My Dome Keeper divides me. It''s a person who feels pleasure to return, to experience the ground give under my drill, to hoist my mined resources triumphantly to my command centre, and convert them into upgrades to improve my base. This time, I tell myself, I will build better and survive longer and make my dome''s defences impenetrable. This run will be the one.
Then, inevitably, it isn''t. As I get some real momentum going, a particularly savage wave of shadowy monsters overwhelms me, from both the air and the ground, and my precious dome cracks and breaks and I am done for. Game over, try again, and the other part of me is disappointed. I know this is how it goes, and that these games are about trial and error and experimentation, and feeling your way to winning combinations of upgrades, so I grit my teeth and
The majority of the sheen disappears when I start anew, because it feels like everything else is done, and I know it will be a while before I unlock the upgrades that make light of it. Just as I do, the inevitable overwhelming wave of enemies comes and I am dead again, and my ability to start over wanes.
Dome Keeper is a game of two components: a base defence game and a digging game. This is the base you''ve uncovered on a hostile enemy planet. It''s a small base, and you won''t expand it, but you''ll increase the capabilities of it.
Regardless, a lot of upgrading are focused on your defenses, which is either centered around a cannon mounted on the dome, or a sword - yes, that''s right: a huge sword - cool, eh? Both can move over the dome left and right to combat enemies approaching from one side.
The cannon is the easier of the two defenses, as you hold down a button to emit a beam from it. The sword is more complex because it does two things: swishes left and right to slice at enemies, and can be fired to target enemies in the air at range - an attack you must execute.
Pretty much every aspect of the above can be upgraded. The cannon''s beam can be strengthened and it may be moved across the dome quicker. However, it will reduce the beam''s power, as are many upgrades you take.
The sword''s main advantage is that it can be reduced to do more damage or shorter and more maneuverable. You can also make the launcher recharge much faster so you may keep it out, or you can turn it into a slower-recharging projectile of death, with just enough benefit. So as you can see, mastering the sword''s defense dome is not easy.
Over these, you can improve your dome''s health and shields, increase power charges, and add self-moving stun guns. There are also a lot of additional defensive upgrades on offer.
Upgrades are funded by resources, and resources are hidden beneath your base. You do this simply by moving into a pile of earth, which will automatically make you dig it, and some blocks break down quicker than others. In addition, discovering the most common routes through the ground is a valuable part of the game.
Resource squares are different colors, and you will get clues that they''re close to the point. And when you discover one and break it apart, smaller resource tokens emerge from it that you will need to haul back to the base.
You may increase the power of your drill, your haul strength, and your fly speed by recuperating special relics. You may even, by collecting special items, select major upgrades to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, like a lift that automatically collects resources up to your base, or a cute little dinosaur pet that automatically digs away. There are a few choices, and all of them have own upgrade-trees.
There are a lot of upgrades to choose between, but there aren''t a lot of resources to invest in them. There''s a great deal of austerity in the game, which makes you to think hard about what you should be interested in. And now is the time to get the clincher.
The time is set for everything you do. Every few minutes, a new wave of enemies will attempt to break your dome above, and if you''re not in your command seat to control your defenses, they will attack unchallenged. To begin with, this isn''t much of a problem because you won''t have dug far so you''ll be close at hand. However, you will have a lot of time to spare and how to get to speed up.
Because of the strength of enemy waves, you will be stronger, and if you leave yourself weak in this area, Dome Keeper will not hesitate to punish you for it. So you will be torn; "What you need to do?" is the game''s strategy.
The challenge with this design is that upgrades are great. Pulverizing a path through blocks that used to slow you down is fantastic; cleaving packs of enemies with an upgraded sword is great; and vaporizing enemies with a mega-canon is excellent. And the game understands this. But spending too long without them slows the entire process down and makes it monotonous, allowing frustration to creep in, especially when, just as you seem to get ahead, another wave of enemies arrives to destroy you.
A couple of different modes you may play the game on. The less difficult Relic Hunt mode is when you haul them up to the top, and you will gain all of the opportunity to start a new game, like the sword defense base. This mode is significantly more polite and won''t really stretch you.
It''s the other game mode, the Prestige Mode, that feels like the main event, where you earn impressive scores and compete against other players indefinitely. And, as far as I know, this mode continues indefinitely, scaling in difficulty, and introduces even more things to spend your limited resources on, which revolve around your ability to earn points for each wave of enemies you survive.
Dome Keeper, for me, is a game that I think is as divided as my thoughts on it. The difficulty I don''t mind. I''ve even come to think of it as part of the charm. The moody, brooding emotion you''re going to die at some point is always half of the charm, earning you the literal prestige the game has encumbered.
Dome Keeper has struggled to master either of these two kinds of games, despite also posing a high degree of success in its own right. Digging and hauling too often feel like chores and don''t have the repeatable pleasure of, say, combat in Hades or card strategy in Slay the Spire. Too often it ends with a surprise feeling about why you died. It causes humour.