Genre: Board Game
System: Nintendo Switch (also on mobile)
Developer|Publisher: esolutions Nordic
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £7.89 | EU € 8,79 | USD $9.89
Release Date: July 24th 2020
Review code provided with many thanks to eSolutions Nordic
Board Games and Video Games
Board games absolutely have their place in video games. After all, board games are the video games of old before we had screens to play on. I used to spend hours playing board games on my old IPod touch such as Monopoly, checkers and of course chess. It was a lot more convenient than carrying an actual board around and hoping some random stranger would play with me. Although in some parallel universe I like to think another James is able to do that. What a nice universe that must be. Sorry trailed off a bit there. Anyway, Dominate is actually a board game that was designed as a video game and never released as a physical game. Let’s check it out.
Dominate the Board
Dominate has a simple board game feel to it. In fact if you have a checkers board you could probably create this game yourself. But why do that when you have a perfectly good Switch on hand. If you play alone you’ll play as the red counters and the ‘enemy’ the blue counters. The game sadly doesn’t let you choose your colour in single player. When it’s your turn you can choose to add a new counter to the board so long as it’s next to an already existing colour. Or you can jump a counter two steps ahead but the space the counter previously occupied will now be open and vulnerable. If your placed counter touches the enemy counters sideways or head on you will capture those tokens and they will turn into your colour. It’s like a modified Othello. It’s a simple concept but there’s some deep strategy involved alongside you making a lot of risk reward moves.
The overall goal is have more of your counters occupy the board than your opponent. When you play single player you essentially travel across different board types taking on the AI who appears to become progressively more aggressive and difficult as you progress. It feels like a nice methodical experience to enjoy on the train, the bus or just any short gaming session.
Humans Vs Humans
The best part is playing head to head. There’s nothing like playing a game like this with someone else whether it’s a partner, family member or friend. Perfect for when you have some silly TV show on in the background or waiting for your diner to cook. It’s a chance for you both to connect. De-stress from the day and heck, maybe even get to know each other a little better. Find out each others favourite Otter breed or Bee species, who knows? It’s just a shame more effort wasn’t put into this game to make it stand out from what is a solid gameplay experience. A small exception being the music which is oddly tense and feels really out of place in a game that looks like this. But it was pretty neat, I’ll give it that.
The controls are simple, you can use the controller, but it was nice to see this game has touch screen capabilities in handheld mode as well. If you do play with a human you can simply place it on the table while you attempt to dominate each other. In the game obviously, please don’t hurt other humans.
What Could Have Been
Dominate just looks far too plain to really stand out. It’s literally red and blue counters on a white board, that’s it. There was so much potential here to dress the game up more creatively to appeal to a wider audience and even just make it stand out. After all Dominate is inspired by the arcade game Ataxx. A game from 1990 that has more creative personality than Dominate. Ataxx appears to have a sort of demon design, something that probably would have stood out in arcades. I would have totally given it a blast. As I played through Dominate I fantasized about the game being about little blobs similar to Puyo Puyo and the aim is simply to eat as many of the enemy blobs you can. Alternatively how about a disease design. One player is the white blood cells the other a virus and it’s a battle in the body. Unfortunately Dominate’s design is so boring it’s easy to see why many people will skim past it on the eShop.
The game also feels like it would benefit from more features. Why not let players draw their own boards? Maybe have unlockable counter colours. Have a neat little message that pops up saying ‘good job.’ Again in a parallel universe this game is Dominating the competition with its creativity.
Plain and Simple
Dominate is a fun video game board game. It’s an easy title to pull out and play with a human or against the AI. But its plain design and lack of features hold the game back on being something that would really grab peoples attention.
Final Verdict: I’m not sure