With the success of games like Football Manager, it’s clear that many gamers are enthralled with taking on board a range of responsibilities and management duties. There are hundreds of possibilities such as Rock band management, Cat shelter management, Drug rehab management and more. These all sound fine but to be fair, we gamers desire substance, conflict, and bloodlust and being a manager of a band gets so much of it. Cue in Gladiator meets Football Manager and you got yourself a possible winner. So does Domina impress with its blood lust and calculated management of pain and suffering in the Roman Empire? Or should this be put to death?
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 for champions to rise who will be rewarded with fame, glory and sweet coin. 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.
As a manager of sorts, you’ll be in charge of purchasing fighters and will the help of various skilled personnel; you’ll train these fighters into the big league. 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 and fighters. The journey to fame and fortune is filled with plenty of morale choices, intense physical and psychological preparation for fighters and achieving your ambitions will anger many but it’s up to you who’ll feel the most pain.
Domina is simple in execution with the game focusing in areas such as managing fighters, tackling complex morale choices and taking part in the gruesome spectacle of the Colosseum. You’ll be able to train your fighters with intense physical trails while engaging your staff so you can learn more tactics and teachings in order to progress fighters further. You can trade resources which helps to feed fighters and staff while making deals with the Minster and Legionnaire will benefit yourself in obtaining new, better fighters and gaining a reputation that’ll earn you more fame.
All these elements combined create an extremely compelling, enriching and engrossing sense of gameplay that wonderfully immerses players without overwhelming them. The mechanics and gameplay elements of Domina are easy to follow while the endless options and paths the game takes ensure a refreshing and different journey each time. Your involvement will become personal as your efforts into producing the best fighters will be endless yet highly satisfying. This helps greatly to build a connection to your fighters and feel personal responsibility when something goes wrong. You’ll care and work hard to train your fighter and while the hardships are there, the sense of reward is amazing.
There’s plenty of involvement for players from managing, trading and even diving right into the fight themselves or you can just simply spectate the violence and mayhem. I often found that just watching the action was more than enough, vastly entertaining and beautifully sick really. I did find the urge to watch rather than control any of the fighters as the controls did feel a little crude and slow. However, the variation of conflicts keeps the action entertaining throughout without feeling repetitive. These vents can range from large groups fighting one another, roaming lions, big bosses and even more to keep the fights refreshing from the first to the 100th.
What did engross me as much as the nurturing sense of management was the great complexity and range of story driven paths and interesting morale choices; These are presented to test your loyalty to the male counterparts and your own humanity. Some seem fairly reasonable and may cost you little in resources or fame but as your name becomes more noticed, the choices become more harrowing. Soon enough, allowing some of the Minsters friends to crash at your palace becomes a question to allow the minster to rape one of your servant girls.
Of course, these may seem easy to choose on but ensure dire consequences will ensue if you are not careful and doing the right thing may turn out being even more devastating than imagined. Besides, having to impress your male counterparts will allow success and fame to follow easily. Even so, there are always other methods to encourage this, through spying and selling secrets to each of the relevant parties. There’s a vastly complex sense of morale and it’s gripping as hell. Along with this you can arrange pit fights for some extra coin and work your way up to the championships for the most brutal fights ever imagined.
The soundtrack is freaking amazing. Just like Doom, the mixture of techno beats and classical tones infuse to create a blood pumping playlist that gets you on edge and in the mood for some gruesome displays. Along with the visual style which is brilliantly animated and drawn.
My only downsides to Domina 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. But my main issue with the game is that you can’t save. It’s so baffling and extremely irritating as this is a game where you need to invest a lot of time into building up fighters and setting them up for some immense battles. You can easily sink 2-3 hours straight and not even be half way through the game. This just ruined the flow as starting back again each time just grinds your sense of enjoyment down. Besides its annoying 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. Just plain odd.
Despite this one glaring problem, Domina is a fantastic game which will enthrall players from any background. It’s simple collective of mechanics blend well into a vastly complex and enriching game that easy to integrate into and highly captivating. This has it all, bloodshed, moral complexity and rewarding sense of accomplishment through difficulty and entertaining hardships.
A PC Review Key of Domina was provided by Dolphin Barn for the Purpose of this Review