When I first saw Despot’s Game I immediately thought of Smash TV—you know, that ancient arcade game that vaguely resembled the Running Man movie. Okay, that’s a lot of 80’s there. But instead of one or two contestants battling for money, Despot’s Game challenges you to create armies, turning hapless humans into a variety of different fighters and support classes.
Despot’s Game is an auto army battler. It takes place in a rogue-lite labyrinth. You’ll start with a small squad of humans with basic abilities, but soon you’ll be able to acquire more people and ideally equip them with gear to make them useful. The humans can’t do much without the proper tools—though they can serve as a distraction or an extra meat wall for the enemy to work their way through. But the goal is to equip and crow your army into a formidable fighting force.
Fighting in Despot’s Game isn’t direct. You decide where you go, and what your army composition is—and even their initial battle formation—but once the battle begins, you can’t do anything but watch it unfold.
If you’re thinking formidable fighting force means swords and guns, you’d be right—but there are a lot of pretty wacky kits you can equip your people with. Turn your people into wizards, super heroes, and even some borderline copyright infringing characters. I’m pretty sure I saw Kylo Ren’s lightsaber in there—but it’s cool, I won’t tell Disney. You won’t just upgrade your armies with weaponry, there are also skill points you can spend to specialize and power up to face the foes ahead.
The enemies you fight are equally outrageous—from robots, to meat eating cabbages. Again, there are some popular culture references (Daleks?!). There are also boss encounters that will test your armies—and not all of them will survive. Once you complete a run through, you’ll have to fight other players’ armies in order to escape the labyrinth.
Since Despot’s Game is in Early Access, that means it isn’t quite finished yet. According to the Early Access information box on the Steam store page, the Early Access period is going to last “no more than a year” but don’t expect it to be finished within the next couple of months, either. As for what’s planned for the final release, there’s a long list of their road map ideas, with some highlights being a “secret” new game mode focused on multiplayer, an endless mode, more monsters and lots more.
Despot’s Game is strangely fun, and gives you enough control over builds to make it feel more than just an auto battler. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously, and revels in the absurdity of its premise—something I totally dig.
Despot’s Game is available now in Early Access.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.