Dolmen is a sci-fi souls-like. You play as the commander, seemingly a human who is tasked with figuring out what the fuck happened at a drilling site planet. You find everyone seems to be dead and the crystal type called dolmen was being dug up here, it allows people to communicate with those in other dimensions and feasibly could make it to where people might be able to move between them. However, these crystals in large quantities also let lose monsters from other dimensions and that seems to be what happened on this planet.
The game takes place through three different acts, each act in within a different section of the planet. The first act is all based in the singular mining area you start in. The second act takes place mostly on the planets surface. The third act is I haven’t a clue because I haven’t managed to get through the second act. There’s a bunch of different areas in each act, for instance there’s the main all in act one, which is where you start, the internal structures of the mining area, a material transport area that looks like a mini high way, caves, electrified pools, and I think a couple other areas and that’s just act one. Now some of the areas between acts are similar cause it still is an entire planet devoted to mining and researching dolmen so in act two there’s cave systems, buildings, the OUTSIDE (I didn’t think there’d be an outside so that was impressive to me haha), and a few other things.
When you start the game you have a few choices you can pick for what kind of character you want to play, you can choose ‘no help’ for a level one character that you can customize yourself as you play the game, however there’s a few level eight options as well each one that’s provided different new weapons as well as stats that have been modified up to level eight to make the build work, so that you have a pre-made build to work from. There’s the gunner one that has an assault rifle which you don’t get access to otherwise til act two, a heavy melee one, a quick dual handed melee build, an axe and shield build, and I believe there’s another one but I forgot what it was. I chose the no help build cause… I like to hurt myself apparently. I was probably the only reviewer dumb enough to choose this route. Oh well.
For combat you have standard enemies which change based on the acts, in the first one you get giant grasshoppers some of which shoot acid at you, zombie guys who shoot fire at you, super fast shield toting jackasses with either swords or a gun, both of which will wreck your shit, some weird Termors-like dog things, and some giant flying snot beetles. It doesn’t sound like a lot but there’s a ton of them in each area and you end up really having to take things slow cause it’s easy to get overwhelmed and killed. Like all souls games there’s also bosses, but in this game there’s bosses, and what I call act bosses. The standard bosses are just that bosses, some of them are completely optional even starting in act two. They propose a challenge to the player and I won’t deny it, but most of them aren’t too bad. Most of these are, at least in the first two acts, are just larger versions of the standard enemies and upgraded versions of other standard bosses. Again, most of these aren’t particularly bad thankfully, just a little challenging.
Now we’ll touch on the act bosses. I call them that for a reason, they tend to be the bosses you HAVE to beat to get to brand new areas and often the next act. These bosses… they’re a fucking problem. From what I’ve seen online everyone feels about the same way as I do about these bosses, they’re cheap-shoting assholes and the difficulty for these bosses specifically are significantly higher than everything around them. The two in the first act is the main hive boss that everyone really hates for being cheap, it has a bunch of attacks that can just outright kill you period, If you don’t have the right weapons equipped for this, you simply aren’t going to have a time, cause you won’t have a good time regardless, but without the right weapons you’re just going to keep dying. During this fight it also makes it to where you have to get closer to it’s main body putting an entire fighting type in the shitter. If you’ve specced to be a gunner, this boss isn’t good, cause your now forced into close range combat. Shields are utterly worthless cause it rips through them. And eventually it makes you get even closer to where it starts bite attacking you which covers like 70% of the free space that you can move without taking massive fire damage every second. If you need to heal and give yourself energy to do so in either of two two close up phases, which is sixty-six percent of the fight, then you’re fucked, cause you just don’t have the time to do it. The other major pain in the ass boss of the first act is actually two bosses one right after the other and the second one is a ranged one that you require to shoot things or take lots of damage, the first boss is set up specifically to suck up all your energy so you can’t shoot.
Now you’ve heard me talk about healing and energy in this so far. This game has a lot of stats you can increase as you level up, you get one point each level up to put into any of them. There’s the main three constitution, endurance, and energy. Constitution is you know, your HP, endurance is stamina which is your ability to run and how many melee attacks you can make in a row, energy is how many times you can heal or shoot your gun. Stamina refills over time, energy can, if you shoot your gun unless it removes energy permanently which some guns can, then it will come back over time on it’s own, healing however permanently removes energy. When you don’t have enough energy you can use a battery to give yourself more, basically it’s a health flask, and like health flasks you are a slow fuck to use them. These three stats also tell you what armors you’re able to wear, as each one and each level of said armor is based on one of these three stats. There’s also other stat increases that are used to tell you what weapons you can equip and how much damage they do. Strength tells you what shields and melee weapons you can equip as well as how much damage you do with them. Skill if your skill with a gun, however this alone doesn’t say what kind of gun you can equip usually. Science is your status effect stuff, how much elemental damage your weapons do, if they have elemental damage, and I believe also how often you set your weapons’ special ability off, at least I believe, cause it’s not explained what does that. Science and Skill tend to determine what kind of gun you can equip, not sure if science impacts what shields or melee weapons you can equip cause I specced to shoot things since I’m shit at these games, but it does increase melee weapon elemental damage obviously. The problem with this system is, for instance, the battery, only fills up X amount of empty space, it doesn’t fill the whole energy up if you upgrade your energy, which blows cause I haven’t found a way to permanently increase your battery amount, every run you can get some free extra batteries around the level but they don’t stay with you when you use them they’re gone.
