E3 2016: Absolver Puts an Open-World Spin on Fighting
Absolver is not your average fighting game. The term “fighting game” normally elicits two immediate thoughts: 2D fighters like Street Fighter or 3D brawlers like Tekken. While Absolver looks like it should fit the 3D fighter mold, this is a game that acts more like Journey than it does a typical fighter. That sounds like a strange combination but it absolutely works, and my time with the game at Devolver’s E3 parking lot jamboree has planted Absolver firmly on my most anticipated list.
The world of Absolver is filled with fighters of every shape, sex, and size. They all have unique looks and movesets based entirely on how the humans or AI behind the character set them up. As I created a character and ventured out, I immediately took note of the size of this world. My view extended forever, featuring everything from mountains to villages, and I was told by a watching developer that everything I saw could be traversed.
As I approached a cliff, I saw two other characters sparring and the dev began to explain one of Absolver’s defining features: every other person I come across in the world can either be teamed with or fought against. These warriors may be controlled by the game’s AI or a human player, yet the game gives me no way of knowing what's approaching. Furthermore, I also have no indication whether the person I’m encountering intends to be a friend or a foe, leaving me constantly on my guard.
The open world and constant contact with potentially hostile folk combine to create a truly fascinating world of constant combat. I never really knew what kind of run-ins to expect or how many of them would come when I picked up the controller. I could attempt to team with an approaching fighter only to have her crack me across the face with her foot, and I could decide to attack a player that just wants to travel the world as a duo. Ryu from Street Fighter talks about how he's constantly wandering the world in search of battle, but Absolver takes that idea, plops it right into my lap, and I'm completely on board with it.
Of course none of these social aspects mean a damn thing if the core action of Absolver is no good, but I'm happy to report that the fighting system is just as fun as the rest of the game. Fighters come equipped with four stances: lefty, righty, backward lefty (left-handed but with my back turned to the enemy), and backward righty. Each stance can be customized with particular strikes, and stances can be switched in the heat of battle allowing players to create some pretty impressive combos. At one point I threw a punch while facing my opponent, and by the time the combo was finished I was delivering a thunderous kick to the man’s gut after turning my back on him. Disrespectful? Maybe. Awesome? Yes indeed.
The combo possibilities are damn near unlimited with all of the additional moves that are available, earned via leveling up or finding them in the world. This level of customization allowed me to create a fighter uniquely my own and not just a simple re-skin of another existing characters. My favorite created combo was a quick one-two punch followed by a massive swinging roundhouse kick with an impact that cannot be properly described. Because of this extensive creative element, I may never run into a character completely identical in look and ability to my fighter, which takes a Herculean effort for a small team like the newly formed SloClap to pull off, but so far they seem to have nailed it.
I had zero expectations for Absolver when I stepped into that trailer in Devolver’s lot, but I left the demo as if I had seen the light of truth. The idea of a open world filled with fighters that I can engage or ignore at my leisure is insane, garnering feelings that I’ve not felt since I played Journey for the first time in 2012. If this game keeps its promises and brings the same experience I enjoyed at E3 to the masses when it launches, I expect Absolver to become an instant fan favorite.
Absolver will be available in 2017 for PlayStation 4 and PC.