Dolmen Review Pc

Let me preface this Dolmen review by saying how much I love Souls-like games. They have an air of mystery, all the while presenting opportunities to tackle insurmountable challenges. More often than not, you’d roam around interconnected levels in search of a new discovery. You’d come up with builds, both broken and silly, as you feel the pulse-pounding intensity of combat.

Sadly, Dolmen, which is set to release tomorrow, falters in almost every respect. And it might just be one of the most disappointing games I’ve played this year.

 

From the get-go

Dolmen takes place on a planet called Revlon Prime. No, the colonists here aren’t looking for hair products. Rather, they’re in search of strange crystals known as “Dolmen” that can act as a bridge between alternate realities. As Revlon Prime is slowly overrun by alien creatures and malevolent entities, it’s up to you to ascertain what happened.

That’s the gist of Dolmen‘s plot, with a few notes and dialogue revealing more down the line. To be fair, this is mostly your typical B-movie narrative, as opposed to cryptic-yet-mystifying tropes.

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The first problem in the game can already be seen as you create a character. In typical action RPG fashion, you select a class with preset stats, including a Recruit that starts at level 1. In my case, I picked a Tanker to specialize in high Strength and HP.

I had wondered why there were only three classes, only to find out that a couple ⁠— the Bounty Hunter and the Sharpshooter ⁠— wouldn’t appear unless you cycled through all the options twice. Yes, there was already a mishap during class selection, and things went downhill from there.

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Linear level design and exploration without incentives

Dolmen, obviously, doesn’t have a massive, open-world environment like Elden Ring. In a way, given the sci-fi theme, it’s more akin to 2020’s Hellpoint. The difference is that Hellpoint‘s levels still felt interconnected, and there were secrets to discover if you’re patient enough to look for them.

Dolmen‘s level design, unfortunately, is mostly linear. True, there are hallways and caverns that loop around to previously visited areas, but the whole design seems like one samey-looking corridor after another, interspersed with larger rooms here and there. At best, you’ll notice the Souls-like concept of dropping all your nanites (i.e., currency/XP) if you die. You can return to that spot to pick up what you lost, but dying again along the way means losing it for good.

Worse, thorough exploration isn’t fully incentivized. While you may spot an NPC that gives you a weapon blueprint, checking every nook and cranny mostly leads to item components/upgrade materials (more on these later). Lest I forget, there’s also no map to speak of. Visuals, too, hardly wowed me, as the graphics are reminiscent of the early 2010s era.

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Clunky combat

A key factor in Souls-like games is the challenging and satisfying combat. If presented correctly, you can expect non-stop thrills as you mow down enemies, the impactful swings and crunches of weapons, the soul-crushing pain of defeat, and the joy of triumph once you’ve succeeded.

Dolmen, sadly, doesn’t offer those. The animations are clunky and stiff, attacks barely have weight, and the parry system is terrible. Enemy mobs lack variety, what with the usual humanoid troopers and alien bugs. They do have a “tell” — a flashing red icon that means an attack can only be dodged. The rest, however, could be blocked, but something odd was going on. There were instances when I’d test the timing for a perfect parry, only to realize that it wasn’t working. I can’t tell if it was due to the animations, input delay, or if parries don’t trigger for that type of attack.

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Even then, a perfect parry only pushes back an opponent ever so slightly. There’s no riposte to counter with for that massive critical hit and extra invincibility frames. Since most foes can recover quickly, the mechanic is next to useless in several situations.

Another tidbit related to combat is the use of Reactors. These come in three elemental types: fire, cold, and acid. By spending energy, your attacks are imbued with elemental damage. Regrettably, this needs a balance tweak since your energy meter gets fully depleted after only a few swings. Additionally, the status or damage-over-time (DOT) build-up is measly, whereas enemies can afflict you with a full-on status effect in a couple of hits.

