Desperados is one of the famous and iconic franchises of the real-time tactics genre that has inspired lots of titles. It has been absent for more than a decade, but we had seen lots of games based on its mechanics like Shadow Tactics, and after about 14 years from the last entry in the Desperados franchise, we can now enjoy another adventure with John Cooper.
We’ll start with the game’s story. Desperados series’ main protagonist is a bounty hunter called John Cooper. Like previous entries in the franchise, Desperados 3 is also about John Cooper. This game tries to be like a prequel. It will mostly explore the John Cooper’s backstory about how he got into the job of bounty hunting, how he met his friends like Doc McCoy and Kate O’Hara and other event related to the backstory of the characters. It has been about 14 years since the last game, and even the fans may forget the story, also the game need to get a new fanbase to ensure its continuity, so it is a smart choice from the developers to use a prequel-like narrative for this game. In this way, even those who have no prior experience from the Desperados franchise can easily understand the story and connect to them.
Through the story, the player will meet five main playable characters. Three of them (Cooper, O’Hara, and Doc McCoy) are recurring characters in the series we’ve seen in previous installments. Two of them (Hector Mendoza and Isabelle Moreau) are new characters. John Cooper is the team leader and the primary basis of the story form around his character arc. Doc McCoy is a professional sharpshooter, and as you can guess from his name, a medic that works for money, but anyways get along with the team, and with or without money, the team’s problems are also his. Hector Mendoza is a sturdy hunter who has an old friendship with Cooper and, therefore, accompanies him in his journey. Kate O’Hara is a charming woman with some tough moments in his life. She is rescued by John Cooper and the team from serious family problems related to the notorious DeVitt Company. The last member of the group is a voodoo practitioner who helps the team get out of critical issues and then accompany them for the rest of their journey.
One of the main things that annoyed me about the story is that it doesn’t have a lot of complexity and twists and doesn’t use all of the characters’ full potential. I don’t mean it is not great, it is good enough to motivate you to play the game from the beginning to the end, but it had the potential to have a more engaging story. For example, except for the five main characters and two antagonists, the game pretty much doesn’t have other memorable characters or side stories. The game has some NPC that goes beyond being generic, but most of them are entirely typical characters that are just put to make the gameplay more fun.
I can say that Desperados 3, as a Real-Time Tactics game, is successful in storytelling. There are some flaws in the overall narrative experience, but generally, the story is acceptable to be a stimulus for the player to continue the game to the end. One of the most important positive points of the story is that it uses the franchise’s recurring characters in a way that even newcomers can understand them. This type of storytelling is a great achievement that could help grow the fanbase of the game, leading to new installments in the Desperados franchise.
After the story, we analyze the gameplay. As you know, the Desperados franchise is categorized in real-time tactics, which is a subgenre of strategy games. Despite standard real-time strategy games in which you hire an enormous army and manage your settlement’s economy, in real-time tactics games, you are just controlling a few characters (usually not more than 5). Games like XCOM also use the same philosophy but in a turn-based manner.
Desperados 3’s developer, Mimimi Games, has proved themselves as a very talented game studio in making real-time tactics titles with Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, which was heavily inspired by older Desperados games. Like Shadow Tactics, the level design of Desperados 3 is also perfect. Different parts of each level, their interconnection, enemy and ammo placement, different ways to make the deaths of enemies accidental, and all the other parts of levels are very well designed and make the game an ideal title in the genre.
One of the essential elements of real-time tactics games is the stealth mechanic. You can see the view cone of enemy sight and their hearing radius and should ultimately take the enemy’s sensory abilities into account when planning your next move. Your characters can crouch to make less noise and be less visible, but this will be at the cost of their speed and agility, so you should thoroughly think about the tradeoff and make the best move in each situation.
Most of the levels benefit from large areas that consist of interconnected subareas. You can usually approach each part of the mission from different perspectives, both in terms of how you traverse the subareas and how you will deal with enemies in each section. In lower difficulty settings, you can completely let go of stealth and approach enemies head-on. Still, in higher settings, you should often think very carefully and be as stealthy as possible. In the higher difficulty settings, the game will be like a brilliant mental puzzle, and you must use your intellect to overcome the challenges. I should also mention that the game’s difficulty settings consist of different parameters (like overall ammo distribution, enemy awareness, etc.) that you can tweak individually to make the game balanced in proportion to your skills.
