Until recently I have to admit that I had never heard of the Desperados series. If it weren’t for the fact that the game had a three in its title I wouldn’t have even known that there were other games in the series. In some ways this makes sense due to the fact that the series has been dormant for quite a few years. The original Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive was released back in 2001 while its sequel Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge was released five years later in 2006. It is not surprising that the series has been mostly forgotten with the fact that there hasn’t been a game released for it in fourteen years. If it wasn’t already obvious I never played the original two games in the series. With the fact that Desperados III is a prequel along with the fact that I love these type of real time tactics games though, I wanted to check out the game despite not having any familiarity with the series. Desperados III takes a long thought dead franchise and brings it roaring back with fantastic real time tactics gameplay that fans of the genre should love.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Mimimi Games and THQ Nordic for the review copy of Desperados III used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
For those familiar with the Desperados series, Desperados III acts as a prequel to the previous games. In the game you play as a John Cooper on his journey through the old west. Joining John on his journey are the runaway bride Kate, the hitman Doc McCoy, the trapper Hector, and the mysterious Isabelle. John’s quest for redemption has him and the others traversing the Wild West.
If I were to classify Desperados III’s gameplay I would say that it is a tactical strategy game which utilizes real time tactics. The game is broken down into stages filled with enemies that greatly outnumber your own forces. The objective of each mission involves reaching certain locations, completing various tasks, and subduing or killing the people that stand in your way. Depending on the difficulty you choose you will have limited health and ammo so you need to act smarter than your enemies. The game takes place in real time, but the game gives you the option to pause and set up a plan to put into action. This is where the gameplay diverges into two paths depending on how you want to play it.
Your first option is to go in guns blazing. Each character has their own set of weapons which allow you to quickly dispatch of enemies. These methods are quick, dirty and generally attract attention, but they get the job done quickly. The characters have various ranged attacks (with limited ammo) which usually results in one shot kills. While effective this strategy regularly leads to alarms being set off forcing you to deal with more enemies. While you have access to weapons you can’t survive a big gunfight as you are outnumbered so you need to choose the right times to launch these type of attacks.
Your other option is to take a more thoughtful approach. The game includes a mechanic where you can analyze all of the people to see their cone of vision. If you avoid this cone or move to cover before it fills up you won’t be detected. The stealth strategy mostly involves moving between covers and either knocking out or killing the enemies that get in your way. This involves utilizing each of the characters’ special abilities as some can be used to cause distractions while others can be used to lure enemies to desired locations. Taking the stealth approach mostly involves slowly moving between covers so you aren’t noticed. This might take longer, but it reduces the number of enemies that you end up having to deal with.
To help you with the more methodical approach the game includes Showdown mode. When you activate this mode the game will pause. You are then able to simulate what you want to do with each character by setting up the next action you want them to take. This allows you to coordinate your characters actions so you can complete more complicated maneuvers. When you have finished your plan you can either implement it immediately or you can wait to put it into action with the press of a button. When you activate the plan all of your characters will try to complete their assigned task.
Having never played the other games in the Desperados series I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Desperados III. With no familiarity of the series I mostly chose to check it out because I generally like these type of games which lead to some pretty high expectations for the game. Despite the somewhat high expectations, Desperados III still succeeded at surpassing them. Desperados III doesn’t drastically innovate the real time tactical strategy game, but it doesn’t really have to. The game succeeds because it does a great job balancing all of the different elements into a satisfying gameplay experience.
In particular the game does a great job balancing between the stealth and guns blazing mechanics. The game doesn’t allow you to rely solely on one strategy, but you can definitely favor one over the other. In my case I was more likely to use a stealthy approach. The stealth in particular is really satisfying as it makes you feel stealthy even if you might not be all that stealthy in the game. It is really satisfying being able to sneak around picking off one enemy after another. The addition of the Showdown mode in particular is really satisfying especially when you can pull off complicated maneuvers utilizing all of your characters at the same time.
I would say one of the leading reasons for why the gameplay is so satisfying is the fact that the level design in the game is great. You can tell that the developers wanted to give players multiple different ways of approaching a level. The game gives players ways that are more useful to aggressive players and paths for people that want to take a more stealthy approach. With the number of built in paths you could play through a level a couple times without having to take the same path twice. This really works for the game as it gives you a lot of choice in how you want to approach a given situation. The levels in particular are pretty large as it will take time to make your way through them unless you are already familiar with them and play really aggressively. The combination of the mechanics with the level design leads to a really satisfying experience that fans of this genre should love.
The gameplay in Desperados III requires thoughtful planning as unless you have already played a level you likely won’t succeed by just winging it. In addition a lot of the game relies on trial and error. The best way to approach the game is to formulate a strategy and just see if it works. If it fails you just reload a past save and try a different strategy. The game is well aware of this and even alludes to it in the tutorial. The developers factored this into the controls as well as it dedicates a button to quick saving the game. When you die you can quickly load up your latest safe. The game encourages you to save often as it regularly points out how long it has been since the last time you saved. As an incessant saver I thought this was a nice addition as it allows you to quickly save your progress even after small pieces of progress. Unless you want to lose a lot of progress I would highly recommend regularly saving as you will fail a lot as parts of the game are quite difficult. In these areas you need pretty precise timing in order to succeed. At times it can be a little frustrating as your plans will fail over and over again. If you save regularly enough though you won’t lose too much progress after each failure.
