Hot off the success of Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, Mimimi are back with Desperados III, a prequel to the series which shows the humble origins of John Cooper and his merry gang of outlaws. It’s a good ol’ fashion western revenge tale which is actually quite engaging, keeping you on the edge of your seat through its tense real-time tactics.
At its core, this is the classic Commandos mixed with fun elements from games like Hitman, which see you killing cowboys and hiding the bodies where no-one will find them. RTS games are generally quite hectic but here, as an RTT, patience is the name of the game. Taking it slow pays off as you watch guards walk their routes just so you can find that five second gap to make the kill and hide the evidence.
It can be quite the learning curve at the start but you soon get used to it. The gameplay can lean on the quick save and quick load function, helping to make some of the more fraught sections more bearable. It also means you can experiment, try things out and see what works.
Typical missions see you go from point A to point B, sometimes with an extra objective thrown in. One mission for instance, needs you to stop a train in its tracks so you and your crew can board it. To do so, you need to find something to clog up the tracks. In my case, I chose to send some bulls running like a mad pitch invasion and before you know it, the train stopped and my exit was open.
Part of the beauty is that there are no hard time limits. You can sit there, wait, keep trying until you get it right. It also gives you time to learn each of the characters extensive skill-set.
Take my very large hunter friend Hector. Having spent hours polishing his giant bear trap (which he’s lovingly named Bianca) he brings her out to play for special occasions. After a heavy night in the Baton Rouge saloon, I watched as Hector set his traps, whistles to lure guards over, and the hides, waiting for Bianca to chomp down on their ankle..
Desperados 3 can create a lot of situations like that, moments where you can really get creative, and I had Hector do this time and time again through the game. Good old Hector.
Over the course of the game, you get access to five characters. Starting with John Cooper, your typical western gunslinger. He carries his trusty knife which can be used to sneak up and stab folks or throw it at them from a distance – you’ll need to retrieve it though if you do that. He also carries an infinite supply of coins which he can throw like Agent 47 to distract guards and turn their attention elsewhere. It’s really handy when you are trying to sneak your team through an area and a guard simply won’t look away. Selecting a guard lets you see their cone of vision which is, of course, invaluable for your stealthy approach. Finally, John has two trusty resolvers which can be used to take down two enemies at once but should be used sparingly because the noise will attract others close by.
Along the way, you meet other friends such as the aforementioned Hector with his traps and shotgun. Then there’s Miss Kate O’Hara, a master of disguise who can chat to some guards and lure others away to quiet locations for a swift knee to the happy sacks. McCoy, the shady doctor, administers an unhealthy amount of lead from a distance with his sniper rifle, while also lending his bag of doctor tools to the cause. Last but not least, there’s voodoo expert Isabelle who has the unique ability to mind control enemies and psychically link them, meaning if you kill one, the other dies in the same way.
As you can see, each character has a particular set of skills which when experimented with in the sandbox scenarios, making for some pretty cool situations.
The Showdown system helps your plans come together. At any time, you can pause the game and enter Showdown mode, letting you queue one action per character to then be performed simultaneously. It’s super handy for when you need to take out four guys at once, their cones of vision making it almost impossible to approach. In these tough situations, I found it a lot easier to get my guys in position and then execute a quad kill via the Showdown feature. They always feel pretty smart to pull off.
After completion of a level, you’re shown a replay screen of your whole journey through the level. It was quite funny to watch back as I was not aware how many saves I was making and how many times I had to reload. It’s all shown on the map in fast motion.
You can also imagine my surprise/dismay when I got to the badges screen and saw a challenge which was rewarded for speedrunning the level in 15 minutes. “Jeez”, I thought, “I’ve been at it for two hours!”
For those who like a challenge, there is plenty of replay value with badges representing different tasks you can perform in the level. For instance, one mission task you with beating it without using Kate’s disguise or only killing the marked targets. At some point in the game, The Baron will message you to offer you new challenges in the form of twists on previous levels. One particularly cool challenges see’s you take on a Lovecraftian murder investigation in the streets of New Orleans. There’s only five of these challenges in the game at launch, but more will be added as free updates which is neat.
Players much more intelligent than I will come up with really inventive ways to complete levels. For me, a lot of the time was spent waiting for the right moment, luring a guard off the beaten path and murdering them before hiding them in a bush. This is fine for the most part, but it’s an approach that can get a little arduous after repeating it for the umpteenth time. Forcing yourself to use different characters will probably alleviate this, so it’s encouraged to try and take a different approach from time to time.