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Energy for shooting and hilarious healing

Speaking of your energy meter, that, too, is used when firing with your ranged weapon. But, again, your meter gets quickly depleted. It really was a bummer to pick the Tanker (i.e., Strength-focused) build.

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Dolmen‘s take on healing is also tied to your energy meter. To be clear, healing is fairly rapid, as a single press of a key does that. However, if you’re low on energy and you can’t risk getting into the thick of the fray, then your only recourse is to use a battery item.

Now, here’s the kicker: using a battery causes your character to become immobilized for three seconds. No running, walking, or dodging ⁠— you’re stuck in place until the action is completed. Considering that most bosses have faster lunge attacks that will either drop a chunk of your HP, outright kill you, or cancel the battery charge time, I’m genuinely surprised how this made it out of the playtesting stage as is.

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Boss farming

As for the bosses, perhaps these encounters are the only bright spots in Dolmen. While none of your foes are as memorable as, say, Ornstein and Smough, or Malenia, Blade of Miquella, they still offer a breath of fresh air from your usual trudge through various levels.

Some bosses in Dolmen, like Dementula and its “corrupted” variant, are pushovers, whereas others like Queen Caniptei rely on you to notice tells and patterns on the arena floor (though it does have cheap, insta-kill attacks). The encounter against Lobodja, meanwhile, is a straight-up melee bout where you need to perfectly time your dodges. Then, there’s the Ancient Twins fight, where the first phase has you kiting your target so he gets stunned by orbs and the second phase is a pure shooter owing to your opponent’s abilities.

Moreover, bosses can also be respawned and farmed by spending Dolmen Crystals. Why do this? That’s because you have to beat the same boss three times just to obtain all the materials necessary to craft their unique weapon.

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Cumbersome crafting and tacked on techs

That brings us to Dolmen‘s crafting system, which is both over-simplified yet unbearably bland. Simply put, you collect materials from containers and enemy drops. Once you have what you need, you can create the melee weapons, ranged weapons, shields, or armor pieces, along with relevant mods. But, if you wish to upgrade the gear piece, all mods are lost and you have to farm those resources again. Dismantling is out of the question, as you merely get nanites.

Technology (i.e., passive perks) is somewhat tacked on as well. Rather than having a separate progression, the perks merely become active depending on the types of gear that you have equipped. If you want something that benefits healing or resistances, then you need a specific armor set or weapon that coincides with that kind of tech.

Dolmen Review Pc 2b

A soulless Souls-like

Souls-like games are a dime a dozen nowadays. We’ve seen how FromSoftware’s creation spawned a following, culminating in the massive success that is Elden Ring. Other studios, meanwhile, tried to capitalize on the formula, while offering their own twists (i.e., The Surge, Nioh, Hellpoint, and Mortal Shell). And, of course, those themes and concepts were also merged with the Metroidvania sub-genre (i.e., Ender Lilies, Grime, and the recently released Salt and Sacrifice).

Through the good and bad, there was always something that urged players to continue, ⁠whether it was to defeat a gargantuan foe or to discover that last secret. Dolmen is extremely lackluster in these aspects. It would’ve found a place in the days of Shadow Man and Legacy of Kain. However, at this point, it’s merely a clunky and forgettable action game with Souls-like mechanics thrown in for good measure. Last, but not least, Dolmen does have a multiplayer system. After all the tedium from a regular run, I didn’t bother to try it.

Dolmen Review Pc 2c

Dolmen

4

Clunky combat, boring progression, threadbare plot, unrewarding exploration, and a laughably bad healing mechanic. All of these lead to a soulless Souls-like that is Dolmen.

Jason Rodriguez
Jason Rodriguez writes for various websites under the Enthusiast Gaming umbrella -- Destructoid, Flixist, Daily Esports, PlayStation Enthusiast, and PC Invasion. Jason's Steam library has 1,400+ games at the moment so he definitely has a lot of things to talk about. He's also one of only five games journalists from the Philippines. Just kidding. There are definitely more around, but he doesn't know anyone. Mabuhay!

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