Dolmen Review: A horror RPG inspired by great classics of the genre

La recensione di Dolmen: un po’ Dark Soul, un po’ Dead Space e un po’ Alien thumbnail

Making a game is not easy, both from a design point of view and from a development point of view. The Brazilian Massive Work Studio throws itself headlong into the industry with its first committed production starting with a Kickstarter. Let’s see how they fared with Dolmen in this review.

The Dolmen review

Dolmen, after a long period of incubation, arrives proposing itself as a Horror-style action RPG with a sci-fi setting.

Produced by Massive Work Studio, a small independent Brazilian studio, Dolmen, is clearly inspired by what are the classics of its genre. In mechanics and combat we recognize a lot Dark Soulwhile the settings clearly draw inspiration from Dead Space. Finally, the story reminds a little Alien (more the movie than the game) but with more intense action elements.

Despite admittedly fishing heavily from existing titles, Dolmen inserts a series of its own elements to give added value to the result. This added value sometimes makes a difference and sometimes a little less. From what we have been able to try, the final result may benefit from an extra final polish but, overall, it is capable of providing an interesting gaming experience.

History

The story that the game offers us follows, after all, a rather classic format. On a distant planet called Revion Prime there is a mining station for the extraction of a rare and precious crystal: the Dolmen. Dolmen crystals have the ability to open gaps between parallel dimensions. During the extraction operations there was an accident and, apparently, dimensional gaps were opened through which many alien monsters have arrived. Alien monsters who, of course, promptly took care of exterminate the miners and take control of the station.

We take on the role of a kind of mercenary sent by the Zoan industries, the owners of the mine, for free the mine from the aliens and recover as many crystals as possible.

During the unfolding of the events we will walk through the mine finding ourselves facing a series of enemies to get to the fight with a boss. Killing the boss will allow us to access the next section of the map. In addition, killing enemies and exploring the station will allow us to collect materials, to improve equipment, and Naniti, to level up.

The game mechanics

Inspired by great classics, such as Dark Soul and Dead Space, Dolmen ci offers variations on a number of well-known and well-established mechanics. Therefore, their operation is also quite guaranteed.

While exploring the mining station we will encounter a series of yes reporting points. These will allow us to enter into communication with the operational base in orbit and will progressively provide us with additional elements to the story. From a more practical point of view, they will demarcate our progression in the various levels, we can use them as teleportation points to and from the base of operations and will allow us to recharge our energy.

The mechanics of death are very reminiscent of that of Dark Soul. The moment we succumb, we are brought back to the last signaling point encountered with all features regenerated apart from inventory. The zone we were in is reset from scratch, so all the monsters will be there again waiting for us. In order to recover our inventory we must be able to get alive to where we were defeated last time. If we fail, the inventory will be permanently lost. This, also includes Dolmen crystals and Nanites collected.

The stats of the character

dolmen review stats

Going from one marker to another, as well as killing enemies, we can dedicate ourselves to exploring the map. Both things, as mentioned above, allow us to collect nanites and other materials.

Nanites, described as microrobots, serve for the improved statistics of the player. When you have only collected enough it is possible to return tothe base of operations and convert them to a level advancement. Leveling up will also give us additional points to distribute on our skills.

The materials, on the other hand, will allow us to create new equipment. In the system of creation on the basis, in fact, New craftable items will appear as we collect related materials. Some materials can only be collected by killing bosses, which is why, before each boss, there is a special signaling point with which you can bring him back to life. Beyond the somewhat masochistic aspect, we honestly wondered if the regeneration of the boss is the symptom of a balance still to be refined or a way to extend the replayability.

Le characteristics of the equipment in use determine our technological level. The technological level of the character is divided into three specializations: human technology, alien technology (Revian) and that of miners. Each of these technologies provides gods different bonuses based on its level; the human one increases the attack, the Revian one raises the stats and that of the miners improves the defense.

Il however, the main focus of the game action remains the combat which, unlike other games, can be distant as well as close; but for this reason, given its complexity, it is worth going into detail.

The combat system

dolmen review fight

Combat is undoubtedly the most complex aspect of the game to manage. During the fight, in fact, we must take into account two resources: stamina and energy.

The stamina recharges over time but it is consumed by whatever action we do; not only attacks but also parries and dodges. If we are too aggressive we really risk finding ourselves helpless in the face of the enemy.

Energy, on the other hand, it is consumed permanently when we use special abilities, such as healing. The only way to recover energy is use a battery. This operation, however, will keep us still (and exposed) for two seconds to recharge half the energy maximum. Additionally, we only have a limited number of batteries available that will automatically recharge when interacting with a beacon (a bit like the Estus flasks at the Dark Soul bonfires). To this rule ranged weapons are an exception, which consume energy only temporarily. After shooting, in fact, the energy will regenerate itself over time.

The fight it also implies a good level of strategy. In fact, we should do research on the various technologies and select the most effective equipment before fighting every single boss. That is to say, aiming to become unbeatable on just one specific aspect may not be the best strategy.

The innovative approach to online multiplayer

One thing that we particularly liked about Dolmen, gilding this review, is the innovative approach to managing online multiplayer.

Online multiplayer is collaborative but does not extend to the whole game. That is, while crossing the levels we will always be alone but we can call players for help to face the various bosses. At the signaling point that precedes each boss, in addition to regenerating it, it is possible to use three dolmen crystals to open an inter-dimensional portal. From then on, we can bring another player to support us.

We found this way of entering the online game mode particularly interesting because it is no longer just a game mode to select. Dolmen ties access to multiplayer with careful resource management and strategy. Playing in pairs becomes a specific choice linked to the evaluation of the boss and the availability of crystals, which cannot be used on the next boss.

The burrs on the edges

One of the problems that, in our opinion, prevents Dolmen from being well appreciated is a certain one lack of attention to detail. This, at least in the version we tried on PlayStation.

The movements of the character they are not precise and fluid as you’d expect from a game that recalls Dark Soul, where successful evasion can mean the difference between victory and defeat. In close combat, if you are not explicitly targeting it first, it is very easy to find the enemy behind after an attack.

The settings are interesting, we could define them as hell (in fact, at times, they also reminded us of Dante’s Inferno), but we have not found them to accompany the story. They do not evolve with the character or enemies we encounter but are often content with being purely choreographic. Sometimes it almost seems that a series of excellent assets have been made that the level designer has glued together to obtain the desired path, but only from a geometric point of view.

The user interface, in particular, it is the aspect that has left us most perplexed. Some writings are illegible because they are superimposed on a background light. The color system and certain graphic choices often make it difficult to understand which item is currently selected in the menus. There is also a selector called level of detail during character creation which, apparently and at least on PlayStation, didn’t seem to do anything to us.

The Dolmen review at a glance

Dolmen is a ambitious title …