Despot’s Game Early Access Preview: Fiendishly Good. For Humans

Back once again, fighting for humanity when the odds are significantly against you. Well, at least you can have a laugh about it. Despot's Game Early Access out now.

The last time we visited this sadistic world was Despotism 3K, and now that expands in Despot’s Game Early Access. Restricted to a series of The Matrix level machinery that manipulates and discards human life, this latest iteration from Konfa Games enters the dungeons.

Yep, it’s a dungeon crawler with rogue-like qualities, so don’t get settled with any one team member as they’ll inevitably die. It’s like playing Game of Thrones, but characters are fair game as they’ll all end up in a burger, it’s just a matter of when.

While the game plan has changed in Despot’s Game Early Access., the humour and sadism remain. From the outset, you’ll have a few configurations for your classes and the level of difficulty, pending you’ve unlocked them. That’s the first sign of hope as ignoring the countless deaths; you’ll almost always unlock something new.

Despot’s Game Early Access. Preview

The game begins as a variation of The Running Man as you enter a room ready to fight whatever comes your way. To the death. A mini-map is displayed in the top left corner of the screen showing your options. This usually entails rooms where you can purchase food, a teleporter to jump back and forth, unlock side missions, and the boss for that floor.

Despot's Game preview
Source: Screen capture

Shifting between each room is simply a click on the appropriate door, and you’ll enter – just as long as you’ve fought whatever lies in the room you’re currently in. The thing is, your humans must eat, and they’ll eat the amount based on their numbers, i.e. if you have 12 in your party, you’ll need 12 food units to progress, otherwise they’ll get weaker.

This applies every time you move to a new room – even if backtracking, so you’ll either need to use the teleporters, have a steady supply of food by purchasing each time, or… sacrifice individuals, turning them into nourishment for your squad. That’s right, Despot’s Game Early Access. has the palate of Soylent Green.

Flash The Cash

To survive, you need money, and that’s in the form of tokens. These are awarded for winning fights, but you can also earn them from random set pieces based on your selection from the dialogue paths. Sometimes you’ll get a buff, other times more tokens.

Besides food, you can buy more humans (keep an eye on your food) as well as weapons. Weapons are dragged and dropped onto a human without anything to hand. It’ll change their class to melee, ranged, magic – all that jazz, only you have those armed with pretzels, American football players and those that can call upon Cthulhu and summon tentacles. If you get a set of the same class, you can unlock abilities that keep you in the game longer.

Despot's Game - Chaos
Chaos ensues. Source: tinyBuild

But perhaps the greatest lifesaver in the game is mutations. These are randomly dropped or located throughout your Despot’s Game Early Access run that gives buffs. Occasionally you can choose one of three that best suit your current line-up as they can do anything from adding a spinning attack for fencer-based characters to reducing the cooldown of abilities. You can also use your tokens to complete a mutation skill tree that can be a deciding factor in your survival, pending you can balance your tokens for food, gear and new humans.

Conveniently Placed

Naturally, there’s a strategic element to Despot’s Game Early Access, but you only have so much control. Your role is to ensure everyone is well-fed, that they’re equipped with weapons to defend/attack the enemy, and you’ll also direct where they will go.

One essential part of any tactical game in this guise is the placement of your party. Ideally, you’ll want ranged and healers at the back, the melee and shielded humans at the front. Though you can manually place them wherever you like, they’re all over the place by the time you commit to the fight and tend to lose their formation.

Despot's Game - Fridge magnet
Fridge magnet. Source: Screen capture

Yes, ranged attackers tend to stay on the spot, but some of the larger enemies rush your positions, sending them flying without the initiative to recover. While in this combat mode, you can do diddly squat. You may be able to retrieve a weapon if someone dies, but you can’t swap that out with a player already with a weapon equipped. For instance, I lost a healer and desperately needed another one in place. I aimed to drag the medikit on a character with a sword, but you can’t replace them and instead have to hope you survive long enough to recruit a fresh face.

Secret Ingredient: Humans

The latter is perhaps my biggest criticism of the game, if anything. The music, while decent enough, gets very repetitive on longer runs, but it can be muted if it’s that bad (it’s not). However, your hands are tied once that battle starts, and you can’t give new commands to the idiots who run to the front of a battle trying to heal people when by default, they can’t heal themselves. Stupid humans.

That said, I really enjoy playing Despot’s Game Early Access. It’s not so frantic, so that allows time to snort at the character names – usually some pop culture reference fused with another, or that ‘break’ where you finish a floor and are presented with multiple choice answers. Often a self-aware observation or connection to something most gamers will get. If Konfa Games did a text adventure, it’d be a blast.

Despot's Game Early Access - Gates of hell
Gates of hell? Source: Steam

Overall, Despot’s Game Early Access is a lot of fun and has those ingredients that every rogue-like should have: replayability. The rewards are thick and thin, and progress, if only incremental, is measurable. One of the best things is not having to faff about when wanting to jump back in. Just make sure to turn off the tutorials once you get it, as the pop-ups are disruptive. Other than that, I preferred this to Despotism 3K, and I was already quite fond of that.