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Dolmen Hands-on Preview

Dolmen is a Lovecraftian-inspired Soulsborne space horror action RPG being crafted for release in 2022. Thankfully our Brazilian friends over at Massive Work Studio sent over a preview build so we can check it out now. Come along with us on a spider smashing romp in our Dolmen preview!

Dolmen
Developer: Massive Work Studio
Publisher: Prime Matter

Platform: Windows PC (Previewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X
Release Date: 2022
Players: 1 (but featuring up to 4 player Boss Fights)
Price: Not yet announced

Dolmen borrows quite a bit from the things that came before it. It borrows the wtf-happened-here alone-in-Space aspect of Dead Space on the planet of Revion Prime, while obviously incorporating Soulsborme mechanics such as earning Nanites (souls, currency) from kills while having to return to your body to retrieve them if you die. I’d actually say that Dolmen reminds me a lot more of Cradle Games’ sleeper indie Hellpoint than some of the other games it’ll easily draw comparison to.

What exactly is Dolmen, you ask? Dolmen is a crystal that contains the power to weave together the fabrics of realities. Your task is to land on Revion Prime, find out what happened, and collect as much Dolmen as you can.

The biggest thing that sets Dolmen apart from other Souls-like games such as The Surge 2 is the expendable energy mechanic. You’ll use your energy to fire shots from your gun or use elemental heavy attacks that shoot waves from your melee weapons while in an active ‘energy mode’. This ‘energy mode’ makes your suit glow with whatever elemental core you’ve got equipped.

In our Dolmen preview build, we were given access to Fire, Ice, and Acid cores. Energy mode makes your suit flicker with dancing flames while you’ve got the fire core equipped – you’ll glow bright green and leave behind toxic fumes while equipped with acid, and ice simply shows your character visibly chilled and covered with frost and ice crystals. It’s a very nice visual touch which makes it extremely obvious when you’re using this powered up mode.

Energy is expended while firing your ranged guns or using your elemental powers, but the energy slowly regenerates over time, allowing you to kite as needed or power up to make short work of stronger enemies who might need whittled down by their elemental weaknesses. Spiders were far more susceptible to flame attacks while humans enemies ticked down quickly when poisoned. Each of these elements also grant a debuff, so ice makes you move 20% slower, while fire decreases your defense by 20%, and acid does both but only decreases the stats by half.

As you fight, your energy doubles as your healing source, so you have to choose – do you heal to top off your health at the cost of only having 75% of your energy bar left, or do you save your energy and only heal when you’re mere moments from death? This makes the gameplay in Dolmen feel familiar but surprisingly unique at the same time.

Moving through the areas available in this short Dolmen preview build, you start out in an area that looks like a mining station with large corpses strewn about that also serve as traversal points to get from where you load in until you find a teleporter that takes you back to your ship. Once on your ship, you can spend your Nanites to level up your attributes in typical Soulsborne fashion, or you can use the pieces you’ve collected from murdered enemies or broken boxes to craft yourself better gear.

Once you depart the ship, you’ll make your way into the industrial complex and eventually into an area where you’ll fight the first boss who’s guaranteed to trigger your sense of arachnophobia. A giant spider queen who has pods around her arena, and she’ll summon them all while consistently lobbing acid balls at you and lunging at you with unblockable sweeping attacks. Once she’s defeated, you’ll move into a new area which puts you on the surface, and you’ll encounter much more difficult enemies that include snipers and dudes with swords that bumrush you with extreme speed and precision, often knocking you down before you even have time to react.

While you’re already dealing with foes that are far more formidable, your path to the next area is occasionally blocked by drilling lasers that light up the pathways with instant kill death rays that will melt your face off faster than a molly at Tomorrowland. If you survive, you’ll be challenged to a duel by a dude who dual-wields fire and ice sabers, that would make the Dancer of Boreal Valley jealous.

This is where my path ended as I was unable to best this dude, but I’m already looking forward to checking out the full game once it’s released next year. If you enjoy quirky little Soulsborne titles, Dolmen is going to be right up your alley.

Dolmen was previewed on Steam with a key provided by Massive Work Studio.

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