Review – Desperados III
I was lucky enough to be invited to E3 last year, and the very first game I got to test behind the scenes with was Desperados III. In my preview article I was extremely impressed with it, so when the chance come along to play the final build, I most certainly jumped on the chance. The “tactics” genre has seen some pretty good support lately with games like Gears Tactics, XCOM 2 Collection for Switch, XCOM: Chimera Squad, and Space Hulk: Tactics. So where does Desperados III fit within these well received tactics titles? I’m glad to say that my initial impressions were spot on and Desperados III belongs at the top.
There is a difference between the games I mentioned above and Desperados III. They’re all turn-based tactics games, while Desperados III is real-time. This means you don’t need to worry about action points or wait for your opponents to make their move. You’ll need to use all of your skills, allies, and moves to set up attacks or distractions to take out your enemies. You’ll need to pay attention to vision cones, patrol patterns, and various enemy types all at the same time before making your move.
Like most tactics games, the gameplay is where Desperados III shines, but there is a nice story and character set up. In fact, some of your ally characters are amazing and they all have their own personality and skills. Desperados III sets you up on a revenge path where you play as John Cooper, trying to get revenge for his father after a notorious outlaw kills him. This is about all the setup that is provided, but it is enough to get you going. What keeps you going isn’t just Cooper’s story, but all the great characters you run into and recruit to your gang along the way.
It’s hard to make a decision on my favorite character in the entire game, as they all have great moves and personality. I think it might be Hector, with his massive bear trap named Bianca, that will clamp in half anyone unlucky enough to step on it. There is something very satisfying about it. There is also Doc McCoy, who uses a sniper rifle, plus a medical bag that lures enemies and stuns them when opened. Kate O’Hara can use disguises to trick normal enemies, as well as use her beauty to lure lustful men away. She can lure them out of their normal path or perhaps onto an oncoming train.
As you proceed through the game you will unlock some additional skills for each character, which keeps things fresh and opens up even more options. You even get another character about half to two-thirds of the way through the game, a character that adds voodoo magic to the mix. While Desperados at no point sets up magic in its world, and it did feel weird at first, I quickly ended up ignoring that. Playing as Isabelle was way too fun for me to care.
Outside of the great selection of moves per character, there are plenty of environmental solutions to taking out targets. There are missions where you’ll have neutral zones within towns where gangs won’t attack you. However, if you step into one of their territories, you’ll be attacked on sight. While exploring the town areas, you can overhear townsfolk or even gang members talking about structural issues, or a commander’s drinking issue, etc. These give you hints on what to look for in order to take out your targets quickly and without ever being noticed.
Environmental takedowns aren’t only set up in certain levels or against your main targets either. You’ll be able to lure common enemies under a loose boulder, set free a store sign, throw torches into an oil puddle, and so much more. This just goes to show how much planning Mimimi Games puts into their level building. Not only that, but the replay factor is high with all the variety and additional objectives that unlock after beating a chapter. That is on top of its already lengthy twenty-five or so hour campaign, of course depending on the difficulty settings you choose, which are plentiful.
While you’ll likely want to stay in stealth mode and pick off enemies, or plan a multiple ally ambush, you do have options of going loud. John Cooper has access to two pistols that he can shoot two separate enemies with. Hector has a devastating sawed-off shotgun that will kill anyone in its firing cone range. Doc McCoy has the aforementioned sniper rifle, as well as poison vials that will knock out most enemies instantly. Isabelle can take control of enemies and make them shoot at each other. If things go wrong or you just want some more action, going loud is still an option. However, your best friend will be the F5 (quick save) and F8 (quick load) buttons.
Showdown Mode is the feature that will make you feel like a tactics master. This allows you to stop time and set up actions for all of your characters. Hitting the Shift key takes you in and out of Showdown Mode, but once you set your line-up you can hit Enter and watch as your moves play out. It is extremely satisfying when you setup all of your allies in multiple attack positions and stealth take out a group of enemies all at once. It successfully makes you feel like a puppet master when you get a flawless attack.
Visually, Desperados III is not exactly a jaw-dropping title, but there is a good amount of variety in its levels and their details within. Zooming in close to inspect areas shows off some muddy textures and not-so-great transitions from one asset to another. With that being, there is enough detail in the scenery to make you forget about these issues, especially when you play with a zoomed out camera. Most importantly, it performs well enough, and I didn’t notice any graphical glitches or framerate issues.
The sound design is well done for the most part, offering complimentary western-themed music and sound effects to the appropriate actions onscreen, be it an item, a weapon being shot, or a general background effect. The voice acting is pretty good for the most part. However, the voice samples uttered whenever you do simple actions like moving a character, repeat way too often and can become tiring to hear.
Desperados III is an extremely polished, smart, and engaging tactical game that deserves to be in the library of any fan of the genre. The well-crafted cast of characters and their unique movesets, coupled with great level design, make Desperados III one of the top members of its class, cementing Mimimi Games as one of the best tactical game developers in the business.
The art direction fits the setting perfectly, and while there is a lot of detail in each map. Up close textures are lacking in quality, however.
Near flawless real-time tactics gameplay, with an amazing cast of characters, each with unique moves. Levels are extremely well done, but the AI can sometimes be a little wonky.
For the most part the voice acting is well done, but character reactions to your input actions can become repetitive. Music fits the setting very well, and overall sound effects are pretty good.
Superb level design that takes full advantage of every character’s unique skills, letting you finish missions in your own way. Bar a few AI or pathway issues, Desperados III is one of the best real-time tactics games out there.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Desperados III is available now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Reviewed on an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb DDR4 RAM.
A copy of Desperados III was provided by the publisher.