There are also different types of enemies in the game. The thugs and simple gunmen can easily be fooled and dealt with. Ponchos are smarter and don’t easily get fooled by your whistling and other simple tricks. The most difficult enemies you’ll encounter are Long Coats, who are intelligent and can quickly identify Kate even when she is using a disguise. They are also sturdy, and no one can kill them in one hit except Hector. Your way of approaching each of these enemies should be different, and handling various types simultaneously in an area can be quite challenging. There are also dogs on some levels. They can smell the characters’ scent even from behind the objects, and you must be very careful when approaching them.
Each of the five playable characters has different abilities and skills that you should utilize to get the best result in each mission. Cooper can distract enemies with his fake coins and also has a throwing knife. He is also a very capable gunslinger who can shoot two enemies at once. Doc McCoy can use his bag to temporarily blind enemies and kill them; he is also capable of handling a long-range sniper rifle. Hector is mighty and can kill long coats with one swing of his ax; He also uses a bear trap and can carry two enemy corpses simultaneously. Kate O’Hara can use her charm to distract enemies and separate them from the others so she can incapacitate them. She also has a small gun and can use his perfume to temporarily blind enemies. And as the last member, we have Isabelle Moreau, who can use voodoo magic to control enemies and turn them against each other. He can also soul-bind two enemies so anything so if anything happens to one of the soul-bound enemies, that event will also happen to the other. Notably, every member has a different speed and other physical abilities that must be analyzed before acting in each mission.
One of the other vital mechanisms of the game is Showdown mode. In this mode, the game stops, and you can schedule each character’s next moves and then execute them at once. This mode makes you feel like a real tactician and strategist. You may sometimes overlook and forget to use this ability. Still, usually in the direst situations that you don’t know how to get past enemies, this mode will help you significantly.
Trial and error is also a crucial factor in this game. In each situation, there will be lots of options available to you, and after testing some of them, you may fail. In these situations, the best way is to use the Quick Save and Quick Load abilities. It is one of the game’s essential mechanics, and by default, if you don’t save the game after 1 minute, a popup will remind you to do so. The Quick Load mechanism in lots of games is not quick and rather slow, but fortunately, it is pretty fast in Desperados 3 and is a completely viable option. This system also helps to increase the overall playing time of the game. Most of the missions can be speedrun in less than 20 minutes. Because of this system and the desire to complete the levels as perfect as possible, most levels will be from 1 to 4 hours long. Hence, developers managed to increase the overall playing time of the game significantly by using these mechanisms. It is noteworthy that for a Quick Save mechanism to work correctly, developers must design the levels very carefully to make them appropriate to such a system. Fortunately, this mechanism is entirely suitable for Desperados 3’s levels.
As you know, alongside PC, Desperados 3 is also released on PS4 and Xbox One. Implementing Control systems of strategic games for controllers is pretty tricky. It needs a different approach, and most strategic games fail in implementing this system, so we don’t usually see games with vital control systems on consoles. Desperados 3 is an exception. Its control system is excellent on the consoles. It utilizes an entirely different UI to make the game as accessible as possible to be played by controllers. After playing the game using both mouse and keyboard and controller, I can confirm that it plays well on controllers. Of course, the best experience is still achieved using mouse and keyboard, but controllers offer a very decent and pleasant experience, and there are no severe problems in terms of the console port.
The only problem of the gameplay is its similarity to the Shadow Tactics. Of course, they are from the same genre and the same developer and should have similarities. Still, I think in some parts of the Desperados 3, it is not just simple resemblance and we’re playing the same game using different graphical assets. This is not a severe problem, because both games are perfect in terms of level design, but I hope we see more innovations in the next title of Mimimi games.
After gameplay, we come to the graphics. The game features an outstanding art design that helps you immerse yourself in a Western world. From the architecture of buildings to foliage and character models, they are all completely in line with the game’s Western theme. In terms of technical graphics, Desperados 3 can be categorized as an acceptable game. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t improved a lot from the Shadow Tactics, which is disappointing, considering the 3.5 years gap between the releases of these two games.
And at last, we come to music and sound. The soundtracks composed for the game are perfect for a Western game and, in some situations, make the game feel like movies from the golden Western Spaghetti era. Voice acting and sound effects are also done with adequate quality and don’t have any severe issues.
Desperados III is a great real-time tactics game. Its elegant level design, great music, right implementation of Quick Save and Quick Load mechanisms, and well-written characters help create a perfect experience in this genre. It is a must-buy for every fan of the Desperados franchise and the genre. Even if you’re not familiar with real-time tactics games, Desperados 3 can be an extraordinary impressive experience.