Absolver Interview: Dancing With Combat

SloClap discusses the combat and social aspects of its upcoming fighter.

Posted By | On 09th, Aug. 2017 Under Article, Interviews

Top-tier games aren’t exactly uncommon this year but SloClap’s Absolver has managed to stand out in the crowd. It’s perhaps no coincidence that SloClap is composed of ex-Ubisoft employees when the latter released For Honor earlier this year. SloClap’s first title Absolver is fairly different though. Not only does it have a more stylized aesthetic but players explore a vivid world while being able to customize their own moves. It also doesn’t hurt that Absolver combines melee and weapon-based combat. Did we mention there are social aspects to work alongside and against other players?

GamingBolt spoke the developer about Absolver, particularly the premise, inspiration for the combat system and how certain aspects work out for players.

"The objective of the combat system is to reflect the beauty and depth of martial arts combat: fluid and deadly."

The story for Absolver is interesting but what about the main plotline? Is it meaty enough for players who don’t want to PvP to sink their teeth into?

The story of Absolver is very simple; it is about the road to becoming an Absolver. Players who don’t want to go into PvP will be able to explore the ruins of the city of Raslan, and experience challenging PvE, but Absolver is certainly not a narrative-driven game; the stories we are most interested in are player-generated stories, which are created through encounters with others in the world.

When designing the combat system, what did you look towards for inspiration? Does Absolver’s combat have a high skill curve?

The objective of the combat system is to reflect the beauty and depth of martial arts combat: fluid and deadly. We had three taglines to guide us in the conception of this system: “Combat is a dance”, “Movement is your weapon”, and our main tagline: “Make your move”. Absolver’s combat system is very flexible, and although it is much more accessible than traditional combat games, it has enough layers of depth for competitive PvP combat.

Can you tell us more about the missions? Will most quests and side quests boil down to duels?

There are no missions or quests per se; Prospects have a number of targets to eliminate in order to become Absolvers. Absolver is an online melee action game, not an action-RPG, and SloClap is an indie studio, so we focused on the core of the experience: ie. a unique combat gameplay, and the creation of relationships between players.

What can you tell us about the game’s loot? Do they lead to straightforward increases in stats or influence one’s play-style?

All the equipment of the game creates a trade off between weight and protection level; more equipment slows the players movement down, and reduces stamina recovery rate, but allows players to receive less damages from attacks. Some attacks also scale well with mobility, meaning that they will do more damages if the player is lighter.

"In Absolver, players learn attacks by fighting others, whether NPCs or players. When an unknown attack hits your guard, you start learning it…"

What kind of “stances” will players have during combat? Is it possible to specialize in quick builds, tanky slow builds, balanced builds, etc.?

The core combat system is based around four stances, which represent the orientation of the character relatively to his enemy. All attacks in the game start in one stance, and finish in one stance, allowing players to switch from stance to stance by attacking. In the Combat Deck Editor, players can decide which attacks are mapped on each stance, creating their own unique combat choreography.

This system is very flexible, allowing for a wide array of possible Combat Deck strategies: it goes further than just fast builds, or heavy builds: players can have attack sequences looping on themselves, or chaining to another stance, for example. Some players choose to have heavy attacks as alternative attacks; personally I like having fast attacks as alternatives; alternative attacks can be used during a sequence, and allow you to switch directly to a different stance, so having fast attacks as alternatives allows me to mix-up quickly and efficiently.

The cards system influences the kinds of moves players can equip. How will players go about earning cards and how difficult were they to balance?

In Absolver, players learn attacks by fighting others, whether NPCs or players. When an unknown attack hits your guard, you start learning it; if you use your combat style’s special ability on that attack, you will learn it faster. However, to actually “cash in” that attack XP, you need to win that fight: all attack XP earned during a fight is lost if you are defeated. As for balancing, we put a lot of work in balancing the different attacks, with their own unique stats and attack properties.

Speaking of PvP balance, given the game’s loot, skill curve and card system, how do you go about balancing for PvP?

Playtesting and data analysis from beta test tracking, mostly !

Can you tell us about Absolver’s aesthetic? What kind of look and atmosphere were you going for?

We wanted to create a world that felt out of time and out of this world. The core of the game is movement, and the general aesthetic, with simplified shapes, and graphical textures allows movements and attacks to stand out and be very readable.

"Players can invite each other to their games, communicate through emotes, spar together to teach each other new attacks, and join player created schools of combat"

What social features can players look forward to given the game’s MMO aspects? Will there be LFG options, matchmaking, social areas and whatnot?

Absolver is not an MMO: it is set in a small open world made of a dozen interconnected zones, in which  up to three players can be seamlessly matchmaked together: The game’s emergent narrative is based on these chance encounters, and the relationships that ensue; it is very much about two players meeting each other, and sometimes a third party creating unexpected situations, not about 50 different players running around in the town’s square for instance!

As for social features, players can invite each other to their games, communicate through emotes, spar together to teach each other new attacks, and join player created schools of combat, which allow players to use the combat deck of their “mentor”, even if they haven’t actually learnt the attacks themselves. Finally, players will be able to participate in Combat Trials, which are PvP game modes with more “traditional” matchmaking, based on character level and player skill. At launch, we will feature a 1v1 game mode, but a 3v3 team based game mode is to be expected a few weeks after launch.

What plans do you have for post-launch content?

Our intention is to have the Absolver experience be constantly evolving, so we have lots of plans for post launch, from the 3v3 game mode mentioned above, to private matches, spectator mode, and ranked tournaments. Additional game modes will be also be implemented, and we plan for a big PvE update further down the line. Besides this, there will be a number of fixes (bugs and balancing), as well as new gear, weapons, and combat styles. Player feedback will be very important after launch, since it will help us prioritize the features we have in mind, based on what players actually want !

Is there anything else you want to tell our readers before we let you go?

Looking forward to seeing you in Adal on August 29th !

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