10/15/2022 1 Comment
Despot's Game Review
Despots Game is a strange one to describe. Its gameplay isn't exactly like anything else out there but, if you hear the game's full title, you'll get a better idea of the concept behind this little cracker. You see its full name is "Despots Game: Dystopian Army Builder" and that's what it's all about. Building up a little army, assigning roles, supplying weapons, gathering resources, and managing combat formations, all while trying to make your way through a humorous and pop culture reference-packed dystopian setting.
Basically it goes a little something like this… A giant mastermind mainframe computer has created a dungeon that has a constantly changing layout of rooms, packed with monsters, robots, zombies, demons and a million other obstacles to be overcome. But to be overcome by whom? Well, humans quite frankly. Humanity is enslaved by this crazy computer and now only exists as playthings for it. Each small group of humans is assigned a few basic weapons and then let loose into the highest level. It's up to you to guide them, room by room and battle by battle, as far as you can before they all die horrible deaths. Which begins the experiment with a new, different group of humans, and a different layout. But will it have the same outcome? Well, that's up to you! Can you break the cycle? Defeat the computer? Save humanity? Is that even the point of the game? You'll need to play to find out!
So straight away you'll find that Despots Game is a game of chance. It is a roguelike after all and getting a "lucky run" is inherent to many entries in that genre. I'd say it's even more important here though as choosing elements from the options available is the real meat and bones of the game. What I mean by this is that unlike something like "Enter the Gungeon" or "Binding of Issac" where you directly control a character and your own skill can get you through, in this one you never control your fighters directly so combat is out of your hands. Instead, it's all about preparing for the fight. I suppose the easiest way to describe how the game plays is to take you through an imaginary run and explain how it all works. So you'll start with a few people in your army, and can choose a starting group of weapons for them to take. When weapons are assigned for the first time you'll instantly see some of the charm in Despots Game design. Each weapon has a unique look and seeing the visual change to each member of your little stickman army is a whole lot of fun. Spotting the references was great for a nerd like me and I took joy in each one I found. For example, giving them claws will turn them into Marvel's Wolverine, they'll run around on all fours like the comic book counterpart, while "snikting" the hell out of all who approach. Equip them with a magic mask and your little dude (or dudette) turns into a Witch Doctor-like voodoo shaman. A cloak creates a cultist-style character, face hidden in the shadows of his hood as he launches eldritch energy. Magic Rings create a Green Lantern-style hero, footballs make an NFL Quarterback appear while shurikens bring a ninja onto the field, and so on. Seeing what each new weapon will look like is genuinely charming and discovering all the references caused nerdgasms throughout the experience. But getting these weapons doesn't happen willy-nilly. They can only be reliably bought from shops, which show up frequently but randomly after a battle. Also, only unarmed humans can take a new weapon so you have to choose each carefully as they can't be changed later on if you find a better one. Luckily though, you can buy recruits for your army at any store so you can not only get someone ready to wield any new weapons that appear in that store but can increase your army size too. Which is obviously a good thing right? The more people you have, and the more weapons you've given them, the more powerful your army is and the easier battles will be. Right? Well not exactly… You see people need food and that's in short supply. Each member of your army needs one unit of sustenance for every room they travel through so, with a significantly sized team, even a journey of a few rooms can quickly exhaust your supply. Luckily though, just like the weapon shops, you'll regularly (and randomly) come across stores selling food while on your travels. You can fill your stores, allowing you to travel further into the maze, but only if you've enough money to do so.
This brings us to another resource, probably one of the most important after your people themselves, and that's cash. Cold hard currency. It's rewarded after every fight and there's a myriad of things it can be spent on. Recruiting new members, buying weapons for them, increasing food supplies, upgrading skills and more all require money, and managing it is essential to your success. In fact, the skill of "management" is really what this one all is about. It is a roguelike, which brings to mind a certain type of experience, but this game plays much more like "Football Manager" than it does something like"Enter the Gungeon". You never control your army during a fight, just like you never control the players during a match in a soccer management game. Instead, it's all about recruiting the right players (or fighters in this case), making sure they had the right training and supplies, and setting them up in a formation that works, before letting them do as they will. So a run might go like this. You begin with a preset team and choose what room to travel to next. You head off into the next room, only to find you'll need to clear out some enemies before you can progress any further. However the fight doesn't start instantly, instead, you're given time to set up beforehand, and just like in soccer your formation is important. All your troops are always on the left side of the screen, while the enemies are on the right, and you can place your little warriors wherever you like on your half of the battlefield. You might want your shield bearers up front, blocking all the incoming damage. Tanks too, to draw attention and damage. Just behind them, you might want to place fighters of different types. Dodging tricksters, damage-sharing melee fighters, and critical-hitting fencers fall into this category. Behind them would be a great place for healers, where they can use their skills to mend the damage taken by the frontline forces. Ranged fighters like throwers, shooters, eggheads, mages, and cultists can do attacks from far but you don't want anything to get too close so you keep them as far back as possible. Or maybe you choose a different way. Maybe you surround a solid core of healers and ranged attackers with a ring of shields and melee fighters. Maybe you keep to just a couple of classes and go all out with them. You'll always see the opposing formation before starting the fight though, as well as their numbers and starting locations., You'll also know whether you'll be up against loads of tiny enemies, some medium ones, giant ones, or whatever. So you'll always be able to change your team layout to deal with the enemy's chosen formation. Once you've decided on your squad placement though, you'll begin the battle with a button tap and things are no longer in your hands. Pandemonium ensues as your little dudes run around, using their various moves and getting flung around by powerful blows.
