RTX Sydney had a number of indie developers showcasing their talents and new games to the attendees. We took a peek at the booth by Devolver Digital, known for publishing indie hits such as Hotline Miami, Downwell, Broforce, and Hatoful Boyfriend. One of the games in Devolver’s booth was Absolver from Sloclap Games.
Sloclap Games is a Parisian game studio formed in 2015. The founding members of Sloclap were former game developers from Ubisoft Paris. Most of the core team have previously worked on Ubisoft franchise titles such as Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell. Absolver is this studio’s first game, and it’s diving head-first into an already-oversaturated online RPG genre. Pierre Tarno, Absolver’s creative director, gladly gave us a brief background about the game.
Absolver is an action game set in a small, open world called Adal. Player characters are called prospects, training to become an Absolver. The key feature of Absolver is in its close combat. Players have a combat deck to customize fighting moves indicated in different cards. Each player is given four stances to switch with during combat, which contains the assigned moves. There’s also an integrated learning and apprenticeship system that allows players to obtain new moves from a “master” (a fellow player teaching moves), or vicariously through combat. Close range weapons are also included in the game, such as swords and staves, but have a slower attack speed compared to hand-to-hand tactics.
This online RPG includes a seamless matchmaking system to smoothly integrate PvP elements into the open world, easily enabling anyone to jump into 1v1 or 3v3 matches in the open world. But Absolver is not a pure PvP-based online game; far from it. It’s still within a persistent open world with a unique story and tons of PvE elements included. Typical RPG elements also include trading, an equipment system, and stat-building features to customize the character’s combat-effectiveness.
NOTE: The featured playtest was from a pre-closed alpha build of the game.
Absolver is wrapped in a beautiful art style that’s unconventional for the current online RPG trend nowadays. Don’t expect graphics similar to Aion or Black Desert. But the presentation is definitely a fresh change of pace, down to its earthly tones, lush forests, esoteric ruins, and mountainous terrain. It paints itself perfectly as a world reeling from the aftermath of a dead civilization. All the characters, both NPCs and playable ones, even sport a convincing fashion sense of crudely-made tatters and improvised armor (with a few mystical objects too). Atypical of online RPGs, the UI is made simple and unobtrusive too, allowing players to focus on the environment and the combat.
Combat is naturally Absolver’s best draw, and it’s nothing like your fast-paced fighting game or your button-mashing, skill-based MMORPG type of action. As we roamed around the world, the transition between exploration and one-on-one combat was smooth as silk. Switching gears to combat mode for us was already gripping, and yet, Absolver was able to make things more intense and focused during fights. It feels more like Dark Souls in a way that the fights require more strategy and quick thinking to survive. The game forces players to be patient and accurate with each strike. The combat deck system reinforces this as a means of effectively surviving every battle.
During our test play, the demo required us to use a controller, rather than the keyboard and mouse combination. For the most part, pulling off well-timed strikes were thankfully responsive enough. We did experience a few instances of delays in attacking despite the right timing, probably off by mere fractions of a second, but we chalked it up to lag or some other issue that can be easily fixed. The button arrangement was simple enough to learn, but mastery takes time, especially when the player is already handling a full deck with four stances. The character’s movements were fluid when changing stances and chaining combos.
Unfortunately for us, Absolver can be as unforgiving as any tough as nails RPG (again, cue: Dark Souls). PvE battles might have a few bouts of being completely predictable, but PvP can turn from simple to brutal in mere moments, a more serene type of brutal. That’s what makes Absolver so engaging and unique. Consider the fact that this isn’t massively multiplayer, the journey makes it all the more personal. We’re rooting for Absolver, and will definitely be looking out for it as it progresses through its final stages of development.
Absolver will have a closed alpha test by mid-February to late March 2017. No definite release date has been given, but Sloclap has promised its release to be within the year. The game will be available on PC via Steam, and on Playstation 4, with future plans for the Xbox One as well.