Hong Kong cinema gave the Western world a glimpse into the deep and mysterious world of martial arts through a lens of reverence and mysticism. Masters are deeply inspired zen-kin, who can punch through brick walls and still your wild spirit with a single blow. Since the 50’s we’ve lived vicariously through the films starring mega stars like Toshiro Mifune, Jackie Chan, and Donnie Yen.
Games have been a great medium to translate the face kicking, maiden saving fantasy of martial arts fiction. From Street Fighter to Sleeping Dogs, game developers have gotten the white knuckle part of Asian action down pretty well. As far as the introspection and enlightenment, we’ve missed the mark. Jade Empire is really the closest we get to a game that makes inner peace the narrative. Maybe we can expect the same from Sloclap’s Absolver?
The general buzz around Absolver has been almost unanimously positive since its debut last year at E3. The steady, strategic approach to one-on-one fighting is a welcome departure from the button mashing of our present day brawler. Watching two masked avatars wave their hands and square up, switch stances tactically, and jab and kick their way into small victories is a refreshingly new experience.
But it’s the moments in between the fights, the quiet strolls through solemn and beautiful landscapes, that give me hope that the French studio is focused on a balance experience, narrative.
That isn’t to downplay the combat itself, which is clearly the bread and butter of Absolver, no matter my musings. Like Ubisoft’s For Honor, stances that are tied to directional inputs dictate what sort of attacks you’ll be executing. You aren’t attacking into a top or left/right zone for them to defend in, though. Your direction dictates the current combos available to you. Customizable chains of attacks can be strung together for high damage. Individual attacks have properties outside of doing damage, like guard breaking or knockdowns, and dodging between them and feinting attacks makes for incredible mix up potential. My PVP rounds really brought out the heavy emphasis on strategy and timing in the combat.