PLATFORM: PC, PS4/5, XBOX ONE/SERIES (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Mixing Lovecraftian cosmic horror, Dead Space-style interplanetary sci-fi and... well, pretty much every conceivable game mechanic from Dark Souls, Dolmen appears to be quite an enticing prospect. Set on the hostile alien world of Revion Prime, your job is to collect Dolmen - crystals that allow universes from multiple timelines to interact with each other, in theory enabling humanity to revolutionise space exploration.
The majority of Dolmen's ideas, controls and combat are lifted straight from the Souls series, as is its difficulty, but it adds a couple of twists in an attempt to create something unique. Guns form a large part of your arsenal, a super-powered special ability enhances your attacks for a limited time, and a crafting system tasks players with creating elemental gear and weaponry that best suits their needs. Fire, ice and acid are effective against specific enemy types, so finding the most suitable weapon for any given situation is crucial. All the pieces might be in place for an enticing space-faring romp, but Dolmen doesn't quite seem to grasp the underlying principles that make the Souls games so enjoyable...
The actual combat itself is solid enough, but enemy movement is unpredictable and too fast to really read, making learning and countering their attack patterns almost impossible - a task made even more difficult by the visual effects that accompany your own attack animations, further obscuring your vision. Bosses soak up damage like there's no tomorrow and will often slap you down with a one-hit instakill out of nowhere, so encounters that should be fair and memorable feel cheap and frustrating. Its environments look nice on the whole but aren't the most thrilling to explore, and its version of bonfires / checkpoints force players to endure several loading screens while they teleport to a spaceship before your character can be upgraded. Throw in some very stiff and clunky movement, a stamina meter that drains far too quickly (and takes too long to recharge), and an over-reliance on a separate energy meter which governs far too many actions to be enjoyable to use, the game as a whole ends up feeling disjointed and unbalanced. Overall, some decent ideas but generally underwhelming execution makes this a difficult one to recommend to anyone other than the absolute most hardcore Souls fans.