Despot’s Game Preview: Build A Disposable Army | Screen Rant

Despot’s Game, a new Early Access title by Konfa Games and published by tinyBuild, is the latest in a vein of roguelite and roguelike games. It's premise is simple, bringing the hallmarks of the genre to the strategy market in an intriguing blend.

There is no real setup when starting Despot’s Game. The player is simply given a tutorial by a clearly malevolent computer, the titular Despot, on their first attempt, and then in subsequent runs they are left to their own randomly generated devices. Some micronarratives can be found and acted on for rewards, as the player’s army of humans explore the dungeon they’re trapped in, but nothing of consequence ever really comes of it. This is perhaps one of the lower points for the game since it means that there’s little to grab onto outside of a generally strange, compelling atmosphere and some decently humorous writing.

Related: Into The Pit Review: A Roguelike Arena With A Slow Start

It's the mechanics that sell Despot’s Game. During runs, the player creates armies of disposable humans who fight through the floors of a randomly generated dungeon trying to find the exit to the next area. The humans that make up these armies are incredibly weak, and, in the vast majority of cases, will be disposed of in due time. However, since they gain experience to become stronger, it is worth trying to stave off that inevitability, if only for a little while. Unfortunately, this goal comes with its own hang-ups, even when disregarding the murderous robots and zombies, as the primary problem that the player faces in keeping their little meat bags vertical is that when oriented that way they tend to need to eat.

This is where the “Food” mechanic comes in. For each human in the player’s army, their stockpile of Food goes down by one with every room in the dungeon visited. Food can be bought fairly regularly on each floor or gained through the sacrifice of humans, but if there is not enough to go around, the humans start to fight less ferociously and can even die if left that way long enough.

To help the player’s humans, each one can be equipped with a weapon from the shops strewn around each level. These weapons vary wildly but all fit into one of several general classes, and this is important for two reasons. Each class has their own ability which is only able to be accessed with, or is upgraded by, every unique weapon of that class represented in the army. What this means is that while humans with duplicate weapons are possible, it pays dividends to have them all equipped with something different. The classes are also important in regards to Mutations, which are the perks that the player gains during runs. These modifications are more often than not class specific and can be quite powerful, so building the army around them tends to be a good move.

While playing Despot’s Game was quite the fun experience, there were some obvious areas that the game could improve on with its later iterations. The most glaring of these is the distinct lack of the player’s ability to have an effect on the battles, which can get very frustrating very quickly. Currently, a battle AI runs everything during fights, but as it stands it could definitely use more than a few lessons in prioritization. There is nothing quite as infuriating as watching a Healer unit top off the health of another Healer while the guy shielding them from attack is getting pummeled to death. The game could also do with a lot more events, especially those that are found during gameplay, as currently the former were repeating quite a lot and there were less than a handful of the latter.

In the world of roguelites it takes a particularly unique idea to separate itself from the rest, and it seems like Despot’s Game could do just that, even if it is still rough around the edges. The core of the game is a solid strategy army builder which has a lot going for it, and the fact that it’s Early Access means that Konfa Games still has the ability to make the entire experience excellent.

Next: Actraiser Renaissance Review: The Best Version Of A Classic

Despot's Game was released for Steam Early Access on October 14th, 2021. Screen Rant was provided a Steam code for the purposes of this preview.

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