First Impressions of ‘Despot’s Game: Dystopian Army Builder’

Despot’s Game: Dystopian Army Builder is the latest early access from developer Konfa Games and published by tinyBuild. The game’s been in early access for just under two weeks at time of writing: and is a pleasant curiosity. An auto-battler roguelike, the name of the game indicates exactly what you’re doing: building a dystopian army.

Despot's Game real play screenshot. Basic army fightin plant monsters and other things.

Light on Story, Heavy on Unit Building

Like other roguelike-likes, there’s not an involved, grand narrative in play. You’re given a fledgling team of puny humans equipped with a variety of armaments and are forced to navigate a weird sewer. You fight everything from zombies to robots to monsters, your opponents growing exceedingly extravagant as time goes on. Your “army” starts small, but as you slowly put them through various challenges, you’ll grow your ranks. Although, you’re probably going to die several times before you learn how to effectively manage your team of ninjas, yogis, football players, eggheads, shield bearers, cultist, gunslingers, and magician.

Unequipped human units are referred to as newbies and for the most part will be early cannon fodder. Unless, that is, you give them a piece of equipment that gives them a class. While you have your standard sword and shield, the various titles I listed should give you a good indication of the absurdity of the different units. Apparently when you’re fighting for your life, you’ll use whatever’s on hand as a tool for survival.

All Weapons are the Right Weapons

Despot’s Game incentivizes you having multiple units of the same classification, but specifically with different weapons. While you may be tempted to equip four units with a chainsaw, you’d get more benefit from having one chainsaw, one sword, one sword in a stone, and one laser sword instead. This array of weapons allows you to leverage the innate class bonuses. The nature of the game gives you ample opportunity to spec into different formations and employ slightly different tactics, although the actual combat is completely out of your hands. You just send your army marching into the monsters.

Real play screenshot. Fighting a new wave of baddies

The mechanics are very intuitive and reasonably well balanced. You can enlist a massive army, but you also have to make sure you enough food to motivate them. Clearing rooms gives you a rudimentary tokens currency that can be used to buy mutations/modifiers or more units. Random events in different biomes force you to deal with a handful of situations that you may or may not benefit from. And then you get to the boss fight and if you win, you repeat the process over again.

Despot's Game unit manipulation screen where you can change and equip your units.

Despot’s Game Takeaways

With leader boards and different challenges available, and plenty of mutations to unlock as you get deeper into the game, Despot’s Game: Dystopian Army Builder has a lot to tinker with. Different events offer tokens or unique abilities, making the roguelike nature more enthralling; and there is a lot of replayability. That said, the game’s unit management doesn’t particularly appeal to me in terms of long sessions. The game feels like it has random difficulty spikes where you go from clearing hallway fight after hallway fight, decimate the boss without taking damage, only to die to the next biome’s hellish new units.

Between the comically edgy aesthetic and the pop culture laden dialog, Despot’s Game does have a nice casual appeal to it that could easily transmute to a more min-max-y type of experience. I’m not sure it’s the game for me, if you like the autobattler genre, you should definitely check it out.

A story point where the player must choose their path forward.

Despot’s Game: Dystopian Army Builder is currently available for Early Access on Steam.

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  • Mikkel Snyder is a technical writer by day and pop culture curator and critic all other times.

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