What do you get when you mix Tekken and Dark Souls? I’m not sure if anyone has ever actually asked that question, but I imagine the answer would be something similar to Sloclap’s Absolver.
Absolver is an action RPG that is heavily focused on martial arts mastery, to the point where the combat complexity approaches that of a fighting game. When starting the game, you pick from one of three martial arts styles, one that prefers speed, one that’s balanced, and one that uses strong blows.
Your primary objective in this game is to prove your mettle in the land of Adai so you can become an Absolver, a sort of peacekeeper. Adai has a very Dark Souls-feel to it, with a somber desolate feel punctuated by swaths of AI-controlled enemies.
Fighting is done via two-face buttons, and your character can switch between four fighting stances. This is where Absolver really shines. One button launches your regular attack, which can be strung into combos, while the other performs a move that transfers you into another fighting stance. Rather than just spamming attacks though, timing your button presses is extremely crucial.
When attacking your character will glow yellow for a split second after each attack. If you execute another attack when this light is present, it lets you chain immediately into another attack with less stamina loss or slow down. This means that if you can get your timing down, you can combo through multiple stances and land a ton of hits. On the other hand, if you don’t put the time into mastering the timing system, you’ll be a much weaker fighter, and you’ll find yourself wanting for stamina.
There is a good reason to stay on the defense sometimes though: it’s the way you learn new moves. By getting hit with attacks, you don’t know while blocking you’ll start the process of learning it. Getting these new attacks is as vital to becoming stronger as leveling up your stats.
The way you assign new attacks you’ve learned and develop your style of fighting. Each attack in Absolver is represented by a card, which you can assign to your four fighting stances. Some positions favor quick combo hits; others are ideal for haymakers and upper cuts. You’ll have to pay close attention to how your attacks meld together and which stance your alternate attacks transition you into.
You can also find new equipment that will help you along your journey. New armor types will protect against damage, but the weightier it is, the slower your movements will be. You can also get weapons, both those you find lying around and those you can permanently equip. Weapons tend to be stronger than your regular martial arts attacks, but that comes at the expense of having a longer wind-up.
Absolver also includes some MMO-like aspects, which I, unfortunately, haven’t got to try out yet. You can adventure with another player in a co-op mode, challenge them to a duel, or exchange personal martial arts styles through the Fighting School system.
I hope to spend more time with Absolver in the days to come. It’s an exciting experience so far, and there’s nothing quite like it out there. If you like action RPGs but have always wanted a more sophisticated and visceral combat system, you’re going to love this game.