As these type of tactical strategy games don’t always work the greatest on consoles, I wanted to quickly discuss the console ports of the game as I ended up playing the game on PlayStation 4. The game will probably control slightly better on PCs, but I encountered no issues with the game on PlayStation 4. I attribute this to the fact that the game’s controls are pretty simple. It is quick and easy to switch between characters and abilities. Your failures in the game will be your own as you can’t blame them on the controls.
As for the overall story and atmosphere I would say that Desperados III does a pretty good job. I will say that I have never been a big fan of Westerns. Despite this I thought the game does a good job with its setting. The game utilizes more of a zoomed out isometric view so you can never get too close to any of the characters or objects. Nonetheless I think the game’s graphics are quite good as it feels like you are back in the Wild West. The story is similar to your typical Wild West game, but it was entertaining enough. This is partially due to the characters who I found to be pretty interesting. All of the characters in the game are voice acted and the actors do a good job. Those who are big fans of Wild West games should love the overall atmosphere while others like myself should still appreciate it.
I really enjoyed Desperados III, but I did have a couple issues with the game.
One of the biggest issues I had with the game will probably seem minor to many people. In each mission there are main objectives that you need to complete. In addition to these though there are optional objectives/challenges that you can complete. These vary from dispatching enemies in specific ways, completing additional objectives, and completing the mission in a unique way. I actually really like the idea behind this as it rewards players for playing the levels in different ways. The problem is that all of these optional challenges are hidden for your first playthrough of a level. To complete any of these objectives you need to either be good at guessing what the hidden challenges are, or cheat and look them up beforehand. You can usually make a pretty good guess at what you have to do, but there will be times where you guess completely wrong. Once you complete a mission you get to see all of the challenges that you completed and which you failed. The problem I had with this is that I generally like to try and beat as many of the additional challenges as I can in my first attempt at a level. In Desperados III though you basically have to just guess at what they are. You likely will then have to replay the level to pick up the challenges you couldn’t complete on your first attempt. In many cases you will have to play a mission three times as some of the additional challenges are contradictory where you can’t complete both in the same playthrough of a level. This is more of an annoyance than a real problem with the game, but I wish it would just give players the challenges from the beginning of the level.
My other concern with the game has to deal with the load times. I ended up playing the game on PlayStation 4 so the load times may be better on other consoles or PCs. At times the load times take so long that I was wondering whether the game had locked up. They are not the worst I have seen in a video game, but they could be better. Prepare to wait more than a minute for most of the levels to load. The good news about the load times though is that once the level loads you don’t have to worry about any loading until the next level. Once its loaded the game is seamless with no slowdowns. For this reason the load times are not nearly as bad as they otherwise could have been.
As I haven’t finished the game I can’t give you a definitive length, but unless the game ends abruptly you should not be disappointed by the length. The game’s length will somewhat depend on the player as those that take their time will take a lot longer than those who rush through the levels. The time challenge for most of the levels is between ten and fifteen minutes, but if you take your time you could easily spend 30 minutes to an hour on a level. In addition the game has a surprising amount of replay value. Each level has a bunch of different challenges to complete and many of them can’t be completed in one attempt so you likely will have to play through a level at least three times to finish all of the challenges. Due to the level design giving players multiple paths this isn’t a bad thing as there are enough options available to keep a level interesting for at least two or three playthroughs.
Heading into Desperados III having never played any other games in the series, I didn’t know exactly what to expect out of the game. While I generally like games from this genre, I was still quite surprised by the game. It doesn’t drastically differ from most games in the real time tactical strategy genre, but it didn’t really have to. The gameplay is really satisfying as you use all of your characters’ abilities in order to take out the enemies that stand in your way. I preferred playing stealthily, but playing a more aggressive style should work as well. This is all thanks to the game’s great level design which gives you several different ways of approaching a level. The controls work well and the addition of the Showdown mechanic lets you plan things out in order to utilize all of the characters at the same time. The game does rely on quite a bit of trial and error though as sections can be really hard at times. My other issues with the game are more minor. I wish the game would have allowed you to see the additional challenges from the beginning of your first playthrough. The load times can be a little long as well.
My recommendation for Desperados III is pretty simple. Do you like real time tactical strategy games that mix stealth elements with more aggressive combat? If your answer is no the game probably won’t be for you. Those that like these type of games though should really enjoy Desperados III and should consider picking it up.
Buy Desperados III online: Amazon (PC Physical Edition, PlayStation 4 Physical Standard Edition, PlayStation 4 Physical Collector’s Edition, Xbox One Physical Standard Edition,Xbox One Physical Collector’s Edition), Steam