Great hulking monsters, black as shadows but made of solid muscle, beat their fists against the dome that protects my base. Cracks spread like spider webs across the surface, and shards of glass fall to the ground under the weight of their strikes. There’s a powerful laser ready to blast holes in the attackers, but it sits idle, its idiot gunner merrily chipping away at rocks deep below the planet’s surface.
I, the idiot gunner, am having the chillest time – breaking apart boulders, uncovering minerals, and reclaiming abandoned gadgets to take back to the surface. I’m lost in a Manic Miner nostalgia trip, forgetting I’m supposed to be splitting my time between digging and operating the gun turrets.
At the start of each Dome Keeper run, you crashland on a randomly generated alien planet, take shelter under a protective shield, and get to mining beneath the planet's surface. You’re searching for resources to upgrade the dome, your gear, and the laser you use to fight off the periodic waves of enemies storming your base.
This is the absorbing tension at the heart of this dual-focused roguelike. You have to improve your equipment to meet the growing strength of the creatures’ attacks, but you mustn’t spend too long away from your base, or else your shield will be destroyed, and your run will end.
It's a fair copper
I’d like to say I learned my lesson after the first time I lost track of time, or the second, or even after that time I refused to drop the minerals that filled my pockets and weighed down my jetpack, slowing my ascent when every second was precious to my survival. If there’s one thing I learned it’s that Dome Keeper punishes greed. If there are two things I learned, it’s that I’m too greedy to listen.
When I wasn’t spending too long in the mines and actually survived longer into my run, I could upgrade my laser's power and firing speed, unlock a crosshair that made my shots more accurate, and strengthen the dome. I installed an early warning system, giving me a heads-up on incoming waves – and a little breathing space to fight off the hordes.
There is also a suite of enhancements you can apply to your spacesuit, adding speed to your jetpack, extra carrying capacity for minerals, and a scanner to help you find resources in the dark tunnels below the surface.
As you cut away blocks of stone below your base, you can uncover more than veins of ore. Hidden in the dark are mysterious gadgets you can drag back to the surface and add to your arsenal. Some are weapons, such as a stun turret that automatically fires on incoming enemies, but others are tools to help your excavations.
One of the most powerful gadgets is a simple elevator where you can dump resources to be brought to the surface, instead of having to carry them up yourself slowly. It’s the best video game dumbwaiter since Thief. Another is an alien dog-like creature that will dig tunnels for you, so long as you remember to wake it up when you catch it napping.
Every time you activate a gadget you unlock a new tech tree of upgrades, encouraging you to spend more time down in the mines looking for resources and… dammit, I let the greed get the best of me again.
One day I’ll remember that protecting my base comes first, but until then, I’m happy to while away the hours with this deeply absorbing roguelike.
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Julian's been writing about video games for more than a decade. In that time, he's always been drawn to the strange intersections between gaming and the real world, like when he interviewed a NASA scientist who had become a Space Pope in EVE Online, or when he traveled to Ukraine to interview game developers involved in the 2014 revolution, or that time he tore his trousers while playing Just Dance with a developer.