You have been chosen from the rabble. You’re a Prospect that can grow in stature and defend the ruins of the Adal Empire. Taking on the mask, you’re sent out into the world to face off against others, sparring and fighting to gain experience and grow to the position of Absolver, while also hunting down the Marked Ones on your path to climbing the Tower of Adal.
At the heart of Absolver’s character progression is building your own fighting style from the building blocks of various martial arts. You start off with a few basic attacks, depending on the fighting style you start with, but it’s through encountering other fighters, being hit by, dodging, and countering their moves with your special ability that you learn a particular attack piece by piece, until you’re able to put it into use yourself.
With just light and heavy attack buttons, what you actually unleash is dependent on your directional stance and the moves that you’ve pieced together in your combat deck. You can alter your stance with a pull of the trigger and a flick of the right analogue stick, to perhaps turn your back to your opponent, doing so to bring a particular move into play. Each attack then leaves you in a different stance, which affects the next move that you’ll unleash if you simply press an attack.
It’s a fascinating system with an awful lot of potential depth for customisation, especially once you consider that slower but more powerful melee weapons can be brought into play later on, the mentoring and school systems, and plenty more. As the simplest level learning how to then chain together attacks in an effective manner to break down an opponent’s guard is vital, as is learning to read your opponent’s moveset and learning how to counter it. Naturally, you need to be aware of your own stamina bar, lest you find yourself in a weakened state, just waiting to be sucker punched.
Helping you to survive are fighting style specific special abilities. The style you pick at the start of the game as you create your character gives you a starting difficulty. Kahlt Method is the easiest, with an absorb ability to simply diffuse an attack, while Windfall is the middling style with the evasive avoid move, and Forsaken has the parry active ability to master.
Underneath the combat is a straightforward action RPG leveling system, with five statistics for you to put tokens into as you earn experience and level up. Additionally, you will find different gear and clothing in the world that you can equip, boosting damage, health, stamina, and so on.
The world does feel akin to a Dark Souls game in many ways, with largely desolate labyrinthine locations to meander through looking for enemies to fight. You’ll often see the Fallen Prospects simply standing around, perhaps staring out to sea, waiting for another fight, before dashing toward you if they spot you. However, the actual combat is no where near as brutally difficult, meaning that you’ll often be battling against two or three, admittedly rather weak enemies, trying to focus on one or the other. Killing an enemy restores some of your health, so focusing on one instead of many is often the best course.
That challenge will, of course, rise the further you get into the game, and even in the first few locations, there are tougher enemies with red garb who deal more damage, move quicker and can put an end to an unprepared player.
Thankfully, you might not be playing alone. These are shared spaces and instances with other players, and a ticker in the bottom right hand corner lets you know when players have entered the same area as you. On a number of occasions in my first few hours with the game, I either leapt in to assist or was assisted by another player, potentially seeing where my character could grow to. On another occasion, I found myself wrapped up in a fight where the other player turned against me and quickly killed me.
With the game releasing today for PC and PS4, I’m very much looking forward to diving further into its fascinating combat and exploring the world that lies shrouded in mystery. There’s a great amount of depth here that will appeal to many, be they Destiny-like online action RPGs, fans of fighting games, or simply those looking for a cool new game from an unexpected quarter.