Honestly watching them is hilarious as the stick figure army, with all their pop culture referencing attacks, go up against the crazy but beautifully represented opponents. I saw lovely pixel-art renditions of zombies, skeleton ostriches ridden by demons, Dalek-style enemies, giant ED209-style tanks, and a million more all getting involved and trying to kill one another. Watching the chaos play out was always thrilling and seeing all the detail that goes into it is enthralling. But hopefully, you win the fight. You get some cash for the victory, and if you're lucky a store where you can spend it on food, new recruits, or weapons. You check the map, which isn't huge but only shows the rooms you've explored already and the ones you can directly step into. From it, you realize you have a few ways to proceed, with 3 different exits available. You choose the south one and watch your entire army scurry off through the door and reassemble in the next room. This isn't a fight room this time though. Instead, it's one of the "Event" rooms where a random story encounter plays out. A necromancer might be using zombies to chase humans around a hamster wheel, using the resulting power to provide energy to his experiments. You might find Death himself, sorting out souls for the next life, who needs your help to find some absconders. Or maybe you'll come across a human with gambling machine parts fused to his body, who encourages you to try your luck. Or maybe it'll be something completely different. There are a million funny, tragic, horrible, and uplifting little stories to come across and all will have some decision you have to make which will affect their outcome. They'll grant a reward or cause something bad to happen, and they can be a great boon or a horrible burden. Or maybe it'll be no big deal at all, it's all down to chance. This time though you come across a giant hole in the ground. You're little peeps gather around and peer in, only to hear a deep booming voice coming from within. "Give me the souls of 5 humans and I shall lend you a fraction of my power" Foods running low, and you've plenty of extra troops so the decision is obvious. You make the sacrifice, and watch as 5 of your unarmed new recruits leap into the darkness. In exchange you're granted a new skill, all Thrower class members now throw 50% further. Sweet. Now that's done you prepare to head off but have a problem. You know from the map that the boss is in the next room, but you've not searched the rest of the dungeon. You think about doing so but you've only enough food to travel through 3 more rooms and you've no idea if a store will pop up. "Don't risk it" you think, let's just take on the boss and hopefully go down to the next level… But the boss is big. A giant mechanical monstrosity, he quickly takes out the front line and mops up the rest of your squad in a flash. This attempt is over. But don't sweat it. You've made progress through this run, unlocking new weapons for the store, the chance for new skills to appear as rewards, new starting equipment configurations, and much more.
New options will be available next time you start a run, giving more options and strategies for you to try. And that's where Despots Game shines. There are so many strategies to try, and things to see, that it drives you to play again in that "one more run" way that the best roguelikes are capable of. Over a few runs, you'll realize more mechanics, and become better at team building. You'll find out that teams can be enhanced, and even get new skills, by having a variety of members. Each unique member in each class brings that class closer to a level up, increasing the power of its base skills or even adding new ones. So get a few different Cultists together (they all have to be different types, no doubling up!) and they can summon a tentacle from a demonic portal to attack your enemies. Get Tricksters to team up and they'll learn the dodge ability, completely negating damage for a percentage of attacks. Every class has a unique skill like this, made more powerful by the more unique members of that type you have on the field. This adds yet another level to squad building and makes weapon choice more important. Do you buy a ton of the same low-level weapon, increasing the army size and basic attacks, or do you buy a couple of different but more expensive ones and level up the class skills? And what class will you upgrade? This is where luck comes in a lot as each store has only a few random weapons that show up each time and you might find it's always the ones you have already. Or it might be that the class needs a good few more members before the next upgrade level is reached. There's a lot to keep track of when you factor all this in. Money, food, skills, class types, what class is close to the next level?, what weapon belongs to what class?, what even ARE the classes? Which is where the UI does a great job. Initially, it looks a bit intimidating; with numbers, icons, symbols, and little lights everywhere. Once you play a little though you'll find it explains and shows all the info you'll need. Even better, by hovering over any icon you'll get a full explanation of what that symbol means. Right at the top of the screen is a row of icons representing each class, and next to each icon is a row of pips that light up as you gain a unique member of that class. It does a great job of showing, at a glance, which class is near to going up a level, how many people in said class you have, and what you'll get on the next upgrade. Food and money are shown. As well as a Death log. The map is there and can be zoomed in or out. Buttons to activate skills are neatly lined up for your convenience. It's all easy to take in and understand, once you get to grips with it.
One thing that's less easy to get to grips with though? The control system for the joypad. It jumps from section to section and knowing where it'll go next is rather confusing. Trying to get it to go where you want, or even actually seeing where the cursor is now sitting, was a bit of a nightmare and I really struggled against it for a while. Until I noticed an EXCELLENT little addition. By pressing a simple menu button you can switch over to a cursor mode where the control system is the same as playing with a mouse. You can use the stick to control a pointer on the screen and simply move over each icon on the UI to use them or get a description of what they do. It's a GODSEND and is, in my opinion, the best- no the ONLY- way to play this excellent little game. Apart from that, Despots Game has very few flaws. It can take a little while to get into sure and does rely on luck a little too much too, but once you get into it you find a management strategy game that's much deeper than it initially appears. Packed with pop culture references, gorgeous pixel art, and funny, tragic, macabre but always entertaining little encounters, it's definitely one for strategy lovers to try!
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8/10
10/17/2022 06:02:53 am
International able hear determine position. Available once trouble seek sit special.
Leave a Reply.
Player2Reviews aims to be a reputable second opinion on the gaming industry covering news, reviews, and commentary on all things pop-culture!
All 3DS Batman #BreakdownsAndBrews DLC Giveaways Google Play Hardware IOS/Android Late Night Netflix Let's Play Movies News Nintendo Nintendo Switch Original PC Player2Plays Preview PS4 PS5 PS Vita Review Reviews Steam Submissions #TBTReview Trailers Twitch Unboxing Video Games Xbox Xbox One Xbox Series X/S Youtube