Dark Souls is behind many of the design choices that have become commonplace in the wake of its success, and Dolmen is a game that embraces what the aforementioned series offered. We take on the role of a commander in a mechanised spacesuit investigating a distress call from the planet Revion Prime, where we are teleported there to help. Originally a mining colony that drills for crystals called Dolmen, these allow humanity to interact with different dimensions and can solve the problems of travelling great distances through space. All is not well however, and initially large insects have taken over the operation on the planet. Our task is to investigate what has happened and murder everything in our path.
To aid in the killing of insects and other dangers you encounter, you have axes, shields and swords. You can also make use of firearms that work a bit like bows and arrows and magic all rolled into one. Using melee weapons takes a toll on your stamina, which is represented by a green meter. If you fight or take cover, the meter is drained. There is also a blue meter representing energy, which is quickly drained when you fire at a enemy with your long-range weapons. You also have classic combat abilities like parrying, light and heavy attacks to be able to sprinkle in and use to your advantage. An intriguing little mechanic is that you can use energy for ranged weapons to gain more health, however, you have limited amount of vials to get energy, although you can acquire more by defeating bosses. Characters can also equip themselves with special abilities to make their journey easier. Dolmen also relies heavily on using elements like ice, fire, poison, and physical power. All of these are built into your/enemies' attacks, weaknesses and resilience in classic A-RPG fashion depending on the type of enemy and equipment you carry into the heat of battle.
Dolmen does everything we've come to expect from entertainment in the Soulslike sub-genre, but nothing more. You can replenish the various meters with items, create weapons using materials and resources, using a form of currency called Nanoites when you kill enemies, which itself can be used to upgrade your abilities as well. If you find items in the field, these can be used to build new weapons and armour, and should you die at the hands of some nasty enemy, you will be resurrected at specific save points and must find your body to get back the currency you have collected. The save points work similarly to those in Dark Souls 2 and 3, as you are able to use these machines to teleport to your spaceship for upgrades or to other save points around the world. You can also find fragments of Dolmen crystals that can be used to resurrect a boss from the dead to farm for currency. You can also use the fragments to bring in other players to help face the boss.
I noticed early on in my campaign that the freedom you are given is quite great. If you don't want to take a particular route, you can choose another. The upgrade system is limited only by the material you find in the world, and the same goes for your abilities, which can be upgraded however you want. You are not locked into a specific class although you have to choose one at the beginning. It works just like it does in Dark Souls. The problem is that the enemies can be much more difficult if you don't find a good route. Once I got to the bosses, I felt they were the highlights. You are offered a classic form of game design, where the key to defeating the bosses is to learn how the boss move and attack. One of the early bosses I fought was a massive spider. The size of the bosses is a bonus and in my opinion makes them far more intimidating, even though, in general, I find them a little easy and far easier to read than the ones you find in Dark Souls.
For those of you who love the genre, there's more of the same here. The difficulty level seemed a bit lower in the preview than you'll find in other similar games. I dare not take a position on whether it will be so in the final product. It's worth pointing out in this context that the version we got to play came with some advantages. Once we'd passed a boss, we were teleported to a new area and given brand new equipment to match the difficulty. If you were to sit down with this once it's released, the progression is your own. You'll then have to walk the entire distances between bosses and levels, and build all the equipment yourself except the one you start with or find. Once I took my final steps in Dolmen, I was pretty satisfied. It's clear to me that Soulslike games don't appeal to me that much, but I can admire this competent project that Massive Work Studio (from Brazil) has put together. It's great seeing more developers from South America releasing their games in Europe.
I come away from my time with Dolmen with the understanding that it's a capable and well-built Souls-inspired role-playing game with a science fiction theme. My experience is marked a bit by my lack of interest with the gameplay loop, as it faces a similar problem to other titles in the sub-genre, in that few developers dare to take the concept and develop it into something distinctive. I feel as satisfied with this as I do with the common regurgitated World War II games as of late. For those of you who love these games it is well implemented. However, I felt no drive to play further when I was done. If you love this form of gaming it might be worth keeping an eye out for Dolmen, but for others uninitiated in the genre, there are far better Soulslike experiences out on the market today.