolver Digital Platform(s): PS4, PC
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If you’re after a fighting game that you can just pick up and play while button-mashing your way to glory, Absolver is absolutely not for you. If you want a series of harsh lessons in which patience is rewarded, Sloclap’s unique fighter could be one of your favourites of the year.
Rather than being a bombastic affair with the kind of mad canon that you come to expect from most fighting games, Absolver is decidedly lo-fi by comparison. There isn’t much in the way of story, which asks you to gradually overcome obstacles to reach the vaunted status of an absolver, but that’s not the main attraction here. It’s kicking and punching people in the most satisfying way possible.
Taking place in a (pretty small) open-world, Absolver asks you to travel around and challenge other players before eventually going on to competitive fights. While this may just sound like a mundane cycle, a clever nuance in the progression system keeps the experience fresh throughout. The more you fight, the more moves you learn by blocking and lasting the distance. This gives the game a great community, people who are willing to fight with you so you can farm moves, all without text speech or voice chat.
The way in which you choose these moves is also well-implemented, allowing you to create a combat deck based on different fighting styles which can be tweaked and perfected until you find the right selection of attacks and maneuvers that suit you. It’s worth mentioning that I was fundamentally ass at Absolver and rarely won a fight, but that didn’t stop it from being wholly captivating all the same.
A constantly updating and evolving combat deck is key to your success with Absolver – what works for one fight may not work for another. It feels like a constant learning process, as if the game is subliminally teaching you to keep trying new things. There’s a lot more depth to Absolver than first meets the eye, and even if the single-player aspect of the game is lacking, there are countless hours or PVP action for you to grimly soldier through until you finally break through and become the slapping machine you were born to be.
There’s a lot of legwork before you can get to that level because Absolver is reticent to give you even the slightest of hints, but while the learning curve is steep, it just makes it all the more compelling to keep working through the frustration. Absolver is a special game that’s only let down by a couple of finicky things and a poor story, but if you want pure combat, it might be one of your best bets from this year.
“With more polish and content, Absolver could be one of the best fighting games on the market. As it stands, it it’s a captivating work in progress which asks you to overlook plenty of its rough edges.”
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