The experiences of the tense sci-fi horror world Dolmen are action packed, fast and fun.
Getting a fresh take on an established genre can be tough. There’s often a reason for the love their familiarity garners, making it hard to take a dynamic twist. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, however, and Dolmen by Massive Work Studio tries its hand at taking a few familiar gaming concepts back to basics.
You are an agent sent to Revion Prime, a world that’s recently had an accident. This is unfortunately no light matter and has yielded many worker casualties, along with signs of hostile alien life. This means that it’s up to you to find out what happened to these workers, find any remaining survivors and retrieve the mysterious power crystal called the Dolmen. With the aid of your control ship and the tools within it, you’ll dive deep into the guts of Revion Prime and discover its dark secrets.
You begin the game by creating a character and choosing a class. Beyond a sex and class, however, there is little difference aesthetically between most of the class choices or cosmetic color customization. This doesn’t mean Dolmen doesn’t have anything to offer, however, and certain classes have a surprising amount of impact on gameplay style. This is best shown by the variety of weapons in the game.
Dolmen offers a surprising amount of gameplay variety in its spread of melee weapons. You have a weak and heavy attack, with small combo strings and dash attacks offered by each, which makes your choice feel like it counts. While certain weapons feel dramatically better than others, such as the ones obtained by using materials dropped off bosses, working your way there is fun.This is reinforced heavily by the crafting system, which is your main source of progression and where you’ll get most of your weaponry.
Crafting is a key part of the game and is introduced early on. The loading screens boast that everything you can find in the world can be used for crafting, which is surprisingly true. While most armor pieces and add-ons universally upgrade numerical stats on your character, later game materials begin to offer additional effects and armor pieces begin to look varied cosmetically. These can range from elemental bonuses to powerful debuffs that can give you an edge in the fast-paced Soulslike melee combat.
Unfortunately, the combat is where the first cracks begin to show in Dolmen. While the ability to engage in both ranged and melee combat is fun and both types are necessary, the guns prove themselves far superior to their melee counterparts. While greatswords and boss weapons definitely feel a cut above the rest due to their high damage output, just the first Driller MG gun proves more than enough to get through most of the game. As you get better guns, you’ll only tear through enemy ranks faster as the lock-on targeting system not only makes melee accessible and straightforward, but wholly eliminates the need for aiming ranged weapons. While the elimination of challenge from most basic enemies makes Dolmen accessible, it also undercuts most of the impact of progression.
This doesn’t mean that the game isn’t fun, though. In fact, the world of Dolmen is one that’s rather fun to tear through. You’ll fight a host of enemies, from disgusting and unnerving bugs to intimidating alien warriors in a host of sci-fi locales. The third-person aiming makes taking longshots with ranged weapons rewarding and embracing melee combat can lead to some fun ways to trap enemies. You’re also able to use elemental effects from crafting to apply effects such as slowing enemies down or dropping their defense, which opens up more combat opportunities and adds depth to the combat. Death comes with a price though, and you’ll drop all of your upgrade materials and Dolmen Crystal fragments where you died last. Dying on the way back means losing them permanently.
All the small stuff adds up in boss fights, which are some of the most fun parts of Dolmen. Each boss has dynamic patterns and is fun to fight, which makes going back and fighting them again for more crafting materials feel like a breeze. This is enhanced by the games’ multiplayer, which smartly focuses on the boss battles rather than co-op world exploration. Using Dolmen crystal fragments you find on the enemies of Revion Prime in your ships’ computer room, you’re able to form a party of up to 4 other agents and take on bosses you’ve defeated.
The way multiplayer matches play out gives the game a fun way to gather important materials and check out other players’ gear. More players means more crafting materials, and each boss drops a unique material for special weapons. Since the weapon variety is large and reliant on how you build your characters’ stats, almost every agent is using different gear. The ability to give custom colors to your armor is also a nice touch, even if it is a bit rough. Rough is also how I would describe the graphics of Dolmen, but some good voice acting and a surprisingly arcadey take on the Soulslike genre make it easy to get into the world and overlook the presentation.
The presentation isn’t where the roughness ends, however, as the game suffers from a lack of polish and some bad bugs. The graphics are most certainly dated, with them feeling more akin to a PS3 game much less a PS5 one. The soundtrack and story are also weak, along with some equally weak enemy AI. There’s also a lack of information when it comes to your stat spread and some stats, such as Science, aren’t straightforward in what they can influence. You’ll also fall through certain platforms and I even lost an entire character in a botched multiplayer session.
Overall, Dolmen is a rather polarizing game. If you can make it past its flaws, you’ll find a surprisingly engaging take on the Soulslike genre. Multiplayer makes this experience even more enjoyable, especially with friends. However, there is a lot of rough edges to look passed in Dolmen and there is no shame if those flaws deter you from this interesting title.
-Fun gameplay loop
-Meaningful progression and crafting
-Engaging boss battles
-Multiplayer matches are fast and furious.
-Easy enemies with poor AI
-Potentially devastating bugs
3 out of 5
Review key provided by PR. Dolmen is out now!