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Absolver Review

SloClap’s Absolver is and isn’t one of the best games I’ve played this year. It comes under the genre of MMO games. If you’re playing MMO games it is worth buying a decent mouse, we recommend you check out the iControlPad review of the best MMO mice for an overview. It’s unique take on hand to hand combat is by far the game’s bread and butter and I can’t recall a game where I’ve felt more like I was actually doing martial arts. Unfortunately, in between the intense moments of reading opponents moves and firing my own back I found myself wandering around a largely- lifeless, mildly-claustrophobic open world wondering what the game could have been if it had been a bit more fleshed out. There are no side quests, no real distractions at all to be found in the world of Adal. It’s empty. It’s maddening at times. But, it’s completely deliberate.

Absolver’s barely-there story is your character’s rise from a lowly Prospect to Absolver and is as ambiguous as the rest of the game. You’ll wander the world, fight all the dudes that need to be fought and rise to the position of Absolver. I wish the game’s namesake title held more weight. By the time I finished the game I felt like I had learned a lot but barely accomplished anything meaningful.

For how short it is, the “Boss” encounters are all relatively challenging, especially if you’re going at them solo. I lost at least once to each of the bosses I went up against before finally figuring it out what I needed to do to best them.  All told the campaign took me roughly 5-6 hours to complete. The meat of the game is really in the PvP and “Combat deck building” aspects.

How the combat in Absolver comes together and feels is absolutely brilliant and full of choices. Right from the get go you’re asked to chose from one of three styles: Forsaken, Khalt, or Windfall. Once you choose a style you are unable to switch. Luckily there are multiple character slots so you can try out all of them and figure out which is best for you. Each style has it’s own unique defensive ability. Forsaken can Parry attacks, Khalt can straight up absorb attacks, and Windfall(my personal favorite) is all about dodging attacks at close range. All three of the starter styles are rated by “difficulty” but I found the rating of the three styles to be pretty arbitrary. I had more trouble timing the Parry and Absorbs with Khalt and Forsaken but was perfectly adept at timing my dodges with Windfall. A final fourth class, Stagger, is unlockable in game after encountering a particular enemy. This Drunken Master type style mixes Offense and Defense Simultaneously and is meant to be the most difficult style to master in Absolver.

Each of these styles also ties into one of the attributes you can increase by leveling up. Paying attention to which style is effected by which attribute is key to success in PvP. While they don’t explicitly tell you what style is anchored to which attribute it is pretty clear before committing any points what effect it will have on your current build. You also gain a few special moves via leveling up: Being able to quickly drain an opponent of stamina or push back some encircling enemies and a few others.


The rest of a player’s moves are tied to their Combat Deck. Here players can equip loads of different moves to eight different slots. Each of these slots corresponds to one of four “Stances”. Players can create  huge flowing combos and pick powerful transitional moves.

The selection screens for combat and gear aren’t explained upfront and can be very confusing at first. You really have to dig in to understand each of the systems.

While combat choices are pretty slim when you first start out, you’ll fill in much of your Combat deck quickly within the first few hours. By dodging and blocking enemy attacks you gain knowledge of moves you don’t currently have. Do this enough and you’ll eventually unlock new moves to throw into your deck. Each move in your deck has certain starting and ending stances that will determine what you can and can’t combo into or out of. I tried my best to create a deck that if executed properly could loop infinitely. I’m not sure if this was the best strategy or not but it seemed to work well and it gave me a better understanding as to what was coming next in a combo chain and what attacks came from what stances.

You can also manually adjust your stance by holding right trigger and pointing your control stick toward whatever stance you’d like to better suit your current predicament. At first I didn’t use this much, but, after a few hours went by, I was doing it constantly because it was imperative to use certain strikes in certain situations. Hitting block immediately after throwing out an attack will feint the attack. Again this was something I didn’t understand how to use till much later. I started using it to bait out certain attacks and counter accordingly. This is how Absolver makes you thing about fighting differently than any other fighting game I’ve ever played.  It doesn’t handle it’s complexity in the same way as a Tekken or Soul Calibur. It isn’t about memorizing overly complicated inputs. It’s not about chaining special moves together that are Down Right Fierce(puns are fun).  Absolver derives its complexity in understanding the tempo and timing of fighting; The management of space and stamina and it does it damn well.

Often, by accident, fights would end up looking choreographed. This was especially the case when fighting another player as opposed to A.I. I can’t even explain how cool I felt the first time I ducked a high shot, jumped over a low shot, and counter attacked an opponent. That’s one of the really interesting facets of Absolver. Not only is the combat weighty and balanced, but it also has the tendency to just feel and look like it’s straight out of an old king-fu flick.  

