Games of the Year

Despot’s Game: Dystopian Army Builder

Despot’s Game: Dystopian Army Builder Screenshot 1
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About This Game

Prepare to die, humans!A group of people wake up in a strange post-apocalyptic labyrinth — naked, with no memories and with a bunch of weapons. Is this a joke, a crazy experiment, or... a game? You'll find out soon enough, just try not to die first!

Get your pretzels readyYour puny squad is capable of much more. Choose your loot and transform the squishy humans into wizards, cultists, ninjas and dozens of other heroes, including the mythical stale pretzel throwers. With perks and class combos, there are thousands of ways to build your army. The man-eating cabbage will appreciate the variety in its diet!

Crush your rivalsIf you can survive the labyrinth, you'll meet THE UNSTOPPABLE END-GAME BUILDS OF OTHER PLAYERS! You'll beat each other to death and only one will be spared by d'Spot. No offense, but in his own game he writes the rules!

Indirect combatPrepare your warriors and let them fight it out on their own! Indirect combat allows you to focus heavily on tactical considerations rather than reflexes. Strengthen your front line with fridge-movers, aim your food-throwers and look after your Forbidden Summoners!

Endless exploration The dungeons are generated from scratch every time, and there is no chance puny humans will ever find the way out! And even if they strike lucky — don't worry, there are endless ways to die in Despot's Game!

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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous

Enjoyed this indie title a lot.

Its pretty much completed for early access already and has lots of features.

Review from Steam

As an older gentleman I appreciate a game that doesn't require reflexes.

Review from Steam


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Despot's Game: Dystopian Army Builder is a roguelike strategy game.

A Run
Consists of several levels. Each level consists of a handful of rooms while each room has an enemy in it, the reward varies from being able to buy food, to humans or having events in them. You can also get free mutants on altars or fight against bosses. Random events happen after every level and sometimes within them in special rooms.

Battles
It's pretty easy actually. You have humans, either with a weapon attached or "naked". You can place them on the battlefield how you want. Click on "Fight" and the battle starts. From here on, it is like an auto-battler. Your humans will fight automatically and you can sit back and watch.
This means, the strategy comes from placing your humans accordingly, plan ahead when it comes to food, weapons, and mutations as well as how to approach which rooms. After every battle, you will get tokens. Tokens are your main currency to buy food, humans, mutations, and weapons with.

Humans
They are your main resource. Each human needs one food for every move (One move means going into a room). If you don't have any food left, they will suffer from debuffs while worst case means, they will die. To save yourself, you can sacrifice one human for five pieces of food. Some rooms let you buy food for tokens, too.
Every human is naked, without any kind of weapon. You can buy different weapons in the shop and equip a human with them to improve their stats.

Classes
There are dozens of classes available such as Shooter, Medic, Fighter, Tank, Cultist, and a lot more. Having several units one of class, each with a different weapon grants them special abilities like having three cultists will let them summon a tentacle and so on.
This also adds to the tactical depth of the game.

King Of The Hill
This is the multiplayer "mode" of Despot's Game. When you Win a run, your party will be placed on the leaderboard. To determine your spot on the leaderboard, you will fight against other parties one after another. Winning means you will beat his spot and go up, losing will let you go down.
It's pretty thrilling even though you just sit back and watch it happen. Every other party is from another REAL player. This adds a lot of tension to the game.

Meta Progression
There is nothing to make future runs easier really. Well, you will unlock the "easy" difficulty but since this mode deactivates your ability to be placed on the leaderboard (King Of The Hill), it's not really an option to fully enjoy the game. More so to try out stuff and learn the game more.
You will unlock starting builds, mutations to unlock in future runs, etc. while playing.

Differences between the Demo and Full Version
Everyone who played the demo will have a pretty good feeling of what the game will be like. Two things changed compared to the full game: There is more of everything (Units, events, monsters, difficulties, mutations, etc.) AND the game got a lot harder. First of all, a run is longer now and the balance changed. Some things like food are more expensive, while some enemies got weaker, others got stronger, too.
The Good
It's addictive. While I'm not much of a fan of auto-battlers, I'm in love with Despot's Game. In fact, I think it's so addictive, this deserves to be on the list for the best Strategy Games of '21.
It's just so fun to plan ahead and watch your little humans fight.
It's tactical demanding. There is a lot of strategies involved to win a run and be placed on the leaderboard. From placing your humans on the battlefield to asking yourself what I really need to buy right now or should I spare some tokens for later, or even new mutations?
The balance between RNG and Skill. While it has some kind of RNG (What's available in the shop, which mutations you can get, etc.) it doesn't feel unfair. It's so well balanced, that RNG won't affect your run too much. I never had the feeling of me losing because I got bad luck rather me being dumb, not going for X, predicting something "wrong", etc.
King of the Hill. I usually dislike leaderboard or at least don't care much for them but not in Despot's Game. It's just so much fun to be placed on the leaderboard.
The writing is funny. While there isn't that much text, events are very humorous.

The Bad
While I think the demo was a bit too easy, I feel like they went a bit too hard on the full game. I won my third or fourth try in the demo (it was a pretty easy run) but after around four hours and dozens of tries, I wasn't even able to reach the final boss/stage. Maybe I just need more time to "get good" but maybe it's a bit too hard right now.
Too few events. Already had some events repeated in my third run (not counting events from the demo of course).
Minor bugs like sometimes mouse clicks don't register and some Units get stuck and don't attack for a few seconds.
The music is monotonous and gets annoying fast.

