E3 2016: Absolver is The Most Wonderfully Complex Fighting Game Ever

E3 2016: Absolver is The Most Wonderfully Complex Fighting Game Ever

Richard Walker

Modern beat 'em ups are seldom worth paying much attention to. Streets of Rage 2 remains the pinnacle, and I can't see that ever changing. Although Absolver is an interesting, and as it happens, unfathomably deep take on the genre, suddenly the humble brawler might be worth taking notice of. Not only is Absolver already an incredibly competent game of head-to-head martial arts combat, but you can build your own move sets, defining and creating your very own fighting master from scratch.

The story casts you as an eponymous Absolver in training; a chosen one watched closely by Guides who must determine whether you're worthy enough of taking on the mantle and helping to keep the world in order. Your trials see you facing off against those deemed unworthy, known as 'lost prospects'; fighters who listlessly roam the land, springing to life only when you square up against them in combat. And as you progress, you're able to customise your very own combo strings that can be assigned to four different fighting stances.

Absolver offers up a range of fighting styles to choose from, each with their own special abilities, like being able to parry attacks to the left and right using the left analog stick while the L2 is held down to block. The square and triangle buttons can be assigned for light and heavy strikes, while parries light up your three tension shards: weird floaty stones that hover behind your character. Using items mapped to the d-pad uses up a tension shard, so if you're thinking you can spam health potions and aggressive Shockwave items that push opponents back during a fight, think again.

Mixing up your combos with punches and kicks on each of your four stances that can be switched by holding the R2 and moving the right analog stick to your stance of choice, should keep your opponent guessing. This is particularly useful during Absolver's 1v1 and 3v3 PvP battles, where some truly balletic bouts can unfold as you size each other up. One beautiful moment playing against the developer saw us exchanging punches and kicks, before he attempted to counter with a sweep, which I avoided with a graceful flying kick. It feels like proper martial arts.

I can't think of many other brawlers where the fighting is so deep, complex and fluid, but also so incredibly logical and intuitive. You can even feint to mislead your enemy into making mistakes, by quickly tapping the guard button after an attack, while timing your strikes utilises a Gears of War-style active reload mechanic using a white gauge under your health and stamina. Hitting the sweet spot means an unbroken flow that can only be stopped with an accurate parry or a special move that has a combo breaker or absorb ability mapped to it. You can have one of these special abilities assigned to each stance.

Jumping into your Combat Deck menu, you can keep on editing your combos, refining them and adding more moves as you discover them or learn them from opponents and other players you meet online. Once the game launches, you'll meet other players and see them fighting in other parts of the game's open world, and more experienced players will take on the status of sensei, able to impart wisdom to others by passing on new moves and abilities.

Tap up on the d-pad, meanwhile, and Absolver has another surprising trick up its sleeve: swordfighting. This works in the same way as hand-to-hand combat, except you can be disarmed and your weapon can even be broken. You'll find a different range of attacks for the sword in the Combat Deck too, unlocking even greater potential to expand your move set. You can even mix sword moves with kicks and punches too. There really is no shortage of moves, abilities and options to mess around with, enabling you to customise your character for strength, agility or a balance of both.

Absolver can be played alone or with friends against AI, and you're able to customise your own male or female fighter by choosing from a variety of outfit parts to make them your own. As you progress, you'll unlock new move slots and expand your fighting repertoire that you can then take into the game's PvP arenas. The game has really left no stone unturned when it comes to providing a rich and varied fighting experience, with gameplay mechanics that ensure Absolver is easy to learn but challenging to master. Anyone with even a passing interest in a free-roaming brawler will want to put Absolver firmly on their radar, and having played it for a solid hour, its become one of my most anticipated games for 2017. Bring it on.

  • Great and interesting article and perspective... I would like to add that Jade Empire, made by Bioware, was the best fighting game so far, in my opinion, of course...
  • @1 Not even close to being the best fighting game.
  • Sounds promising, but will it be F2P, retails or smaller release? That's not very clearly specified IMO. Still piqued my interest=)
  • @3 - I believe it will be a digital release. Not retail or F2P.
  • Thanks Rich, if the price is right I might just bite then=)
  • Too early. And games like this hopefully will have lots and lots and lots of character designs. I see this as a F2P though with cash shop on character design skins. And maybe rabdom card packs for skills.
  • This game sounds more exciting the more I hear about it and this is the first time I heard about the control scheme being so dynamic! So you have a full control scheme for us please? I'd love to get my head around it if at all possible and wonder if others do too!
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