We’ve been keeping an eye on Dolmen ever since we first learned about it during last year’s Brasil Game Show. At the time, it was little more than just a very rough and very brief proof of concept prior to its Kickstarter campaign: a game that mixed the bleak and somber sci-fi themes of Dead Space with the gameplay of the Souls games. Less than a year later, after some crowdfunding turbulence (a last minute Kickstarter failure followed by a more successful story on Crytivo ), the game once again showed up on BIG Festival 2018, with an updated demo. A few months later, the guys at Massive Work Studio have decided to bring an even more polished build to Brasil Game Show 2018 for people, including me, to test it out.
Let me get the obvious out of the way: yes, Dolmen plays very similarly to Dark Souls and Bloodborne. You have a strong and fast swing assigned to the same buttons as usual, parrying and evading are crucial, locking on enemies is performed by clicking on the analog stick, enemies telegraph their attacks but can be deadly as heck if you don’t learn their patterns, and so on. The checkpoint system works just like any Souls game out there, and the leveling up method occurs in a separate checkpoint area just like in Bloodborne.
Thankfully, not everything in that demo felt 100% derivative of From Software’s games, as I was positively surprised to see additional gameplay elements to distance Dolmen from its more obvious sources of inspiration. Third-person over-the-shoulder shooting mechanics are the most noticeable ones. You have access to a weapon at all times, which can be either upgraded or modified to shoot lasers from a different element, such as fire or ice. While there’s no actual ammunition for said gun, you can only shoot as long as there’s enough juice on your energy meter. The meter is recharged automatically after a while. Said energy can also be used to recharge your health at any time by holding down the Y button, but once you do so, you lose a chunk of the meter and need to find orbs to replenish it.
Finally, there was also a lot of crating involved. Dead enemies not only give you experience points but also pieces of their carcasses for you to collect and come up with new pieces of torso, head and leg armor, just like in a Monster Hunter game.
Technically-speaking, Dolmen ran fine on a gaming laptop, with decent graphics, pretty good character animations and only a few framerate hiccups. The camera controls still need to be better tinkered, as you can easily see what’s underneath the floor if you wish to, and the main character’s movement is still a bit sluggish. He most certainly needs faster reflexes and a shorter stun time whenever hit by an enemy. Other than that, glitches were very few and far between. Since the game is only scheduled for a late Q2 2019 release, there’s plenty of time to fix bugs or imperfections.
Dolmen is shaping up to become quite an impressive Souls-esque action-adventure game with its own identity. It looks fine so far, it features decent controls and, as expected, it’s challenging as heck, but never to an impossible degree. I’m glad Massive Work Studio has dedicated the last year to improve the game in every single aspect, even during turbulent funding periods. We’ll most certainly continue to keep an eye on Dolmen until its estimated Q2 2019 release date next year.