Dolmen Review. Souls-like with Lovecraftian ideas that will make Miyazaki tense

Dolmen Review. Souls-like with Lovecraftian ideas that will make Miyazaki tense

Dolmen came out a couple of days ago. It’s a futuristic souls-like set on a spooky planet, with frilly critters to challenge, meat-filled environments inspired by HP Lovecraft, and a story full of mystery and madness. But is it enough to keep players entertained? I appreciated the novelty and hasten to share my impressions!

What is Dolman?

The Brazilian studio Massive Work Studio was responsible for the development of Dolmen. Curiously, the game was originally planned to be released around 2019 – it was then that the project was actively discussed, and streamers enjoyed the demo. Alas, the authors did not have enough experience and budget to complete the work on time. As a result, the process was delayed, and the game could disappear into the abyss of production hell.

Well, Dolmen has fresh ideas that help to look at the souls-like genre from a new angle, and the gameplay turned out to be peppy. However, weak graphics and dull level design do not allow the new product to compete on equal terms with competitors – and this is not the main problem.

Alas, after the release of the outstanding Elden Ring, all the creators of similar games, including Miyazaki himself (Hidetaka Miyazaki), should strain themselves. The fact is that against the backdrop of the main hit of 2022, all upcoming projects will look faded by default. Dolmen isn’t that bad, but it’s hard to explain why playing it when Elden Ring is available.

In the distant future, people have learned to drive through space, colonize planets, and even make friends with aliens. Alas, the universe is too huge and often unfriendly – for example, something terrible recently attacked an important mining planet, and communication with the hard workers was interrupted. Now the hero has to figure out what happened there and at the same time save the world.

Few inputs. A unique dolmen crystal was mined in the mines, with which you can open a portal between the worlds. Alas, one-day terrible monsters jumped out of the portal.

However, there are other mysteries. When the hero landed on the planet, something changed course and sent him away from the epicenter of events. In addition, the area is overflowing with cocoons, the walls are overgrown with meat, and the majestic halls are disfigured by something unknown and huge. In general, everything is in the style of Lovecraft.

In general, it is interesting to understand what happened in the mines. The authors follow the traditions of the genre and reveal the plot through rare entries in the terminals, but they also do not forget about more expensive tricks. For example, sometimes the developers show cool cut scenes where the characters do not waste time chatting but fight epicly.

The problem is that the writers failed to come up with a truly interesting world. If it was exciting to dive into the lore of the brilliant Bloodborne, then Dolmen events are very standard for science fiction and Lovecraft novels. Gamers are unlikely to argue about the ins and outs of some boss or the structure of a futuristic society.

If we evaluate the fundamental mechanics, Dolmen is not much different from other souls-like. The hero explores locations, fights dangerous opponents, earns “souls” and looks for beacons that replace “bonfires”. According to tradition, after death, there is only one chance to return the lost good, visiting the beacon resurrects enemies, and pumping increases damage, stamina, and other parameters.

However, Massive Work Studio came up with a couple of fresh mechanics. If the ability to simultaneously carry a blade and a full-fledged cannon that easily takes out ordinary enemies is not new to the genre, then the approach to the energy scale is original. We are talking about banal mana, but it works differently.

The fact is that the hero has neither heals nor ammo – all this is replaced by energy. Do you want to heal wounds? Consume energy. Are you planning to shoot the enemy? Guess which scale will decrease. By the same token, the hero can also go into berserk mode and wet enemies with elemental damage – each hit spends an invaluable resource.

It is curious that after elemental attacks and shots from standard weapons, energy is gradually restored, but after treatment, it is not. If you spend a resource on HP, you won’t be able to shoot as often as before. It will be possible to restore energy only at beacons or with the help of a replenishable supply of batteries, which are constantly in short supply.

Another Dolmen feature in crafting mechanics. During the races, the hero collects materials from which he can create cool equipment: a weapon, a cannon, a helmet, a breastplate, and so on. All this good can be pumped and strengthened.

Curiously, each piece affects not only the characteristics but also the specialization of the character. The equipment can turn the hero into a man, a Revan, or a hard worker: each direction has its bonuses, and they open if you pull on at least three gizmos of the same type.

Three points on the Revan scale will allow you to restore HP after each melee hit. The human branch makes batteries 50 percent more efficient. Workers receive more health when healed.

There are three such bonuses in each branch, but you won’t be able to open everything at once – you will have to think about which bonuses suit your style best, and what armor you should dress the hero in. However, high-level equipment pumps several specializations at the same time, but you still need to grow up to it.

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