Switch version tested
Review code provided
Do you know when you hear a soundtrack in a game that begs to be played? That’s how I felt about Despotism 3K. Granted, it’s not the kind of game you’ve been following on Twitter. It’s a game that has been relatively off the grid. Again, when I saw the trailer and heard the music, I wanted to give it a go, and, spoiler alert; I love it.
But the music isn’t the selling point, and after the 400th attempt at getting to that elusive 25th day, while it doesn’t grate on you, it doesn’t have the same impact. That’s probably because you’re so invested in what your puny humans are doing. You see, Despotism 3K is a strategy game where you play a narcissistic alien who has enslaved the human race for the better burger. Among other things. Think The Matrix; only there is no ‘The One’ – instead, we’re all in the same boat and merely the battery for some unseen evil oppressor.
Humans are an essential power source – everyone knows that who runs an outdoor generator, right? So, you have a limited supply of humans to do your bidding to generate enough power to be able to do the things you want. So, how is this completed? First of all, you have the hamster wheel that is the primary source of power. Your humans will run on an infinite spinning wheel to supply enough energy for your evil endeavours. Every so many seconds, your humans will need to be fed, and a percentage of your available power generated will deplete. If you run out of power, it’s game over, so you need to ensure you have a constant supply of humans to carry our the menial task, but you need a steady flow of Homosapiens to complete the job. How do you do that? Ask your parents about the birds and the bees.
There’s another section in the game that allows you to allocate a pair of humans to do the ugly dance; that is, every so many seconds they’ll produce another human at your disposal. By default, their ‘actions’ are censored by a big black and white censorship panel. Being a grown-up, as defined by society, I removed the censorship but realised I was a bit hasty when you see how babies are made. This isn’t a game to play on the 50+ inch TV in the living room. Anyways, allocate some humans to generate power (ok, granted, that link is to Detroit: Become Human, but you get the point), a few couples to make some babies, and if you’re running low on energy, you can always sacrifice some folk to produce power and meat. Your humans need to eat, so the other section is a facility where your staff will bounce up and down on a trampoline. Because that’s how food is made. Aside from these areas, you also have an area of downtime for your workers to replenish their health.
The areas on the production line are quite limited. Still, you can steadily upgrade them for greater capacities such as generating more power, reproducing more efficiently or ensuring the food you produce goes that little bit further. All upgrades use up power, so you have to be confident that you have enough available for the upgrade, as well as the inevitable countdown for when you have to provide power and food. This in itself is a challenge, but throughout the game, you have these random sequences, accessible by pressing the R button, and you’ll get a multiple-choice question. Sometimes your actions may result in your humans morphing into zombies or vampires. They don’t produce as much power, but they don’t get tired so much. Other times you’ll have a serial killer loose, killing all your humans, committing mass suicide, or factory workers getting body parts trapped in machinery causing a dip in production. Cthulu also makes an appearance.
The game aims to get you through to the 25th day of survival, but it’s bloody hard. There are difficulty options, and even when told that you won’t get the in-game achievements if switching to the easy mode, I still went for it, just so I could say I finished it. However, it was like bringing a knife to a gunfight, and while some elements were easier, it wasn’t enough of an impact to be able to streamline to the end. So, it was back to the normal mode and playing on repeat again and again. There’s only one level, and it’s a static screen of your minions working for you. There are a few options such as updating the number of arms you have to transfer one human to the next place – which is a great help (they even turn into tentacles if you have a little flirting session with Cthulu). Despite the lack of scenery and sections for your humans to work in, the game makes up for it in random encounters and modifiers that make Despotism 3K a real roll of the dice.
Sometimes you’re dealt a hand that enables you to progress at a rapid rate, then you get some random modifier that has your humans killing themselves, and before long, you’re without any of your workers. There was one occasion where all my humans either died of exhaustion or killed themselves if left in their rest area. Left with one human left jumping on a trampoline to make more food, I was in a quandary where the only option was to play it out for the inevitable death. In this case, press the L button and time will speed up. This option is useful when you’re waiting for your groups to make enough power, or when you realise the impending doom and need to kill them off.
Despotism 3K is the type of addictive strategy game that offers practically nothing in terms of visuals or game modes. Still, the fundamental gameplay of manipulating your humans to generate power for your selfish needs is so addictive, if a little too harsh. There’s something about that game that feels impossible, yet you don’t ever give up hope to reach the final day. As you can surmise, I’m not quite there yet, but haven’t given up on humankind.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: PC, Nintendo, Mobile
Release Date: 30/05/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Konfa Games
Publisher: Gameplay First
Download link: eShop