Nestled away from the throng of excited gamers and (increasingly dour) journalists, Devolver Digital’s booth was an oasis of curated indie games. Paris-based Sloclap’s debut project, Absolver, was among them. My twenty-minute hands-on demo with Absolver caught me entirely off-guard, much as Ruiner had at PAX East.
Sloclap was founded by a group of seasoned artists, programmers, and designers from Ubisoft Paris, whose past projects included Watch_Dogs and Ghost Recon. Now a team of twenty, Sloclap is creating a singular vision in the ruins of the Adal Empire. You play as a Prospect, a recent bearer of a rune-etched mask created by the Guides (the rulers of Adal), ready to begin your journey to becoming a fully-realized Absolver. It’s a striking experience, right from the get-go. The art direction feels hand-painted, with luscious environments and a gorgeous (though incomplete) Prospect avatar selection.
Absolver is more than picturesque landscapes and pretty avatars, however. It has managed to create a melee combat system that is not only engaging, its elegant complexity has created a combat experience I’ve never had before. Attacks are designed to be chained together, flowing from move to move, as fluid as water. Players can choose from four different tactical stances, providing a wide array of melee options in the form of Absolver’s “attack deck”.
The chains of attacks aren’t limited to simple combinations of button presses (spam square for maximum awesomeness?). In order to trigger a real combo attack, players have to be mindful of when they’re pressing advantage. The energy meter is filled by successfully completing an attack and is used for activating consumables (like a shockwave to push enemies back). The real trick is to press advantage at the right point in the energy meter — hit it perfectly and you’ll be able to trigger the combination.
But this isn’t a game that relies solely on fists or weapons. It requires finesse and grace. Players create opportunities for themselves by learning how their opponents move and creating counterattacks to throw them off. Shadow feint, parry, and dash are all powerful tactics to subvert opponents (be they AI or human players).
Sloclap and Absolver “don’t want to force the players into a method of play”. Players can choose if they dive deep into the strategy with attack decks or they stick to a few different moves that work for them & instead focusing on the experience. But it’s the depth that will capture the collective imaginations of players that are looking for a brand new combat paradigm.
Absolver showcased by far the most polished and masterful demo that I saw while I was at E3. I never felt like I was being left behind in esoteric controls or mechanics that I didn’t understand. The game eased me in, never expecting more than I could do, and still managed to delight me with its unique approach to gameplay. I had the chance to test my skills against the AI in a PVE zone and then again in the PVP area against one of the game’s developers. 20
Devolver Digital is known for its excellent taste in indie games and Absolver is yet another Devolver title that I’m waiting on the edge of my seat to dive into. Sloclap gets this writer’s standing ovation and request for an encore as soon as possible.
(Original Post: The Daily Crate)