Familiar Gameplay In A New Environment
Dolmen wears its influences on its sleeve. There’s no hiding that this is working to be, at least in part, Dark Souls in space. A lot of the things players love about Dark Souls are definitely here, though Dolmen, to its credit, has a vibe that’s very much its own.
I started my time with Dolmen by choosing my build and customizing my character. You’ll have a variety of classes to choose from, allowing you to play the style you prefer. For example, if you want to focus more on fighting from a distance, or faster attacks, or a heavier but more powerful attack, there’s an option for you. While my overall look didn’t give me many options, the color choices let me still put my own spin on things.
After learning that an inter-dimensional rift has dropped a load of monsters on mining planet Revion Prime, you’ll head down to the planet to try to find out where they’re coming from and what you need to do to stop them.
You’ll also find Dolmen, crystals which have tremendous power and which you can use to level up your character over time. Well, as long as you can survive.
Soon you’ll also find a lot of spiders. They certainly aren’t the only foes you’ll face, but if you have issues with spider enemies, this may be a tough play. That’s not the only reason Dolmen gets tricky, though. The game’s difficulty quickly ramps up, and I quickly became glad I had both a big sword and a nice gun. Picking off some of my foes from a distance or weakening them and backing away until they caught up and I had to engage were some of the tactics that gave me a chance when they swarmed me. Thankfully, AI that seems to need some work still kept them back and let me do so.
Combat is methodical; Dolmen is very much an action RPG and not a straight-up action game. You can switch to your gun easily enough or you have a strong and a weak attack. Each is tied to a stamina bar that drains quickly, often leaving me vulnerable and unable to attack before I got into the flow of combat. Soon enough, I got the hang of it, and to its credit, the stamina returns quickly too. While you’ll also have to manage your health and energy, which allows you to heal or fire guns, stamina is perhaps the most important thing to keep an eye on.
When you die, and you will die, you’ll be returned to your last checkpoint and lose all the loot you’ve gathered. From there, you have the standard Dark Souls challenge. Return to the place of your death and retrieve your gear and you’ll get it all back, but die again without doing so and its gone for good. This won’t be easy because all of your foes return as well. This can be tough, but it forced me to practice and get the flow of combat down, and eventually, I appreciated it.
Soon enough, I was able to return to my ship, where I could level up and craft better gear. To its credit, too, this made a difference. A new piece of armor drastically reduced the damage little spiders would do to me, allowing me to more reasonably explore without fear of death. Without crafting stronger gear, I wouldn’t have gotten far.
While Dolmen mostly plays solidly, its gameplay in its current state doesn’t do a lot to set itself apart from other games in the genre. There’s certainly time for that to change, but currently, it feels like its on track to be a good “one of those.” Where it does set itself apart more is in its vibe. With a dark science fiction atmosphere, the look of Dolmen already feels right. While things feel foreboding, the colors that are present pop and really drew me in. Before long, this became the sort of game where I wanted just one more run, more than anything, because I wanted to see what environments I’d find next.
Is Dolmen’s vibe enough to draw players in? While what I saw during my time with it didn’t have a truly unique gameplay hook, the atmosphere made me want to keep going, and it helped that the game plays solidly enough, even if it still needs some work around the edges before release. This is definitely a game I’ll be curious to see more of when Massive Work Studio plans to release it, sometime in 2022.