A rich and personal combat system in a beautiful world full of unrealized potential.
The second I traded blows with Jinn Mesca, so-called Prime Disciple of the Golden Bottle, I knew I wanted to be like him. Absolver’s “drunken master” warded off my blows and landed his own while swaying like a man fresh off a bender, punching me lightly even when I thought I’d successfully dodged. I returned to Jinn several times at his perch beneath a large tree until I’d learned all his moves and, in time, could beat him at his own game. I became the drunken master, and if Jinn had been a player instead of an NPC, I know I could have taught him a few moves myself. This master/apprentice relationship makes each fight in this action-roleplaying game a learning experience, and the idea meshes well with the surreal martial arts vibe woven throughout Absolver.
These punchy battles unfold in the lost province of Adal, a stunning landscape that’s long ago fallen into ruin, where a Babel-like tower looms over surrounding plains that look like a watercolor painting come to life. It’s not a large open world, but it’s a varied one with multiple biomes, and it’s big enough that I sometimes got lost in the absence of a minimap. It’s a little dreary at times, and that’s not just because of the ruin. Celebrated composer Austin Wintory (best known for his work on Journey) may be responsible for the music, but his powers are used all too sparingly for this saga of fisticuffs and kung fu, with the minutes between fights largely passing in eerie silence.
As to what, exactly, you’re…