Dolmen is a new sci-fi action RPG from developer Massive Work Studio joining the fray of Souls-likes this month. While it isn’t as in-depth as many of its counterparts, I still had fun with many of its elements. However, I also encountered some issues that hindered my experience.
Dolmen takes place in a world where humanity has colonized several planets, and private corporations fight for military and technological superiority. You, as the player, are sent to Revion Prime, a planet rich with Dolmen Crystals which are materials used to interact with alternate dimensions. You’re tasked with retrieving these crystals while evading and defeating a myriad of cosmic abominations and enemies that you’ll encounter at every turn.
The first thing I immediately noticed about the game was its incredible art direction and level design. Not many sci-fi games put as much detail into crafting a surreal foreign world as Dolmen does, and the effort pays off immensely. Every level is crafted in such an intricate way that you can’t help but feel incredibly immersed and nervous with each step you take in this alien world. In addition, the overall visuals are extremely crisp and detailed, with great lighting, vibrant colors, and reflective surfaces.
In terms of gameplay, I’m happy to report that Dolmen has surprisingly balanced and well-crafted mechanics, and for a Souls-like, it thankfully has almost everything I want. Dolmen uses nearly the same combat structure as the Souls series. Players can use weapons to attack, shields to block, and armor to increase their stats. The only exception is the inclusion of guns and energy cells, which fill up your energy bar and let you use guns, heal yourself, and perform a variety of special moves. Each weapon in Dolmen uses one of three elements: Fire, Ice, or Toxic. Each element has its own use, with some being more effective on specific enemy types than others.
Like in any typical Souls-like, dying is punishing. You lose all your Nanites (the game’s currency) and Dolmen Crystals upon death and will need to recover them quickly or risk losing them all. Nanites are used to level up your character, similar to Souls in Dark Souls, while Dolmen Crystals are used to create multiplayer sessions.
But the fun part about armor and weapons available in Dolmen is that they can be crafted instead of finding them throughout the world. While you still have to collect the necessary parts and materials, crafting in Dolmen is thankfully a painless process as materials can be found easily. Apparel and weapons can be made to suit your exact needs as long as you have the suitable material. The only downside to this is that while it is fun to mess around with armor and weapon stats to create a highly effective warrior, there isn’t much of a selection in terms of accessorizing as each armor you craft belongs to a set. Unfortunately, there aren’t many sets, so many of the items you’ll be crafting will more or less look the same.
In terms of difficulty, I’d say Dolmen is one of the more approachable Souls-likes out there, as it doesn’t take a long time to figure out or even master. While a newcomer to Souls-likes will surely struggle with the game, veteran players will not find it nearly as challenging. Though this isn’t to say the game is easy by any means. There will still be sections that will give you a hard time and tough enemies that will kill you a lot, but as long as you’re upgrading your equipment and learning from your mistakes, you should blaze through the game quickly.
While Dolmen’s difficulty is balanced, a few gameplay aspects disappointed me. The most notable was the bland enemies who often have the same gimmicks and the bosses, many of whom left me underwhelmed with their repetitive attacks and highly limited AI.
Dolmen also has some narrative flaws that I couldn’t ignore. I found the game’s storytelling to be poorly done as very little is told to you as the player. Instead, you’ll have to read through incredibly unengaging texts on machines you find around each level, but even these tell you almost nothing. There’s also barely anyone to talk to or interact with, and the occasional NPCs you see are just there to give you items and nothing else. What’s worse, the few characters who constantly talk (one of them being your character) are voiced poorly, so much so that they almost sound like their lines are being fed through text-to-speech. All that said, I often found myself unsatisfied and lacking in engagement outside combat.
While Dolmen offers fun, challenging, and rewarding gameplay and a rich crafting system, its other features are a bit of a hit-and-miss. The game’s story is virtually non-existent and its empty world prevents any drive to explore it. As a result, progressing through the game proved to be a dull ordeal despite its exciting concept.
Dolmen is out May 20, 2022, on PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
While Dolmen offers fun, challenging, and rewarding gameplay and a rich crafting system, its other features are a bit of a hit-and-miss.
Abdul Saad is a seasoned anime and manga critic, art lover, and professional journalist. When he’s not covering the medium’s latest news, he’s giving his candid opinions on the season’s most unique titles or exploring the niche side of the industry. He has also played and reviewed more games than he could ever count.