Dolmen preview (PC)

Today we’re taking a look at Dolmen, an impressive-looking action RPG from Prime Matter that’s scheduled for launch next year. We went hands on with it – here’s what we thought.

What we know

When the Prime Matter label was unveiled earlier this year, one of the most eye-catching titles in the lineup was Dolmen, an ambitious action adventure from a relatively unknown developer called Massive Work Studio from Brazil.

The game takes Soulslike gameplay and applies it to a hybrid of sci-fi and horror. It’s in development now for both current and next gen consoles in addition to the PC.

What we saw

We had access to a preview build of the game, which ran through Steam on a PC. The build had two to three hours of gameplay, giving us a good taste of what to expect when the game launches next year.

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What we thought

We’ve lost track of how many times games can be classified as ‘soulslike’ or ‘roguelike’, two terms that have been incredible popular over the past decade or so. Dolmen fits into the former category, taking obvious cues from FromSoftware’s work and going with a similar kind of atmosphere despite switching things up with a sci-fi theme.

That sci-fi theme sees you crash-landing on an alien planet at the start of the game, surrounded by rather gruesome flesh-like surfaces and ominous sounds of creatures lurking in the nearby darkness. What follows is gameplay that feels familiar, with hard to reach checkpoints, experience that’s lost when you die before you get there and the reward of being able to go back to your ship to upgrade when you reach a checkpoint, as it also serves as a teleport hub.

There is a big difference though, and it’s that Dolmen doesn’t just give you melee options but also lets you use firearms – bringing ranged combat to a genre that doesn’t always offer it outside of a bow and arrow option. Gun-based gameplay is made even more interesting because you can supercharge your shots with elemental powers, which for instance lets you add a fire effect to your shots – something that can spread like wildfire when shot into a group of enemies. It’s fun to play around with, and can be applied to melee attacks as well.

dolmen3

These elemental powers come at a price though, and it’s that you need to have energy stored in your energy bar if you want to be able to use them. And that same energy is also what you need in order to heal yourself, so using it all on ammo is a risky move.

Using gunplay and elemental powers was our favorite part of the preview build, though not entirely on its own merits. Part of that was definitely that the melee combat needs some additional polish, with somewhat clunky controls and the occasionally awkward camera angle. I remember Demon’s Souls feeling a bit awkward at first as well, but that was just because I was more used to a Devil May Cry-like control scheme. Here, combat feels less dynamic and responsive, and I regularly found myself just hammering an attack button because I felt like coming up with a tactic of blocking/dodging and attacking just wasn’t worth it.

Audiovisually, it’s not quite there yet either. Camera angles can hide the action from you, especially in indoor scenes, and the environmental audio mix feels a tad unbalanced as well. There’s still plenty of time for Dolmen though, and for a game from a relatively small team it looks quite impressive. If they can make the experience a bit more polished in the months to come, this is going to be one to look out for if you’re a soulslike fan.

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