Despot’s Game – A Dystopian Dungeon Full Of Death And Despair
Despot’s Game is a unique roguelike hybrid army builder. I received the code for Steam just in time to play it on my fancy new steam deck. I’m familiar with roguelikes, with over 1000 hours in The Binding Of Isaac and Enter The Gungeon, which is time well spent for me. This game follows the same formula: the player begins a run by selecting a beginner army. There are a few to choose from, balanced, offensive and defensive. As with any roguelike, you learn a few things and get put into a false sense of security, thinking you are godly at the game. Then you will hit a damage curve and get wiped entirely.
Each run has procedurally generated dungeons. The scenery strangely reminds me of a Megadrive game called smash tv, if anyone is old enough to remember such a classic. The soundtrack is very punk tech and does have some nice beats, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Enter the Gungeon’s similar soundtrack. However, the twist on this roguelike is that it is an auto battler. I haven’t played an auto battler in some time, so it was fresh and different. You have your army, which you can position on the left-hand side of the room.
You quickly learn that having your defensive soldiers on the front line and more offensive soldiers on the back is the best way to succeed. Certain rooms throughout each level have shops. The shops contain equipment for your army and new soldiers, also known as newbies in the game. You can only equip newbies with new equipment or equipment that the fallen soldiers in combat have left behind. The deeper into the dungeon you go, the more weapons and equipment you unlock. The weapons range from shields, lances, swords, guns, crossbows and even magic.
The game primarily revolves around balancing your army. Hunger and food play a factor in this game. As with the equipment shops, food shops are located on the map. Each time you move from room to room, your soldiers consume one food per soldier. The more soldiers you have, the more food is consumed while travelling. You must balance and plan out each room, so your army doesn’t die from hunger and end your run. Each room has a sacrifice panel which allows you to sacrifice one or more soldiers for food. Then there are these random rooms with some fascinating characters. They offer benefits but usually at a cost. There is a giant sacrificial pit that asks you to sacrifice five newbies. In return, you get a mutation that power up newbies. There are a lot of exciting characters to find in each run.
Planning your battles is vital. Early enemies are pretty straightforward and are just a learning curve for you. The further you go, the more difficult they become. The enemy’s designs are robotic death machines. Think the Matrix-style sentinel type. You learn them and their style; some more challenging types can completely move across your army, causing many problems. They can flank you, immobilise some of your soldiers, cause fire damage, and much more. I love one of the designs, like a samurai wearing an Ajirogasa (Big round hat). Beating the bosses of each level, you get given a choice of a limited-use power-up. They are beneficial, from resurrecting your fallen soldiers after combat in a room to fully healing one soldier. Your soldiers level up, and there are permanent power-ups in your runs known as mutations.
There are a lot of features to this game, including multiplayer, which I didn’t delve into deeply as I don’t consider myself very good at battle simulators and did not have much success. I didn’t find any problems with connection issues, and finding matches was pretty quick. There are also features such as increased difficulty and different challenging runs.
Despot’s game is exciting and has a lot to offer, especially to army-builder lovers. However, as a roguelike lover, it didn’t appeal to me. It didn’t feel like a roguelike to me. After a while, the game becomes repetitive, somewhat frustrating, and not as challenging as the binding of Isaac is. The soundtrack is okay, but nothing stands out to me. I played this on a steam deck, so bearing that in mind. The controls were annoying and did not translate well to handheld. I think the game is meant for PC to enjoy fully. The best way to explain the game’s controls is that the game’s tempo feels like a fast beat on the go. On the steam deck, navigating all the game’s controls brings it to a full-on stop.
Review code for Despot’s Game: Dystopian Army Builder was provided by Stride PR for tinyBuild Games