Though Adal is small, it’s all intricately designed and pretty easy on the eyes. Soft Pastels and a minimalistic art style make Adal look stunning without being to visually busy. This tonal shift away from high-definition sprites and character models isn’t foreign to the world of indie game development. Polygonal and Voxel models are all the rage at the moment. But here, Sloclap did such a good job of making Absolver’s package so ambiguous that any other stylistic choice would have been a disservice to the rest of the game. There were a ton of times where I stopped dead in my tracks just to take in my surroundings. Whether it was looking over a vast forest or staring up at a massive tower, I was continually surprised at how gorgeous this compact open world was.


Many people at a glance have compared Absolver to Dark Souls. While I understand the comparison at a base level I don’t think it’s apt in describing the core experience of what  Absolver is.  It’s very much in it’s own category. It’s kind of a simulator in a sense. It’s more about the feel of the combat than the look of it(though it does look great). Absolver, altogether, in everything it presents and how it presents them seemingly has a singular purpose: It is laser beam straight from martial arts to a controller and in that pursuit it absolutely succeeds.

7/10








 

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Battlefield 1 Adding Incursion Mode

EA annouced today that Battlefield 1 would be getting a new mode soon. This scaled-back mode will pit teams of 5 against each other with one vehicle per-team. A closed alpha will be held in September, Sign-up for a chance to take part. Sign-ups close on August 26th.  The Alpha will feature a smaller version of Battlefield 1’s Giant’s Shadow Map. More news to come soon.

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Destiny 2 Beta Impressions

A Lesson Learned

Since its release, Destiny has been one of the most polarizing titles in the industry. Hardcore fans swore that Destiny’s raids were well worth the grind while others damned its RNG heavy loot drops and progression system. While the base game never truly grabbed me, the initial beta back in 2014 had me amped. The gunplay was as tight as I’d expect from Bungie and the promise of a brand new universe to explore and learn about was too much to keep me (a lifelong Halo fanatic) away. What I found out when Destiny was finally released, and I’d made my way through it, was that Bungie may have shown a bit too much of its hand with the initial Beta.

In the months following Destiny’s release, myself and a host of others abandoned the game due to its extremely repetitive nature. The tone and cadence of, “We’ve Woken the Hive!!” is burned into our brains to this day. Trudging through the same areas over and over again became tedious, and the loot grind was a nightmare (RIP The Loot Cave). To Bungie’s credit, regardless of all the bad some of us saw, they hooked in tons of players for thousands of hours and created a fanbase as hardcore as the Halo players they had cultivated in the decade before.

As we come to the end of Destiny’s life cycle it is clear that Bungie learned a thing or two about what makes Destiny different from the gamut of other games on the market. They figured out how exactly to present this growing universe and gained a bit of knowledge about what makes its player base tick.

With all this in mind, I booted up the Destiny 2 beta Friday night and was greeted with an absolute spectacle of an opening mission.

 

Homecoming

Homecoming, Destiny 2’s first mission, bleeds storytelling. The familiar faces of Cayde-6, Zavala, and Ikora Rey pushed me through the destruction of The Tower. What was once a home for all Guardians under the safety of The Traveler, has now been reduced to rubble as the forces of Emporer Ghaul sweep in to capture The Traveler’s Light. Flaming pods crash down from the sky unleashing waves upon waves of Cabal soldiers. Fighting these fearsome foes feels more varied this time around thanks to some new Cabal troops; The Gladiator, The Incedior, and the War Beast, all of which fill a new role in the Cabal roster. It also had me wondering what new troops may show up for The Fallen and Vex factions.

Unable to stop the onslaught of Cabal on The Tower I was taken onboard a Cabal command ship. The command ship is daunting and impressively massive. Upon landing, I saw pods of Cabal being launched off the back toward battle. The fights here and at the Tower are more frantic and engaging than I remember from the original Destiny.  After making my way through the ship and a few of the more beefy Cabal generals I finally come face to face with Ghaul. He laughs at how puny and weak I am as the massive machine that has attached itself to the Traveler seems to suck the light out of it and completely zap my powers. With my power gone, I’m helpless. Ghaul pitifully nudges me from the ledge of the ship with his foot claiming that The Light now belongs to him.

It’s immediately evident that Destiny 2 benefits from being developed for a single generation of console this time around, and maybe Bungie is finally giving us the story we deserve. Everything just looks and feels better; environments feel full and characters are more fleshed out from the get-go. The skybox is flooded ships swarming around the tower, far off battles being fought in the sky, and the sight of The Traveler being “captured” all make this mission as momentous as it should.