One of the problems besides the act bosses is there’s no mini map, no major map, no mappy map at all. That’s a problem, cause these levels are… big, and there’s a lot of different doors you can go through and it gets really hard to remember where you have and haven’t been, and heaven forbid you take time away from the game, cause you’ll NEVER figure out where you have and haven’t been at that point. I’d like for a main map that showed me everywhere I’ve been, where bosses are I can respawn, where doors are that are open and ones that are locked that I’ve found, etc. It would just make it easier to figure out where I’ve been and where I haven’t and what I need to fucking do. Another problem is there’s some lag between when you push the button and the character does stuff, the biggest show of this is the shield, there’s a way to parry, you have to block before an enemy hits you, the problem being, is not only is there a big of lag between the start of the raising of the shield from when you push the button, depending on the shield the time it takes to raise it changes too which throws everything the fuck off, badly. I used the shield for two achievements and never used it again, cause one I can’t parry cause I’m trying to block at the last second like you do in most games, and that’s not what my shield does right, and two I don’t feel like the shield is particularly fucking useful honestly. Enemies blow through the shield fairly regularly., even standard enemies rip through it fairly fast, bosses blow through it instantly if it even hits the shield in the first place cause a lot of bosses just don’t hit the shield either they have low attacks that bypass it or they have unblockable attacks that ignore it. Because of that I just don’t see a use for the shield for anything beyond basic enemies and really you don’t need it for them, you need gun to shoot them from a range where they won’t chase after or acknowledge you, which is some serious distance but it is doable, that how I had to deal with most enemies in the game, just in general.
I always felt underpowered, but it took so many blood (this games souls), to raise any state so I didn’t feel like there was a place that was good enough for farming the stuff other than constantly attacking bosses which again underpowered. Even normal bosses were able to kill me a number of times before I beat them again, and since you use a resource in the game to respawn bosses, that wasn’t feasible cause I’d run out of those resources before I beat them more than once or twice which isn’t enough to level up. This is a problem. I’m able to fight, not win, but fight, the act two major boss, but I still don’t feel like I’m powerful enough to soundly stand up fight some of the normal enemies in ACT ONE yet, that’s a problem when I’m nearly two thirds of the way done with the game. The game is also set up to really be a one on one fighter, even with standard enemies, but then the developers put a bunch of enemies fairly close together so if you aggro one, you aggro them all and that uhh… that doesn’t end well. Fighting two enemies at the same time, is very hard, fighting three, just isn’t doable for the average person. I feel like the devs got use to the difficulty and kept raising it thinking it was too easy, but it’s not, they were just getting stupid good at the game and didn’t realize it.
Overall, I want to like the game. I like the world, I like the environments, the enemy design, the concepts, but, and this is a big but, there needs to be a massive retooling of the difficulty, it’s just too hard as is. Some of the enemies are like a two out of ten, some are an eight in the same area, some bosses are a six, others are like a ten, act bosses are like a twenty to thirty range. No matter how I level up though I don’t feel like the number for the difficulty for any of those enemies change except the two out of ten basic one, everything else stays stupid hard no matter what I do and that just makes the game no longer fun. So retooling maybe giving us more health, more healing with energy, taking less energy, have the battery be used faster and giving a full energy charge how matter how much energy you have, have the crappier bosses do less damage, remove the instant kill attacks and unblockable attacks that some bosses just constantly use, looking at the second act’s boss with that shit. And giving us a map and a mini map so we can figure out where the fuck we’re going cause it’s so hard to figure out where things are, and it doesn’t take long to get lost. I think with that the game would be fantastic.
Dolmen was developed by Massive Work Studio.
Point of Sale: Steam, X1/ser, PS4/5.
Price: $40 everywhere.
A review copy of the game was provided by devs.
darkmikasonfire does not give Dolmen the Indie Gamer Seal of Approval, it needs some patches to fix issues before I can give it the seal.