Impressions: Despot’s Game – Steam Game Festival Demo

I went into this year’s Steam Game Festival looking for some of the familiar games that have been featured in our weekly Screenshot Saturday round-ups, and I was not disappointed. Despot’s Game, which was featured in Screenshot Saturday – January 31st, had a demo release on Steam as part of the ongoing digital festival, and the gameplay experience was promising.

Despot’s Game, developed by Konfa Games and published by tinyBuild, is a rogue-like auto-battler game, where you build a team of troops with different items and synergies, arrange their position, and send them to fight enemies in randomly generated dungeon rooms. Combining classic features of the rogue-like genre with some new elements of auto-battlers, Despot’s Game provides a short, addictive and repayable demo, one that hopefully will get even better in the full release.

Despot's Game Screenshot 01
The deployed team of puny humans fighting the spawned monsters in the dungeon room.

A team of five humans wake up in an endless labyrinth, and needing to escape. We get to recruit more on the way and purchase different weapons. Equipping your troops with different weapons can turn them into powerful tanks hiding behind fridges or healers rushing over with brancards to help the injured.  Additionally, you can also obtain a variety of melee and ranged fighters equipped with different weapons (or pretzels), and even mages and cultists who wield powerful rings and items.

There isn’t a lot of story telling in Despot’s Game, and even though games like Hades raised the expectation for the genre with a rich theme and story, rogue-likes don’t rely on a story to be fun. Despot’s Game introduces a post-apocalyptic world, featuring short stories told through text, and even some more elaborate quests. We have choices during these encounters, and based on what we decide, we get different rewards or punishments. These encounters are sarcastic and fun to read through, or try different choices when we face them in different runs. But there are only a handful, and after a few rounds you know the outcome of every choice in the encounters and quests, so they will eventually become more of a nuisance.

Despot's Game Screenshot 2
One of the encounters with a familiar theme. The choices can lead to funny lines about breaking the forth wall, or failing to prove our humanity and the androids happily joining us.

There is only one quest in the current version of the game, with the same objective and rewards. With more quests and variable rewards in the final version of the game, they can improve the replay value of the game and create more unique runs each time.

Despot’s Game has a simple world and limited story, but it more than makes up for it with unique and engaging gameplay. Buy weapons, recruit more humans, mutate them, feed them, and position them for each fight. It should be an easy to learn, hard to master process, but the tutorial and the UI is not clear enough in the first few runs. It takes a while to get used to the interface, but after that, the game starts to get more and more interesting.

Despot's Game Screenshot 3
The only quest in the demo version of the game, where we need to find a new zombie for the crazy scientist, so he can frighten a human into running on a treadmill and powering his lab.

There are different unit types that synergize with each other, and the core gameplay is about creating and improving these synergies in the shop rooms. Like all popular auto-battlers, there are lots of different and unique compositions that you can try and experiment with, but this might also mean that, after a while, a certain composition would prove to be the most effective one, and the game might get stale without frequent updates to change the meta every once in a while.

Despot's Game Screenshot 4
The shopping phase, where we can spend tokens to buy items, units, or upgrade the size of the shop.

The roguelike aspect of the gameplay is what separates the it from the auto battler games, and even absolves it from some of that genre’s issues. Since we will be fighting against different AIs in randomly generated dungeons, and by removing the competitive aspect from the game, we can more easily try out different builds and synergies, and experience odd compositions that would be presumed non optimal in multiplayer and competitive auto battler games.

One of the most interesting aspects of the game although, is the end game. After finishing the dungeons, we get to send our surviving team to battle against other players. A feature that will satisfy the competitive spirit of regular auto battler players, while keeping the more casual single player option for other players as well.

Despot's Game Screenshot 5
Competing against other players after we complete the dungeon, adds a unique multiplayer experience to the game.

Despot’s Game is a unique combination of two genres, integrating the best elements of each and resolving some of the issues of them. It looks simple, but the idea is well executed. We hope to see more features and even game modes added to the game for the final release, but even in it’s demo version, there are hours of refreshing and fun gameplay experience to be had.

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