Dolmen is the perfect example of why developers shouldn’t just make a soulslike game because they think it will rake in millions and be a success just because it is a soulslike game. As an avid fan of the genre, and someone who is sitting with close to 150 hours in Elden Ring, I struggled to get even 150 minutes of game time into Dolmen before wanting to plough my eyes out. It is just that bad.
Dolmen not only looks rough around the edges but the general gameplay doesn’t work very well and every moment on screen felt generic and low-budget. Scattered across a number of levels, the general gameplay in Dolmen is linear as I trekked from one level to the next. Of course, like most soulslike games, Dolmen revolves around choosing a class at the start and hoping to have made the right decision.
I would try and explain the story in Dolmen but it isn’t a priority. I got trusted onto an alien planet and had to scrounge for resources while fighting off deadly creatures. I went with a ranger/melee hybrid class. I had an axe I could swing with one hand and my handgun used a sort of mana resource that refilled over time. Other classes have similar layouts whereas a primary weapon is the one you would use the most and the second one you juggle between depending on your stats.
When you die in Dolmen, you drop all your XP and currency and I had to get back to the spot of my death in order to pick it up again. If I died on the way there, I lost everything. Yeah, nothing majorly new here. However, Dolmen has also been designed to kill you in the worst ways possible. While games like Dark Souls and Elden Ring carefully place enemies and environmental hazards around to work against you, Dolmen isn’t that smart. Instead, areas just pumped up the enemy count and they all swarm you ready to kill you. Fall damage is also relentless. Falling from a two-meter platform would take a massive chunk of my health leaving me grasping to life.
Some enemies feel like they have been placed in a spot just so I ran up to them only to be attacked from behind by another lurking enemy above. It happens way too often and feels cheap and uninspired after a while. We get it, Dark Souls did it and did it well. This is now a crime.
Dolmen relies heavily on its energy system. The game’s energy depletes when shooting and using ranged weapons is definitely the after option here. It also doesn’t help that even the smallest of enemies mostly always act as a lure to a larger pack or bigger one. Every encounter resulted in an empty energy bar so I could not heal (yes, healing also takes energy) or shoot. I could refill my energy using a battery but healing is so damn slow and cumbersome. I could also get hit out of the animation so it often failed in group fights. So I ran charging with a melee weapon and my odds of surviving the clunky close-combat encounter were very low.
It is almost like the devs at Massive Work Studios sat down one day and said “what makes a soulslike game good? We can just copy that and pump the challenge to the extreme”. Sadly, this resulted in a generic game with very little going for it. You can’t make a soulslike game and cram as many gameplay hallmarks into it and then copy them all across a mediocre experience that feels unfinished and generic.
Dolmen also has a weapon issue. I was able to collect resources dropped by enemies to make new weapon upgrades but after a while, enemies packed elemental resistance. This forced me to try and invest in every possible type out there having almost no access to resources. I could go back and grind but how much torture do I need to have here?
Dolmen had some potential to be a decent sci-fi horror but in the end, it was just cheap. I can forgive a game for having clunky animations and rough-looking menus. But Dolmen just felt like an attempt to make something for a profit. There’s no real uniqueness here on offer at all. The three biomes across the game are definitely nice to look at and the boss fights were challenging but the linear worlds and copy-and-paste gameplay and enemy placements feel horrible.
This Dolmen review is based on a PS5 code sent to us by Koch Media. The game is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC starting at R760.
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Story - 6.5/10
Gameplay - 6/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 6.5/10
Dolmen had the potential to be a B-grade soulslike Dead Space horror game but instead feels boring, generic and uninspired by its clunky gameplay mechanics.
Thee biomes are cool to explore