Absolver and the Sweet Spot

I'm really delighted by Absolver.

Described by some as "Journey but with punching", to me it is a pure, almost monastically focused combat system with just enough "rest of the game" wrapped around it.

It is not confused about what it's doing. It's not over-scoped or overwrought. You have a deck of third-person-fighting-game attacks that gets more slots as you level up. You add attacks to the deck in sets, building combos, in whatever order you want to use them in, with different sets being used based on where the enemy is in relation to you.

The way you get new moves is maybe my favorite new mechanic in a good long time - you can only learn attacks by defending against them in combat and surviving. Each attack effectively has it's own XP bar, and if all you do in combat is charge in and punch stuff you'll never learn. 

You have to weigh your own survival versus learning new things, in PvE and PvP. There are enough attacks that seeing a new one is wonderful - How do I dodge it? How does it track? How hard does it hit? Where are they using it from? What does it do for me? Where can I fit it into my existing plans? Do I change stuff around to make it work? Is it new deck time?

I find myself in a wonderful place in the game's progression. Having beat "the game" in PvE, there are few things left which are totally unfamiliar. All the boss fights repeat at higher difficulty, which are presumably going to ratchet up the difficulty in ways that demand precision. But I've had a good few hours firmly in the upper right quadrant of Csikszentmihalyi's flow graph. It's sublime.

This isn't necessarily a feat in and of itself - good games are not aberrations, and capably navigate these waters. But this one's got me while doing a great deal of new things, and THAT is a feat worth celebrating, in a world of sequels and noble failures and studio closures and all the rest.

As a part of an ongoing effort to confront cynicism and really soak in what makes good things good, I'm languishing here for as long as possible before XCOM 2: War of The Chosen or, dare I speak its name, Destiny 2 suck up precious free time. There are an extraordinary amount of sword attacks left to unlock, and enough bare-hands attacks in my collection that I feel well equipped to chase them down. It's rumored that "drunken brawl" moves are unlocked later still.

I am in the sweet spot, and it is so, so very sweet.