Dolmen, an upcoming 3rd person action RPG that can be described as something you’d get if Dark Souls and Dead Space had a child together. It is, quite frankly, the sort of game that fans of action RPG have been asking for…. ok, I’ve been asking for. Thanks to Massive Work Studio, the developer behind the game, I had a chance to get some early hands-on with Dolmen to see what the game is all about.
After playing the game for a few hours, it’s easy to see that Massive Work Studio, the developer of the title, took a number of cues from the various Fromsoftware titles such as Dark Souls and Demon Souls while combining the Alien-esque art direction from the Dead Space titles.
What is Dolmen?
The preview featured a cinematic at the start that painted a picture of what is happening in the game’s early moments. While the name of the game, Dolmen is also the name of a crystal. It’s a high commodity item for its unique properties. After an interdimensional rift formed within the mining station called Revion Prime, infesting it with all sorts of nasty creatures and who knows what. This is where your ticket is punched, and you’re tasked with heading down to the station, killing the creatures causing the problems, and bringing back any Dolmen crystals you find so the eggheads and figure out what happened and prevent it from happening again.
Good Luck. I hope you have insurance.
The preview is made up of two parts; the start of the game and a section that happens much later. Through my hands-on, I’ve fought through various amounts of enemies. Hacking and slashing my way through them, testing out what killing methods worked best, and playing around with the gear. All while admiring the alien structures that seem almost life-like, I had fully expected some of the sections to swallow me whole. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Visually impressive and lost of vertical platforming to deal with, and yes, I did manage to fall to my death a few times.
Wait, I can craft stuff?
While you’re running around in Dolmen, you’ll acquire resources that can be used to craft gear. It’s very similar to another Soulslike game, The Surge. Every part of your digital avatar can be crafted; armor and weapons. You’re also given a few different choices along the way. Should you not know which piece of gear is better than the other or what bonuses it offers, there’s a handy explanation that breaks it down. That way, you won’t have craft’s remorse – but only if you pay attention to it. When crafting gear, you can also add bonuses to them. Instead of building standard gear, if you have the right resources, you can craft something truly impressive and better suited to keep you alive.
Fight, Die, Conquer.
The combat, while borrowing heavily from the Fromsoftware entries, feels rewarding if clunky at times. Attacks are handled via light and heavy attacks and can be used in combos. Using a gun, you can whittle down your enemy’s health while applying various debuffs to give you a small advantage against them. You can use a shield, though I tried not to, that can block incoming damage or parry. It all feels very familiar, and for a good reason. While it feels cliche to keep referencing the Fromsoftware games, I’m sure this is precisely what Massive Work Studio had in mind. However, to Massive Work Studio’s credit, they’ve added a twist that will keep players on their toes.
While traditional health and stamina meters are straightforward and universal, there’s also an energy meter that provides your character with several uses. Healing, ranged accounts, applying buffs to you, and applying debuffs to enemies all require energy, which comes from batteries. Think of this as the FP resource from Dark Souls 3. The more you use it, the less you have. Except now it also is the only way you can heal up, forcing you to decide if you really want to waste that energy and batteries. The more I played Dolmen, the more I started to dislike the energy resource system. While I see what the developer is trying to do, the system is rather limited.
This became more apparent when I squared up against the first boss I encountered. I needed the energy to do some heavy damage, while also trying to heal. Running out of energy, you’ll have to pop a battery; if you can. It’s not exactly an ideal situation to sit in place for two seconds trying to activate a battery, so you can heal up or get off a quick shot, so the resource is rather annoying at times. Bosses don’t exactly give you much time to do so either. Sitting still while praying that something doesn’t hit you while you desperately need a heal was nerve-wracking. I hope this gets retooled, as it’s limiting as it stands now.
Of course, you can’t mention the combat without mentioning the other side of things; death.
Yes, you’ll die quite a few times in Dolmen and thankfully, death doesn’t mean the end. Whenever you meet an untimely demise, you’ll quickly find yourself back at the last checkpoint you accessed. You’ll keep all the weapons and gear that you’ve crafted or found, but you’ll lose any Nanite or Dolmen fragments that you’ve collected thus far. In a similar fashion, you only get one chance to collect those. Should you say hello to death prior to that, you’ll lose them.
Let’s talk PC-centric
My time with Dolmen was with the PC version, and the game didn’t skip a beat on my up to the task PC. Equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5600x, Nvidia RTX 3080, and Windows 11, the gameplay was a silky-smooth 60 frames per second with most settings on high. As Nvidia’s DLSS was an option, I opted to enable it and toggled the quality preset while also enabling the Ray-Tracing features. It’s worth mentioning that I was taken back by the number of options, given that this was a preview build. Still, the performance was great, even at 1440p and 4K. What sort of magic are you working here, Massive Work Studio?
The only concern I have with Dolmen thus far is the interface can be a tad tricky at times. The UI is very basic, and selecting items doesn’t work well for me due to the indicators blending into the backdrop. Navigating the equipment and options screens was also twitchy, and at times, I’d gloss over what I was trying to get to. It is a preview, and as such, there are bound to be bugs or issues, but given that everything else is so polished, I had fooled myself. I was saddened when I reached the end of the preview, but if I was so engrossed in this small sampling of the game. I’ll be ready to pounce like one of those damned aliens when the game gets released.
Dolmen is set for a 2022 release on the PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox X|S, and PC.