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Have You Played… Domina?

Come for the gladiators, stay for the tunes.

Domina is a game about managing a stable of gladiators during the last days of Rome. It’s pretty great, once you realise that winning isn’t really the point of it. Winning is possible, of course, but doing so is an uphill struggle against wild balance issues, hellish RNG, and a rigid approach to permadeath. Honestly, it’s much better (in my opinion), just to enjoy it as an ultra-brutal, vaguely historical software toy about the horrendous cheapness of human life.

Seriously, the mortality rate in Domina is nightmarish; it makes Darkest Dungeon look like a real soft touch. It would be a really upsetting experience, in fact, if all the viscera involved wasn’t abstracted to cartoonish red fountains by the game’s art style.

It helps, as well, that Domina isn’t trying to make any particularly heavy historical points. There are some neat touches of authenticity, but there’s no doubt that this is meant to be a larger-than-life, comic book version of ancient Rome. Ghoastus, the bloodthirsty bastard, cannot get enough of it.

But where Domina really shines, is in its soundtrack. No word of a lie; it’s fucking spectacular. The game’s programmer also creates music under the name Bignic, you see, and has crafted an array of towering bangers to accompany the game’s ghastly arena fights. The tunes are pure, big beat bombast, flavoured with occasional quasi-Roman esoterica, and I cannot get enough of them. Buy the soundtrack, if nothing else.

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