It’s a fact, the era is one of difficult adventures, productions that challenge players and journeys that put nerves to compote. Hostile dungeons, labyrinths to break the medulla, bosses as sticky as darons after a trip a little hectic in a club… you have to believe that the average player likes to suffer! Never have Metroidvania and Souls-style journeys been so numerous and the developers have understood the message. This time, it’s the Brazilian studio Massive Work that sticks to it and tries, with Dolmen, to dust off a genre that is starting to go around in circles. With its sci-fi storyline and claustrophobic atmosphere, it has an interesting approach going for it. But to want to copy without control, it is at the risk of taking a menhir blow.
Dolmen is not there to dazzle us with a stunning script, with great blows of reversals of situation. His thing to him is rather the gameplay and jousts against creatures ready to do anything to defeat the poor fellow that you are. Mandated to investigate paranormal events taking place on the mining planet Revion Prime, you discover that it is in the grip of an invasion of extraterrestrials made possible by the emergence of interdimensional portals and strange crystals. And that’s about it. The plot will then materialize in the form of documents and consoles to be activated on the right and left. A bias like any other, but do not expect a highly scripted adventure, despite a lore that is not uninteresting.
The soul of Souls in a sci-fi universe
We will therefore quickly go over the plot to focus on what is the basis of Dolmen: its game mechanics. If you are used to the philosophy of Souls, you will not be surprised by the choices of the team from the Brazilian city of Native. By taking up the codes of the genre souls like, the title is not there to upset a well-established formula. Endurance, enemies to target (the famous lock system), light attacks, powerful blows, dodging, blocking… we are on familiar ground! The set is rather dynamic, it doesn’t move too badly and there are some interesting ideas in the bestiary. Now, if Dolmen manages to resonate with fans of the genre, it will also and above all for its atmosphere which comes out of the chivalrous side of the Souls. The software indeed takes the contours of a demanding adventure in a Dead Space universe. Its recurring absence of music, its creepy atmosphere, its gloomy sound effects… Dolmen reminds the player that he is the only one who can extricate himself from this alien slump. Unfortunately, its generic side emerges quickly, especially since the hero is annoyingly slow!
From Software carved in stone
Here, there is no question of camping in a corner to take out your sniper (some have the ref?). Dolmen gives pride of place to melee clashes and the player has no other choice, during heavy attacks, than to wait for the end of the animation to relaunch an offensive. This simple movement is abysmally slow and there is no way to counter its opponent, so you end up limiting yourself to faster – but less powerful – blows. In fact, the game records the actions (the inputs in technical language) and it constantly happens, without being careful, that the corresponding button is pressed several times. Result, without you being able to do anything, the attacks are launched and Dolmen sometimes gives the impression of not controlling anything – or almost. This feeling, unpleasant as possible, causes the interest to suffer. Fortunately for her, the work of Massive Work Studio also offers phases of shooting from a distance. Guns are tied to the blue color energy bar. The originality of this feature lies in the fact that this same gauge allows you to heal yourself. Indeed, with a weapon, the bar unloads then rises little by little. Conversely, if you are in bad shape and you choose to regenerate your health, the gauge will be eaten away! You must therefore constantly oscillate between taking out the big pop-guns (among the 25 available) or revitalizing yourself with care shots. If we add the abilities of the bestiary, forcing the player to crafter its arsenal and equipment, and the fairly immersive SF universe, Dolmen comes out of it above all thanks to its atmosphere.
Like a feeling of deja vu?
Out of there, we must recognize that Dolmen struggles to surprise. The proposal is not unpleasant, but it’s like everything: when a genre is wrung out, you immediately become more demanding. During our journey, we had to fight against this slowness in the animations, but also to face problems of collisions and poorly adjusted camera. The title is still difficult, sometimes very punitive, and all this accumulation (to want to favor light attacks to gain speed) means that we constantly oscillate between pleasure and frustration. In the end, the impression that slumbers in us is the sensation of a poorly finished work, no doubt rushed at the end of development. In such a title, the balance must be optimal and Dolmen clearly fishes in this area.
- The energy gauge for weapons and health
- Interesting Dead Space universe
- A sometimes surprising bestiary
- A fairly complete arsenal
- A bit too generic visually
- A balance to review
- The slowness of some animations
- A strong impression of deja vu
- Obvious collision problems
- The annoying ill-fitting camera
Despite all the sympathy that we can feel for Dolmen, the perfectible experience leaves us with a cost of incompleteness. Advocating the farming excessively (we face bosses and enemies again and again to improve our equipment) and a very classic approach to the genre, the title of Massive Work suffers from a gameplay that is a little too rigid and slow. If the adventure does not lack interesting initiatives, such as the gauge which impacts health like firearms, the game struggles to fully embark. The atmosphere at Dead Space is well rendered, but the whole remains too generic and we end up fighting against collisions and the camera to get rid of a very high difficulty. With an update to energize the fights, we can hope for a more immersive journey, but as it stands, Dolmen does not have the kidneys as solid as the tenors from which they are inspired.
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