The very young studio Massive Work brings a very ambitious Souls-like, Dolmen in front of the studio stage. Probably a bit too ambitious, since the title burns its wings because it wants to relax the sun.
Massive Work Studio is a new development studio of Brazilian descent built in 2016. After passing a first small title in the shadows, the studio went straight to something heavier and more ambitious with Dolmen. Like Souls performing in a future universe in space, the title resembles a real super-production, a Ubisoft or Microsoft less.
You may have noticed that the current fashion is like Souls. This genre, whose gameplay and battle mechanics are heavily inspired, has become very popular lately, especially with the Alden Ring. Only minor disadvantages: With the exception of Sekiro, everything happens in the fantasy universe. Dolmen is light years away from such an environment. In this title we go to the stars and the moon mines whose universe is basically inspired by a certain dead place.
And for good reason, Dolmen’s scenario, though very anecdotal during the adventure, seems to be very inspired by the famous space adventure game. Under this heading, you are sent to an alien mining station called Revlon Prime, aimed at retrieving a rare and super-tempting crystal, a piece of dolmen. The crystals of this crystal have “interdimensional properties” which allow them to revolutionize space exploration alone. Suffice it to say that everyone breaks this stone, and you dive right into the middle of this intergalactic struggle. Clearly, the story has something to dream about. It is also magnified by a magnificent artistic direction that immerses us in a highly successful universe, especially inspired by the Dead Space Saga. If we can’t find the survival horror aspect of the Electronic Arts series, the adventurous aspect of space in the shallow part of a mining moon really shakes us, just like the construction of layers.
Throughout the adventure, however, the scene has slipped under our noses and seems completely unnoticed. If we have the rights to a few cutscenes from time to time, then the scriptwriters of the title have not adequately exploited this very fascinating universe we serve. In fact, as we wander through the levels, we encounter many bad guys who stand in our way and return to our ship a few times to improve our soldiers or improve their equipment.
As mentioned above, Dolmen is pure soul-like. Everything in its gameplay, or almost, brings us back to the titles developed by From Software, so much so that comparisons with Alden Ring, Demons Souls, and other Bloodborne are inevitable. The interface is the same, the gameplay mechanics are literally copied and the difficulty is just as important.
Indeed, playing Dolmen, it really felt like touching a monster’s soul. To slow down the attack, we can avoid enemy attacks with a roll and our daring measure of endurance, magic and life conditions. Gameplay elements that have proven themselves and it will probably split players because it is a certain kind of game. But what further confuses us is how dated the title seems and shows more on the PS3 than the 2009 remake of the 2009 Demon’s Souls on the PS5.
First from a visual perspective (we’ll get back to that), but and above all from a playability perspective. Fights are extremely heavy and unintuitive. If you press the attack key three times with a heavy weapon, the three attacks will be chained together and you will not be able to do or adjust anything. Enemies are also rather fast, where your soldiers are very slow and really heavy, which doesn’t really make it easy. Boss fights are rather tedious, attacks do not always match the enemy’s movements. Even jumping to reach a few centimeters high is impossible when it may seem so easy.
However, reading these few lines you might think that Dolmen is just a grandfather for which you have to demand a quick return. Rest assured, we are still far from it, especially since the game is full of good intentions. On the one hand, at the level of its universe, as indicated above, but also in its gameplay. All weapons and armor can be upgraded with many materials and accessories available across all levels. It is also possible to change weapons with the power of fire, acid or even ice by radically changing the gameplay. The character progresses and improves throughout the whole adventure, thanks to which, above all, to return to the ship where resources are expended to gain more energy.
Finally, the shooting stages, in contrast to the blows, are rather successful, a charged attack and a quick attack that inflicts damage and fines on the enemy. Lastly, you need to carefully choose the weapon you will use, be it two-handed or one-handed, at the risk of suffering from it throughout your game. Since death is punishable, it is not to be taken lightly.
Content level, if the tools available are rather numerous and possibly creating, we’re sorry that the title didn’t close very quickly. Allow about ten hours to complete the game in a straight line and almost double to complete it 100%. This is comparatively little for a title that sells for 40, where a FromSoftware title lasts about thirty hours.
We were telling you that Dolmen looked like the 2009 Demon’s Souls, that’s clearly not the way to talk and again, we’re beautiful. The textures of the walls are very thick and take a long time to load (even in quality mode), the animations are ultra-dated and slow, and the effects of weapons and other environmental elements are severely unrefined. Catsins are worse and obviously don’t make us think we’re playing a game on the next generation console. In fact, we’ve got the impression of playing a port of a PS3 game on the PS5 since the late 2000’s.
Despite having some good ideas, Dolmen misses the mark. This Souls-like Demon’s Souls, inspired by Dark Souls and other Bloodbourns (a little more), but with gameplay that is very much up to date and very slightly thematic. The interface has been copied and pasted from Souls, but it’s too messy and makes no sense to illuminate the average player. The attacks are heavy and the character is very slow. One of the rare elements of a successful and even more nervous gameplay is the good mention of gunfights. The atmosphere and artistic direction inspired by Dead Space has hit the mark, but the graphics, which can enliven the environment, are also much more ugly and now from a bygone era. The same goes for scripts, which could have been used more efficiently, but the screenwriters quickly moved into the background. Some good ideas come, fortunately, to sort out the dolmen. Character progression methods or craftsmanship of weapons and equipment are the two main components. We feel that the character really improves over time, which is rather practical, sometimes inconsistent, to face the forces of certain enemies. Finally, we regret that Dolmen completes in only ten hours, which does not take into account its price. If it had been published 15 years ago, Dolmen would have identified the players. In 2022, it’s hard to be surprised.
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La Dead Space in a beautiful universe
More successful shooting stage
An interesting craft system
We prefer less:
Just ten hours of play
Really date graphics
Very heavy and slow gameplay
A confusing interface
A scenario that quickly fades into the background