I'll admit, when I saw the trailer for Absolver during the PSX showcase Saturday morning, I wasn't that impressed. Initially it looked like another game with stylish combat, a vague narrative, and a multiplayer component. But like most things at this year's PSX, I was totally wrong. Absolver is much more than an online multiplayer brawler; in fact, I might go as far as to say that this game is creating something totally new.
Absolver's combat system is incredibly intuitive, beautiful looking, and fun to pick up. In the demo, I began by selecting a character with their own unique play style and "Combat deck." These decks are essentially a loadout, and I was told that over the course of the game players can build onto their decks with better moves and even trade them to other players they run into. Fighting in Absolver is incredibly tight and feels like a mix of DMC, Dark Souls, and a traditional fighting game. I found myself quickly learning from my mistakes and taking my time looking for openings in my opponent's attacks before obliterating them with a quick fluid-like combo. Timing is everything in Absolver, and once you figure out how to block and counter your opponent's moves, it's not only rewarding but pretty nice to look at.
The game's multiplayer is what's really going to set it apart from everything else. During the course of Absolver, you will randomly run into other players and not know what their intentions are. The possibilities are endless, and that stranger you met an hour ago can do anything they want to you, be it nice or devastating. While communication wasn't specified at the time of the demo, I can see this sort of online experience lead to a wealth of interesting situations and keep the game fresh for a long time after release.
The demo ended with a PVP battle between me and the guy at the station across from me. As I've mentioned before, Absolver's combat is incredibly deep, so I was curious how well this would translate into a 1v1 fight against another human. Immediately into our first bout, I was knocked around the map and found myself looking closely at how my opponent was playing instead of getting frustrated that my kicks weren't landing. This is something I haven't had happen in a game before, and for the first time I was countering and fighting back by dodging, looking for openings, and trying new attacks instead of just button mashing and waiting for a special meter to build up By the third round, both of us were dancing around the map, countering, disarming one another, and generally having a good time beating the crap out of each other in front of a growing crowd of onlookers cheering when someone countered a punch or groaning when one of us landed a powerful hit with a sword. Eventually, I lost, and the demo was over. I put the controller down, chatted with the developer a bit and found myself thinking about how I could have won that fight while driving home in Los Angeles traffic.
Absolver is doing something different in the best way possible, and right now, gaming could use that.
Absolver comes to the PS4/PC sometime in 2017