Dolphin Barn (studio)
07 April 2017 (released)
10 April 2017
You want blood, entertainment and incredible looking Gladiator hunks?! Well look no further as Domina plans to please fans of arena combat and intelligent management gameplay. But does it?
Players will engage in an epic tale where the Roman Empire is falling apart with rebellion and political corruption on the rise. The emperor has decided to host a year of gladiator games to appease the people and bring wealth to those who fight for it. You play the daughter of a wealthy politician whose bad choices have ruined the family name. After his death you place yourself as head of the estate and plan to take advantage of this new desire for bloodshed in order to reclaim the family name into glory.
Your responsible for purchasing fighters, train them and organise fights that’ll reward you fame, glory and renown. However, you’re accompanied by two rather devious men, a perverted minister and a sinister legionnaire who demand your affection and wealth in exchange for resources to benefit your agendas. You’ll not only the harsh physical and psychological preparation for fighters but complex morale decisions as well. In order to achieve your ambitions you’ll push yourself, the fighters and your own humanity to the limit.
Domina focuses in intelligent and engaging management gameplay build up from simple mechanics and elements. You’ll train your fighters with intense physical trails with the aid of your endearing staff. As the days turn to months, your trainers will learn more and your fighters will be pushed further to be more aggressive, tactical and merciless in battle. You have total control over your fighters, allowing yourself to trade, sell, execute and even set free certain men you desire. All this benefits your chances of obtaining glory and wealth with gruesome spectacles in the colosseum.
You can also trade resources such as water, food and wine and even make deals both the Minster and Legionnaire. These transactions will benefit your warriors but crossing them will have dire repercussions. Yet, there’s always another method of solving a problem as you can trade secrets and spy on either the two men to secure your financial gain and leverage. This is where the morale aspect intervenes as choices will appear asking whether you aid the men in various activates. You may be to use your resources to host a party for the minster, send wine to the Roman army or even far worse, you can allow both men to rape one of your servant girls. It’s up to your judgement as you can gain or lose big but all actions will have reactions.
The mechanics are easy to follow while the endless options on offer ensure a refreshing and different journey each time you play. The game does a great job at making you feel a personal responsibility, giving you an enriching sense of reward and the terrifying impact when something goes wrong. All these mechanics gather to form an extremely compelling and engrossing game that wonderfully immerses without overwhelming you with the rules or logic.
There's a lot of intelligent gameplay but there’s also plenty of gruesome and awesome mayhem to see. Once you arrange a fight to take place, be it in the underground pits, weekly arena matches or the grand events, you’re in for a treat. Fights are bloody, intense and nerve wrecking as the stakes are extremely high and loses can be painfully damning. The variation of conflicts range with many different events with certain factors such as lions and bosses keep the action entertaining without feeling repetitive. You can simply watch the fight or control a character to give the tactical edge. Yet the combat controls I found a little crude and very limited with much practice. Still there are plenty of upgrades to obtain and watching can be rewarding depending on your skills of training and choosing the right fighter.
The soundtrack is superb with a mixture of awesome techno beats and classical tones infused together to create a blood pumping playlist. Along with the visual style which is brilliantly animated to create one of the best pixel style games I’ve seen in a while.
My major downside to this impressive game was where the game couldn’t let you save any progression. It’s so baffling and extremely irritating as this is a game where you need to invest a lot of time into preparations and training. You can easily sink 2-3 hours straight and not even be half way through the game. It annoyed me having spent an immense amount of time building up fighters, connecting and feeling that sense of accomplishment only to be taken away because you can’t save. If there is a way to save, I’ve not seen the option.
Besides that, there were some graphical glitches that popped up every so often, mostly in the pit fights where my fighters didn’t show up on the screen.
Even with this major problem, I still found Domina to be one of the most impressive games so far this year. It’s simple collective of intelligent gameplay elements infused into a gripping and enjoyable journey filled with bloodshed, morale complexity and an enriching sense of accomplishment. This is a high recommendation to go and check it out.
++ Intelligent and engaging gameplay
++ Awesome soundtrack
+ Interesting morale complexity
--Unable to save progression
- Some minor graphical glitches