Dolmen Review – Soulsborne wannabe is well short

Dolmen is a game that would like to be mentioned in the same breath as games like Dark Souls and Elden Ring, but the quality to justify that comparison is lacking. The setting is nice, but not elaborated enough. The game looks outdated, especially if the user interface is taken into account. The design of the world too often looks generic and therefore quickly becomes boring. The movements look wooden and optimal timing is sometimes made impossible by weird delays in the gameplay. Even with all these criticisms, we still had some nice moments with Dolmen, which also has some nice ideas in the gameplay, but it should be clear that the game in general just falls short. Dolmen was made by a small development studio in Brazil, which makes the comparison with FromSoftware’s games remarkable and perhaps even undesirable. Even without that comparison, Dolmen was not a good game, but now the game contrasts sharply with the successful games from FromSoftware. This could have been avoided if only a few fewer elements had been copied one-on-one.

Just kicking in an open door: Elden Ring is one of the games of this year. Of course, games that appear now and look a lot like Elden Ring have been in development for some time, but it’s no surprise that various parties are trying to get a piece of the FromSoftware success. What would be surprising is if one of those games could approach the level of the Soulsborne games, but for now that seems to be asking too much. Unfortunately Dolmen, from the small Brazilian Massive Work Studio, is no exception. The game copies some elements of the Soulsborne games almost one-on-one, but unfortunately that doesn’t automatically lead to an equally good game.

You can of course also ask yourself whether it is smart for a small studio to want to place a game emphatically next to Elden Ring. On the one hand you have a large production, made by a team with years of experience and a series of very positively reviewed games to its name, and on the other hand you have a small studio founded in 2016 that created its first major game with Dolmen. brings to the market. Perhaps it is not smart to immediately compare yourself with such a renowned title. While of course we look at each game as a separate product, it’s impossible not to put Dolmen next to Elden Ring, with Dolmen lagging far behind in almost every area. It gives the game an extra disadvantage, which should not have been the case if the comparison with the Soulsborne games had not been so emphatically sought.

Horror Sci-Fi

In any case, the setting is different. Dolmen has a horror-sci-fi setting, where the player must discover the planet Revion Prime. A certain disaster has happened on that planet where all kinds of monstrous creatures have taken possession of the planet. It’s up to you to investigate exactly what happened. You also have to collect so-called Dolmen crystals, because of their unique properties. What they mean, you will of course only find out along the way. The road to answers to your questions is complicated by all sorts of enemies trying to thwart you. Just like in the Soulslike games it is expected that you will die regularly and just like in those games you will lose your experience points at that point, which will remain where you died so that you can pick them up again,

The funny thing is that you don’t actually die in person during this mission. The main character runs simulations from his ship, to find out what the optimal route through the environments is. This is a plot technical explanation for how you can keep respawning indefinitely, but in practice you don’t really notice it. This knowledge makes sure you understand what happens when you die and the game says ‘Timeline Erased’: it’s a message indicating that the simulation has failed and a new one needs to be started.

If you think about the setting for a while, the similarities with the Soulsborne games immediately become clear. That starts with choosing a specific character, where you have melee options and options that are more focused on distance fighting. This includes basic properties that have a certain effect. For example, a character who specializes in sword fighting will have a higher value for Strength, while a Sharpshooter will benefit much more from a high score for Energy. The firearms in Dolmen use energy to shoot, so if that’s your specialty, it’s useful to have a hefty energy bar. In addition to the energy bar, players also have a life bar and a bar that shows how much stamina you have left.

Manage Energy

The functioning of the energy bar is still quite interesting. Not only can you use energy to fire weapons, but you can also convert energy into a boost for your life bar. In addition, you can also activate a special Energy Mode, which allows your melee weapons to deal extra damage to enemies. However, this mode also consumes energy, so you can’t use it indefinitely and sometimes have to consider whether you want to use your energy for that or save it for your weapons or your life bar. Fortunately, you can top up your energy supply a number of times, but there is also a limit. It is therefore important to learn and master a fighting style, so that you can also handle your energy well.

This brings us to Dolmen’s problem areas. The Soulsborne games are not simply a collection of gameplay features that make up a good game. Each of those gameplay features is top-notch in its own right. That is certainly not the case with Dolmen. Games like Elden Ring are praised for how responsive the gameplay is and how well you can time attacks as a result, but Dolmen is pretty bad in this area. For example, all movements in the game, both from yourself and from enemies, look much too static, so that there is no question of a dynamic-looking game. In addition, there is sometimes some delay in the actions you want to perform. That is a strong point in the games that Dolmen would like to be compared to, but in Dolmen it is a handicap. It makes the fighting lose its appeal pretty quickly.

Another feature that is praised in FromSoftware’s games is the way their worlds are converted. We’re talking about the graphic quality, but also about how original the world is, how ingeniously pieces of the world are connected together and how the world seems to play its own role in the background of the story. Dolmen doesn’t really do any of these parts well. The game looks outdated, but thanks to some effects, it still manages to be quite fun every now and then. However, that doesn’t hide the fact that the world comes across as boring and repetitive. Every now and then there is a nice piece in between, but in between you walk through all kinds of narrow corridors, to often encounter the same enemies. And the story? That remains completely in the background. If you read the different data pads you come across,

In further implementation Dolmen scores even more negative points. For example, the user interface is far from ideal and you have absolutely no overview of what kind of crafting stuff you have and what you could make with it. The game also gives little context, so making new weapons or stuff for your equipment is often a matter of guessing. In addition, the same weapon scalings that you know from the Soulsborne games apply. For example, a sword can give a bonus based on your Strength value. In addition, the game makes it clear enough that parts of your armor belong to a certain category, with a corresponding color. The more items of the same color you have, the more perks you unlock in the suit that corresponds to that color: at least that’s obvious.

Beat bosses multiple times

Doesn’t Dolmen do anything right at all? Well, yes. We can’t deny that we liked the combination of shooting and melee combat, even if the execution isn’t great. In addition, the difficulty level is generally good. That is to say: we had the idea that Dolmen is slightly more forgiving than Elden Ring. In addition, Dolmen has a nice system for beating bosses. When you defeat a boss, you can make it respawn by paying a certain number of Dolmen crystals. Every time you defeat a boss, it drops a valuable resource that you need for a boss weapon. To make that weapon, you must have defeated a boss at least three times. That’s also possible in multiplayer: Dolmen can’t be played completely in co-op, but you can enlist the help of another player for boss fights to make the fight a little easier.

Conclusion

You can finish Dolmen in ten to fifteen hours. That is also a big difference with the immense Elden Ring. On the other hand, the game will cost you four bucks instead of the full blow, but even at that price point, we doubt whether you really make a nice purchase with Dolmen. Still, it feels a bit double to crack down on Dolmen hard. On the one hand, it is justified, because the game wants to let itself be compared to the Soulsborne games and does not survive that comparison at any point. On the other hand, it’s a bit unfair, because a relatively small studio should not be considered capable of surpassing Elden Ring. However, the similarities cannot be denied, so we mainly remember that Dolmen contains many tried-and-tested elements from the Soulsborne games, but a lot less well-developed.

Pros

  • Oppressive setting
  • manage energy
  • Allow bosses to respawn

Cons

  • Looks outdated
  • Woody animations
  • Doesn’t feel very responsive
  • Messy inventory and crafting system
  • Generic level design