 

The Strike….Strikes back

The Inverted Spire strike is the only other playable mission in the beta. I went into it excited to see what new mechanics Destiny 2 would throw at me and it delivered big time. Two other guardians and I are tasked with investigating why the Cabal have sent forces to Nessus, a new Vex controlled planet in Destiny 2. After blasting our way through both Vex and Cabal forces and jumping through some “Vex Milk Waterfalls” we find out the Cabal is trying to dig out The Mind from deep within the planet. Soon we find ourselves at the active dig site. Giant drills swirl around while the Cabal lie in wait protecting whatever it is they find deep in the dirt of Nessus. The gigantic drill arms dangerously swung by as my two cohorts and I fought our way downward. I found out the hard way that navigating through the deadly tornado the drill presents isn’t as easy as it looks.

Finally making our way down we see exactly what the Cabal were digging for, Protheon; a huge Vex Minotaur. We start to chunk him down and fight off the supporting Vex forces when suddenly the floor disappears beneath our feet. We fall helplessly to the floor below and continue the battle. After a few rounds of Protheon throwing some new attacks at us and quelling the constant surge of vex troops, the floor again disappears beneath us and we descend to a third and final arena. A string of new attacks from Protheon begins. Vex milk surrounds the small circular pad we’re now fighting on and we’re being flung into it from all angles. Though the walk-able area of this new arena is quite small, the chamber itself is eerily enormous, and Vex seem to appear out of nowhere coming in from all sides. Protheon is visibly damaged in this last leg of the fight, which surprised me. It went from a hulking mass of electronics and metal to a broken down vessel more reminiscent of a broken terminator.

With a few final rounds of attacks, we take down Protheon, The modular mind, and make our way back to orbit.


As I mentioned before, Destiny didn’t hook me but I did play through it and much later played though some of the DLC. The Inverted Spire and Homecoming felt so much more intense than anything I’ve played in Destiny before. Let’s hope that the rest of the game pans out just as well.

Fatal 4v4

Ah, yes, PvP. The other half of the Destiny experience. Two modes are currently available in the beta. Classic Control makes its return and a new mode called Countdown, which plays similar to Call of Duty’s Seek and Destroy.  The first and most noticeable thing in both PvP modes is that the teams are comprised of 4 players each, scaled down from the 6v6 in the original Destiny. This is both a blessing and a curse. 4v4 feels more like home for Bungie and works well in the two maps for the respective modes: Endless Vale and Midtown. The downside to the downscaled team size is if a teammate drops out at any point, pulling out the win seems almost impossible. In a traditional deathmatch game type, I’m sure the extra player won’t matter as much, but in Control and Countdown every teammate matters. Maybe we’ll see enough outcry to at least get a 6v6 mode added, but for the time being, it seems Bungie is intent on keeping it at 4v4.

The maps mentioned above, Midtown and Endless Vale, are both pretty straightforward. Endless Vale, the Control map, is a relatively symmetrical map with A and C on opposite sides with many paths leading to B on a circular platform a bit set back in the middle of the map. It reminds me of a smaller version of Shores of Time from the original Destiny. The map design is full of great sight lines and lanes between flags, as you’d expect from Bungie. Neither side feels particularly imbalanced. I had a blast playing through it with different weapons figuring out what work best for different lines. It really brought me right back into the fold.

The second map, Midtown, is an asymmetrical map seemingly set in a town center or bazaar of some type. It’s different than any other map I’ve seen in destiny. Midtown is also host to the new mode Countdown. I’m not sure if the map is specific for this game type or not, but it was a blast either way.  Much like Call of Duty’s Seek and Destroy, one team attacks by trying to set off bombs while the other defends. Either side killing off every player on the other team will win the game. I found out pretty harshly that this mode requires quite a lot of strategy and that the run-and-gun lone wolf approach didn’t work so well; coordination and communication is absolutely key. I could easily see this mode being a favorite among the more hardcore PvP fans out there.

Final Thoughts

The Destiny 2 Beta is an odd beast. Comparing it to the beta for the original Destiny, you can see that Bungie doesn’t want to spoil too much of Destiny 2 too early. But does that mean that we’re in for more of the same or have they truly learned their lesson?

Playing through the beta missions a dozen or so times and putting some serious time into the PvP, I can’t help but feel like I want to see more; though there’s not as much to play through here. Bungie has me hooked again and I truly hope this time they deliver. The PvP feels as crisp as ever even though the teams are a bit leaner this time around. If the cinematic tone of the two missions is any indication, we’re in for one hell of a treat. With new worlds to explore, some new enemies to fight, and a new home there’s a lot to look forward too. But what I am most looking forward to is Bungie delivering on their initial promise with Destiny. I know they can build a universe like no other, and hopefully Destiny becomes just that.