Challenging gameplay and atmospheric environments
Lovecraftian horror is something we see a lot in games now. With images that lend themselves well to support, it quickly became a mainstay in the lineups. Dolmen is one of those games and manages to merge sci-fi technology with cosmic horror and does so by imbuing everything with body horror elements embedded into the very floor of the level designs.
Developped by Massive work studio, the game focuses on a highly capitalist future society where the Zoan Corporation has mined planets for Dolmen Crystals, objects that have the power to revolutionize space travel and exploration. But onefter a catastrophic interdimensional incident, you are hired to return the Dolmen Crystals to the Archives while trying to survive the onslaught of hostile creatures and the dimensional fissures within the station that create intersections between different universes. A third person action RPG, Dolmen is also single player, with the exception of the 4-person co-op boss fight feature, which I haven’t been able to test out this preview, but has me more than excited for the future.
Thus, one of the first elements of Dolmen what needs to be commented on is the game’s beautiful opening cutscene that shows off a level animation detail that quickly pulls you into the world. In a way, the world that is created in Dolmen’s The opening is both familiar and inventive, drawing on what we know from sci-fi horror while adding some unique enough elements that draw you in further. In addition to the large opening, there are small bits to read for more knowledge as you move through the world, which helps create a complete picture of the world. And when I say world, I’m not just talking about the planet you’re on, I’m talking about the world-building as a whole.
One of the most important elements of Dolmen is its combat system and therefore its dying system. Combat is simple at first with melee, ranged and shield weapons to parry. However, it’s essential to choose when you fight enemies and make sure you don’t get overwhelmed.
I’m a rush gamer which means when I first started playing I easily tried to round up a small crowd of what I thought was a manageable number of enemies and try to fight my way through through them. Well, that didn’t work. While in combat, you don’t have access to healing as it takes time to hold the key for a few seconds. That said, if you don’t parry accurately, you’re going to take damage, which means combat becomes a strategy and that draws you into the game more.
To push you further in thinking about your battle path (something I appreciate although frustrating) die in Dolmen has consequences. First of all, it’s not soulsborne in the sense that you don’t lose everything you have like gear and weapons. That said, you drop all The Nanite and Dolmen Fragments you carry can be a major setback when it comes to leveling up your character. That said, you can pick up what you dropped from your last death, which means after a death you pick up the materials, but two things mean the items are gone forever. While that might not seem like the biggest setback, when trying to save to level up, it’s something extremely noticeable and hinders your ability to progress. Even in this non-liner preview, I sometimes had trouble getting through a section of an area.
My only issue with 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, both simple solutions. 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 heightened by environmental design. The anatomy of the planet is amazingly designed. It all looks like parts of a living body. There are unsettling sounds and atmosphere that keep you on your toes and embrace more of the overt visuals and more subtle hidden elements. The only problem with environments is that navigation becomes beyond tricky, especially early in the game when you’re still getting your feet wet. As you move around the environment, it’s easy to turn around and run in a circle.
Overall however, Dolmen has a lot of potential especially fans of difficult enemies and fights that require 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 will go, especially when it comes to the promised 76 pieces of armor and crafting systems that I don’t think I got in the preview. .
Dolmen set to release sometime in 2022 on PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Xbox S|X and PC.
Kate is co-founder, EIC and CCO of BWT. She’s also a certified Rotten Tomatoes reviewer, host and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Was it necessary?. She also handles all PR dealings for comics, manga, movies, TV, and anime. She holds a master’s degree in cultural anthropology and religious studies focusing on the impact of pop culture on society.