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Hands-On with Dolmen, an upcoming action-rpg soulslike

Dolmen from development studio Massive Work Studio and publisher Prime Matter is an upcoming action role-playing game that we got to spend some hands-on time with. T

he game is still in development but we were allowed early access to a rough around the edges preview build. So is Dolmen worth keeping an eye on while the devs tinker away?

We believe it has potential and here’s why.

In Dolmen, players will take on the role of a fairly standard voiced protagonist. The character creator is extremely light on customisation. You can select your gender, your armour colour and your “Loadout” which vaguely refers to your attributes and weapons.

If you’ve played any “Soulslike” games before, you’ll know what to expect here albeit with some slight caveats while we’ll get to shortly.

Dolmen Screenshot (1)

Dolmen thrusts you into the shoes of a protagonist guided by a Zoan Corporation A.I referred to as “Control”.

In the game world, mankind has colonised several planets and private corporations compete with each other for both military and technological advantages. “Drillers”, genetically modified humans from the Zoan Corporation have been assigned to Revion Prime in search of an incredibly powerful resource known as Dolmen.

Players will discover a fragment of Dolmen within the first few minutes of the game and will learn that the titular resource has the ability to warp space itself and allow interactions between different universes and dimensions.

The playable protagonist is dragged into the picture because of a catastrophic event that has taken place on Revion Prime and as with most action RPGs, it’s up to you to save the day while recovering Dolmen crystals in the process.

Dolmen Screenshot (4)

The storytelling in Dolmen is done primarily by means of cutscenes which play out at key moments or before boss encounters. There are also numerous text logs scattered throughout the game world which further expand on the game’s lore.

When it comes to the actual gameplay, Dolmen borrows heavily from the souls genre of games with numerous key gameplay mechanics being in place.

A severely limiting stamina meter? Check. “Beacons” which serve as a safe haven (Think Dark Souls bonfires) ? Check. A limited number of healing items ? Check. The need to actually have patience and block/dodge attacks ? Check. It’s a futuristic, sci-fi soulslike and it’s not shy about this at all.

Dolmen Screenshot (13)

With all that said, that’s not a bad thing at all if you’re a fan of the genre. One thing that did stick out like a sore thumb though was the game’s aiming sensitivity. With the default setting in place, chances are you might end up vomiting or suffering from nausea since the camera will swing wildly with this setting.

Lowering the aiming sensitivity immediately made a huge difference to the game and we’re hoping this is addressed in the final build.

Dolmen Screenshot (12)

Dolmen’s major difference to the soulslike formula is the introduction of an “Energy” bar. Using energy, you can heal yourself or you can trigger an “Energy Mode” in which you effectively become a whole heck of a lot stronger.

This is incredibly fun in game since it makes it easier to deal with enemies when you can simply imbue yourself with energy and shred enemies to pieces. Unfortunately though, players will still need to have patience and cannot button bash their way to victory here.

You absolutely have to block, dodge and parry when fighting enemies otherwise you risk losing massive chunks of health to their attacks.

Dolmen Screenshot (11)

Dolmen’s upgrade system seems quite hefty too with 3 defined pathways for upgrades being accessible in the preview build. Human, Revian and Driller each offer specific perks which will alter the way you play your character.

Players can use ranged weaponry in Dolmen too and this involves firing guns which can be charged with elemental energy for more powerful blasts.

Dolmen Screenshot (14)

Dolmen offers a total of 76 unique pieces of armour in total and players are encouraged to equip sets for the bonuses they impart. There’s also quite a lot of weapon variation with axes, swords, clubs, gauntlets, pistols, rifles and shotguns.

Finding the right weapon build will be something players can look forward to in Dolmen’s final release.

Dolmen Screenshot (9)

Graphically, Dolmen is built with Unreal Engine and as such, it looks ridiculously good. The playable character’s suit as well and the environment and enemies looks fantastic and while the preview build only showed off a tiny tidbit of the game, we’re expecting the final version to be filled with far more eye-candy.

Dolmen Screenshot (10)

Ultimately, after spending some time with Dolmen, what we have here is a competent soulslike game with a futuristic sci-fi setting that nails all the basics.

There’s a bit of added complexity in the form of the upgrade system and the mixture of ranged and melee energy attacks but it remains to be seen if this will work out well in the final release.

Dolmen has a lot of potential and the developers Massive Work Studio have a massive amount of work ahead of them to make this a success. If they focus on delivering a strong narrative interspersed with varied enough soulslike action they’ll have a hit title. A lot needs to be done to fine tune and balance the game’s difficulty and hopefully the multiplayer aspects on launch aren’t a let-down.

This is definitely a game you should have on your radar if you’re a fan of the soulslike genre.

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