Dome Keeper challenges you to dig deep, but not greedily

Dome Guardian

My week was filled with survival games. Having recently jumped back into the absolutely awesome STALKERGAMMA mod pack and also convincing my friends to give 7 days to die a go, it was all scrounging, the whole time. Dome Guardian is more similar to those games than I thought until I sat down for this review in one important way – with a looming threat, it rewards (or punishes) players for their (un)preparedness.

Whether the sudden and deadly emissions in STALKER or the planned weekly Blood Moon Hordes in 7 days to diethe itch in the back of my head always made me stockpile a little more, scavenge a little more ammo, just in case. Dome Guardian takes that feeling and miniaturizes it, creating a game about quickly switching between survival and prepper-style maintenance.

The player guards a dome (formerly his spaceship) against alien hordes that come in waves every minute or two. Below is an abundance of ores and alien relics that need to be mined and brought to the ship to invest in upgrades. You start out armed with a painfully slow laser cannon and a tiny drill, and deciding how and when to improve your combat prowess, movement speed, or drill power is an ever-present choice that can make or break your chance of survival. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with the world’s best drill, but absolutely no way to carry all the goodies you’ve mined back to the surface in time to survive the onslaught.

Screenshot via Raw Fury

The goal of the game’s main mode is to find and secure an alien artifact – one strong enough to hold off alien waves forever. Minor artifacts act as major upgrades to the game, granting specialized tools like a hoist that automatically hoists minerals into your ship from beneath. Finding the final artifact is only half the battle, as you’ll need to dig it up and activate it by locating three power nodes.

In the game’s middle settings, I found this final node and secured it just as I felt like my “build” was really coming together and breaking my adventure. I just couldn’t collect it, but artificially extending a run when there are goodies to unlock felt too risky. Luckily, by “winning” runs you can unlock new modes and gadgets – including bigger maps and an endless mode.

One of Dome Keepers greatest strengths is the modularity of its difficulty. Not only is there a normal difficulty option, you can also choose how big you want the map to be and how long and difficult a run will be. Medium-sized maps offer runs of around 30 minutes, while larger maps will let you explore for well over an hour. Tweaking these options before a run, as well as choosing which dome gadget and weapon you want, increases significantly Dome Keepers replayability.

Screenshot via Raw Fury

at its core, Dome Guardian is a time management game. Combat isn’t particularly exciting, and traversal is about as exciting as tweaking an open pit mine Minecraft, but these elements come together to reward forward thinking. Choosing to resurface and fight some minerals instead of risking damage to the dome by trying to pull it up is a tough decision you’ll be making all the time. It’s a game that punishes greed and encourages long-term investment, forcing you to slow down and take a more measured approach. I found out very quickly that runs can snow either way after a good (or bad) decision or two.

Dome Guardian is a streamlined experience with a litany of ways to engage with its small but focused content. Every broken block is a chance for ruin or redemption, every decision to dig a little deeper is rewarded or scolded. Few games can match the tension I felt as I scrambled to the surface while my undefended dome crumbled overhead, all because I’d spent a little too long in my labyrinthine mine. It’s a title worth digging into.

This rating is based on the PC version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Raw Fury. Dome Keeper challenges you to dig deep, but not greedily

Lindsay Lowe

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