Having seen a preview of Dolmen earlier in the summer, it was hard not to look at the trailer and see Dark Souls in space. I’m not faulting developer Massive Work Studio and publisher Prime Matter for wanting to go that route – the formula is there and has proven to be successful. So, how does the horror-action game fare? Well, we’re still a while away from the final game but after spending several hours with a preview build, I’m curious.
Where The Surge was more sci-fi, Dolmen is going for cosmic horrors and you’ll explore a mysterious alien world looking for Dolmen crystals, capable of making space and dimensional travel a reality. Sounds out there, right? It is and the path to acquiring said crystals goes about as well as you’d expect given this game feels very Lovecraftian.
Been here before
Given this is an inspired Soulsborne game, you’ll make your own character before forgetting much about what they look like. The Zoan Corporation has colonized planets around the solar system and your job is to mine these planets for their resources. Upon landing on Revion to gather Dolmen crystals, things are not as they seem, and it doesn’t take long to figure out what’s happening- monsters from other realities are here now you’re left to clean up the mess.
A lot of what I liked about the preview for Dolmen is how familiar things feel but just different enough to stand out. A lot of what I played I can relate to given how much I enjoy the Soulsbourne genre. Those games don’t hit you over the head with exposition, so you need to fill in the blanks to make sense of the world the creators are building with their game.
Combat is the bread and butter of these games and from the time I had to play Dolmen over the last week, it’s good. There’s still a lot up in the air given the game is still months away but this is familiar territory. You have light and strong attacks with your melee weapon, and it is tied to the stamina bar.
Stamina is tied to running, dodging, parrying, and blocking incoming attacks. You also have the energy to worry about since all characters have melee and ranged attacks tied to their classes. Guns deplete your energy bar, and you can even activate an Energy Mode to buff weapons with elemental damage.
One of the strongest parts of Dolmen was the environment in the game. The opening area is called The Dumps and it paints a picture of how bad of a situation you’re in. Nothing around you can be trusted and whether dealing with arachnids and soldiers. Dying will set you back to a checkpoint called a Beacon and where normally you could upgrade at bonfires in most Souls games, you use the beacons to head back to your ship and upgrade your melee and ranged weapons with Nanites.
Dolmen is just different enough to keep me invested
Each death is a learning experience to take it slow and maneuver the landscape. I tend to have a habit of rushing in only to witness the consequences of my actions. Eventually, I give it the tempo these games require but the first few hours are frustrating to someone like me.
There was one aspect of the preview build I couldn’t experience given this was a sliver of the final game but from what I saw multiplayer will be available for those interested. From what I gather, there are beacons where you can summon players in to help battle the bosses. The twist is you need to consume Dolmen crystals to bring in support but the novelty of four-person teams is not lost on me, I think these types of games work well with people playing together.
Generally, I had a great time with the systems in Dolmen. Enemies drop crafting materials that you then bring back to your ship to create new pieces. I was able to craft some items but with only a small slice of the game, I could only dive in so far. I look forward to seeing what the final game entails next year.
I know I said this before, but you’ve likely played something like Dolmen. The game offers some interesting ideas and Soul’s fans will likely get some mileage out of it when it launches next year. I had fun for the few hours I invested blasting through this preview but there is some work to be done, I can say my curiosity on how the final game performs is what makes this a worthwhile wait. A lot of the elements here are familiar but just different enough to stand out. Whether or not that’s a fluke is up to the developer but I’d say keep your eye on Dolmen.
[This impression article is based on a preview-build offered by the publisher]