You need only spend a few minutes with Dolmen, the upcoming sci-fi Soulslike from Massive Work Studio and Prime Matter, to get a taste of its nightmarish vision of the future. Monstrous, alien creatures stalk the halls of once pristine, futuristic structures. The walls and floors are lined with eggs, waiting to burst forth with more enemies. And then there’s you, a lone mercenary thrown into the middle of the nightmare.
It’s not an easygoing experience, between the tough combat with deadly creatures and the oppressive landscape you find yourself in, but it’s instantly engaging. As you slash and parry your way through the hordes of aliens in your path, you’ll be drawn in by the world itself and all its grotesque glory, slowly picking apart what happened to the world of Revion Prime.
It’ll take all your skill and wits to survive this deadly world, and it always helps to know a bit more about what you’re heading into before you get there. Luckily, we spoke to Massive Work’s CTO Gabriel Neves Ferreira to get the details on the influences behind Dolmen and the monsters you’ll be facing off against.
“We were drawn to this cosmic horror – that feeling that something is always lurking somewhere and can jump out and attack you,” explains Ferreira. This cosmic horror feeling is inspired by classic authors like H. P. Lovecraft, but also modern films such as Prometheus.
As for how the game actually plays, the team naturally took inspiration from Dark Souls and Bloodborne, but also drew from more sci-fi focused games. “We have a lot of games that inspired us, like Dead Space and Mass Effect, which are games that you don’t normally see mixed-and-matched with a Soulslike,” says Ferreira.
Indeed, Mass Effect is certainly a game you don’t see inspiring many horror-focused games, despite some of its more disturbing moments. But you do get the feeling of a sci-fi epic in Dolmen, not only in the spaceship that acts as your home base for levelling up and crafting equipment, which is full of gleaming chrome and futuristic machinery, but also in the structures you explore. Revion Prime’s mining facilities may have been overrun with organic, alien matter by the time your character has arrived, but the giant metal buildings are still there, complete with winding corridors where creatures are always lurking.
Don’t expect to be saving the galaxy in Dolmen, however. Your character is a mercenary tasked with going to Revion Prime to recover the titular Dolmen, a resource that can help shape reality itself, which has opened up many opportunities in space travel. “And just to be clear, you’re not the good guy, you’re not trying to save anyone from the invasion, you’re just there to recover the crystals and kill the creatures,” explains Ferreira.
Those creatures aren’t easy to take down, either. Even the smaller, arachnid-like aliens you encounter upon first setting foot on Revion Prime can take you down in just a few swipes if you’re not careful. Then there’s humanoid creatures that can fire devastating blasts of energy at you, and all manner of mutated lifeforms with tentacles aplenty who would love nothing more than to tear you limb from limb.
“My advice for taking on each and every enemy would be to play strategically,” says Ferreira. “Watch the movements of the enemies, be careful, take your time, and use the elements you have to your advantage.”
These elements are part of Dolmen’s deep combat system, which allows you to switch between melee and ranged attacks on the fly, and has you managing both a stamina and energy bar depending on the actions you want to use. Ranged attacks, and attacks through the melee combat’s Energy Mode, allow you to hit enemies with different elements – fire, ice, and acid – which can help slow down and deal damage to your enemies depending on your chosen element.
This approach to combat was aided in large part by the sci-fi setting, which allowed Massive Work to experiment with some weird and wonderful combat concepts that a fantasy setting simply wouldn’t have offered. “We could go wild with the range of weapons, ranging from lasers, shotgun/grenade launchers, a really cool weapon that I like,” says Ferreira. “But also for the skills and traits we have, like bubble shields that can reflect bullets, and that’s really useful when you’re not so good at ranged combat.”
And though there is a tutorial to teach you the basics of surviving the deadly combat, Ferreira does have a smart suggestion to make your life a little easier – staggering them. “So let’s say that your light attack is not enough to stagger an enemy,” he says, “try doing a heavy attack or a jump attack that will do even more damage and help you in some tricky situations.”
However you approach combat in Dolmen, make sure you spend some time soaking in the atmosphere as well – it’s dank and creepy, but it tells as much of a story as the bodies of the aliens you’ll leave in your wake. Dolmen launches on PC via Steam on May 20 – pre-purchase now for access to the Rebel set, an armour and weapon set including the Rebel Armour Set, Rebel Sword, and Rebel Axe, to give you a fighting chance against the awaiting abominations.