Challenging game and atmospheric environments
Lovecraftian horror is something we see a lot now in games. With images that lend themselves well to medium, it quickly became a mainstay of release programs. Dolmen is one of those games and manages to merge sci-fi tech with cosmic horror and do so by infusing it all with elements of body horror built into the very ground level designs.
Developped by Massive working studio, the game centers on a highly capitalist future society where the Zoan company mined planets for Dolmen crystals, objects that have the power to revolutionize travel and space exploration. But onefter a catastrophic interdimensional incident, you are hired to bring Dolmen Crystals to the archives while attempting to survive the onslaught of hostile creatures and the dimensional cracks within the station that create intersections between different universes. A third-person action RPG, Dolmen is also solo, with the exception of the 4-person co-op boss fight feature, which I wasn’t able to test this preview, but which got me more than excited for the future.
Thus, one of the first elements of Dolmen What needs to be commented on are the game’s lovely opening cutscenes that show off a level of animation detail that quickly immerses you in the world. One way or another, the world that is created in Dolmen the opening is both familiar and inventive, tapping into what we know about sci-fi horror while adding enough unique elements that draw you further. In addition to the grand opening, there are little items to read for more stories as you move around the world that help create a complete picture of the world. And when I say world, I’m not just talking about the planet you’re on, I mean the construction of the world as a whole.
One of the most important elements of Dolmen is its combat system and therefore its dying system. Combat is straightforward at the start with melee, ranged weapons, and a shield to parry. However, the timing of fighting enemies and making sure you don’t get overwhelmed is key.
I’m a player in a hurry, which means when I first started playing I easily tried to regroup a small crowd of whatever. Well, that didn’t work. During combat, you don’t have access to healing as it takes time to hold the button down for a few seconds. That said, if you don’t parry with precision you will take damage, which means combat becomes a strategy and that in turn draws you more into the game.
To push yourself further to think about your combat path (something that I enjoy while being frustrating) dying in Dolmen has consequences. First, it’s not soulsborne in the sense that you don’t lose everything you have like equipment and weapons. Having said that, you drop all The nanite and dolmen shards you carry can lead to a major setback when it comes to leveling up your character. That said, you can pick up whatever you dropped on your last death, which means after one death you collect the materials, but two means the items are gone forever. While this might not seem like the biggest setback, when trying to save money to level up, it’s something extremely noticeable and hindering your ability to progress. Even in this unlined preview, I sometimes struggled through a section of an area.
My only problem when it comes to combat is that the default button choices aren’t exactly finger-friendly, making it difficult to time parries and attacks and switch weapons with ease. However, this can be easily adjusted with remapping or controller support, two easy fixes. Plus, given how difficult it is to defeat a single boss, it’s clear why 4-person co-op is a necessary addition.
That said, the tension that sets in because progress is difficult is exacerbated by the environmental design. The anatomy of the planet is amazingly designed. Everything looks like parts of a living body. There are unsettling sounds and atmosphere that keep you on your toes and embrace both the overt visuals and the more subtle hidden elements. The only problem with the environments is that navigation becomes more than tricky, especially early in the game when you are still getting your feet wet. As you move around the environment, it’s easy to turn around and run in a circle.
Overall though, Dolmen has a lot of potential especially fans of difficult enemies and combat that requires finesse. Plus, the creature and level design brings out the best in cosmic horror, and the story brings out a sci-fi intensity that I can’t wait to see more of. With so much more to come in the full game, it’s exciting to see where things go, especially when it comes to the promised 76 pieces of armor and crafting systems that I don’t think I understood in the preview.
Dolmen should be released sometime in 2022 on PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One and Xbox S | X and PC.
Kate is co-founder of BWT’s EIC and CCO. She is also a certified Rotten Tomatoes critic, host and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and should you ?. She also handles all PR for comics, manga, movies, TV, and cartoons. She holds an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on the impact of pop culture on society.