Conclusion
Despot's Game: Dystopian Army Builder is one of the best strategy games in 2021. It's addictive, tactical demanding, humourous, innovative, and just fun. King of the Hill is a very nice addition to boring Leaderboards, it's difficult enough to be engaging and perfectly balances RNG and Skill IMO.
I can't get enough of the game and while I think it's a little bit too hard on normal, I can't say this is too bad as of now. Adding more events and different enemies would be a nice addition as well as fixing units getting stuck but aside from that, this is a well-crafted game. I'm excited to see what else they have in store for us during early access.

If you're into tactical roguelikes, you should definitely buy Despot's Game.
If you like my review and strategy games, please consider following my curator page on Steam!

Review from Steam

Straight up, this game is way too hard. The food system is frustrating, tanks don't work the way they should based on both expectations and to make this game play, and the game is too hard, hands down- and focused on a PVP loop many of us will never see trying to play this game without exploits.
THAT BEING SAID- buttons made the game a bit easier. If they just gave us a BIT more food and turned down the difficulty level enough that strategies other than "Make 1 giant guy" or "Shooters healers and tricksters/fencers" (but never tanks because tanks can neither taunt well nor tank a reasonable amount of damage) or MAX OUT MUTATIONS AND HOPE FOR RNG TO HELP YOU OUT...
This game could consume my life.
So I could be a dick about this and neg it because it needs a lot more work and to stop jerking itself off trying to be souls difficulty but like... this game could be the best thing ever if the dev didn't force us into lanes and leave us broke except for like specific strategies.
Dev, I want an autobattler I can play with not one where the only way to win is healers, shooters, and some non tank tank- or a weird exploit like giant newbie stacking. There may be some pride in acting like the game's despot and making us do backflips for your amusement, but you'd have a 10/10 game if you weren't actively trying to stop us from enjoying the game.
7/10, but with 10/10 potential.

Review from Steam

This game is a beautiful blend between the auto battler strategy genre, and an action packed roguelike. The game is a lot of fun, and the different combinations of units feels really strong, which gives it a lot of replayability. I can't wait to see what this game becomes in the long run.
Now for some feedback:
1) We need more ?! rooms, as seeing the same 2-3 often gets boring. I hope to see more in the future.
2) We need a stat that shows range of abilities. Its not easy to understand that healers are melee range healers until you see it in action.
3) We need a way to check the rarity of the shop if we are max level.
4) We need more run variance in the game, add some events that happen if your team is all mages, for example. Things to switch up a run-to-run experience.
Great job. Been waiting for this for over a year, will continue watching this game with hopeful eyes.

Review from Steam

Game is fun but needs a lot of rebalancing. The Foongus enemies need a drastic nerf. I cant tell you how many times i have been on a run steamrolling enemies then the Foongus comes along and wipes my entire party.

Review from Steam

It's pretty fun. Gameplay is mostly in resource management, and is like an idler version of SNKRX.
I made a list of some quality of life things I'd like to see in the full release:
- Better token signalling. It's hard to tell what gives tokens or how much. I would love to hear a token noise when monsters die or after a battle.
- More music variation, not just for battle, but switching into shops, bosses, curiosity rooms, etc
- Higher emphasis on sound effects. I had to turn down the music to even start hearing the sound effects, which weren't that punchy. For an idle battle game, I'd really love to hear some crunchy noises. There's no sound cues for many special abilities either, but when there are it makes a big difference.
- I wish we could see a keybinding list in the menu. I was wondering what hotkeys I was missing. (Like a cycle between human button?)
- I wish there was a better sense of objective. Are we trying to escape... kill the despot... is it endless?
- More artistic chamber variation
- It's hard to tell enemy threat. With healthbars turned on, I wish enemies had a level to them.
- I wish clicking a text option had a sound effect.
Preferences:
- I wish some stats were divided by 10 or 5. I'd prefer a basic swordsman do 4.5 damage, rather than 45
- I wish leveling up healed humans
- I wish there was a scoring system to make dying in runs more fun. (New high score!)
- I wish there was an activated ability we could use -- like single use items we could buy.
- I think we get too many mutations. I would prefer starting with 2 slots for all the mutations we get, with more slots unlocked with tokens.
- I find tokens are a bit overused. I almost feel like there should be a third resource used for the research tree.
- I wish WASD moved humans instead of switching chambers. I find using a mouse to reposition them somehow tedious
- I wish the humans were more active. I wish they would cheer after they win, or have conversation between them, or have a text box say "nooo!" when they die or something.
- I wish there was a better way to plan ahead, as part of the gameplay. Like, knowing you're facing a horde rather than a few tough robots would make you adjust your army a bit. As it is, since you don't know, the strategy feels independent of the game.

Review from Steam

a decent game with a cool premise, just really lacks content. i have played for 2 1/2 hours and have seen every combination possible, and figured out how to win pretty easily, at least just for the solo content. the pvp mode in this game is absolutely terrible to play- i originally thought the game was mainly solo content, with a little bit of online pvp as an extra option- but nope, the short single-player section ends and its either pvp or restart. the "game modes" don't really add that much other than minor starting roster changes or restrictive challenge runs that i just don't find that fun. i wouldn't really say this game is worth the price unless you are getting it on discount, but its definitely an interesting concept with pretty good gameplay.

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