Desperados III Review – Silent Cowboy, Deadly Cowboy

    Title: Desperados III
    Developer: Mimimi Games
    Release Date: June 16, 2020
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: THQ Nordic
    Genre: Real-Time Strategy

The 2000s saw the introduction of a ton of interesting games and series that we haven’t seen in years. One of these is Desperados, a real-time tactics series set in the American Wild West. Though each of the previous entries in the series did relatively well, Developer Spellbound Entertainment went out of business in 2012, so we haven’t seen hide nor hair of the series since 2007.

Well, leave it to THQ Nordic to sweep in and save a seemingly dead series. Desperados III, developed by Mimimi Games, looks to bring the series back to life, reintroducing cowboy John Cooper to a whole new generation of gamers. Seeing as how this is the first game in the series to make its way to consoles, does it succeed in reviving the series, or should it have been left in the past?

Desperados III follows cowboy John Cooper, a drifter on a quest of redemption. As he hunts down enemies from his past, Cooper comes across and befriends bounty hunter Doc McCoy, runaway bride Kate, trapper Hector, and mysterious sorceress Isabelle. Together, the team takes down numerous nefarious gunslingers in a journey that culminates in a dramatic showdown akin to the Wild West films of old.

This plot brings nothing new to the table, but this feels intentional. While you won’t be seeing anything genre-defining from the story itself, the plot is able to coast on its characters. Cooper, Hector, McCoy, Kate, and Isabella are all genuinely entertaining characters. Watching them interact is a ton of fun, and their chemistry is what really carries the plot.

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Desperados III’s gameplay is equal parts stealth and real-time tactics. While players have the option to take on each mission any way they want, stealth is heavily encouraged, as running in guns blazing will typically end in swift defeat.

The freedom that Desperados III gives players is one of its strongest points. Most players will probably experience each of Desperados III’s missions in entirely different ways. Even if two players both decide on a stealth approach, how they take down each enemy in their path could be completely unique.

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Unfortunately, stealthing around and taking down enemies silently is more complicated than it might sound. Luckily, Desperados III heavily encourages trial and error. Players can quick-save as much as they want, which I took advantage of. Making your way through an entire area only to die at the end and restart is the worst.

The trial and error approach works surprisingly well for the game’s mission structure and is responsible for some of its more amazing moments. Though it sometimes takes over ten tries to take down a single enemy, it is incredibly satisfying when you execute a cool maneuver that ends up working in your favor.

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Each of Desperados III’s five playable characters are tons of fun to control. They all play slightly differently, with their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Hector is a tank, able to take large amounts of damage, dish out damage with his shotgun, and lure enemies to their deaths with his bear trap. Kate, however, is much more centered around distraction, with the ability to blend in with enemies and draw their attention away from other characters. Figuring out each character’s quirks and deciding how to deploy them in any given situation is vital to completing a mission successfully.

Real-time tactics games usually lend themselves best to a mouse and keyboard, Mimimi Games has done a fantastic job mapping Desperados III’s actions onto a controller. Though the control scheme does take some time to get used to, it feels fantastic once you get the hang of it.

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Desperados III might not have the best graphics in the world, but it doesn’t need to. The game is entirely isometric, meaning you never get too close to any of the character models. Sure, they don’t look too hot up close, but that doesn’t really matter when you’re making your strategically planning out a mission from a pulled back viewpoint.

As you might have guessed, Desperados III is a challenging game. While most of this difficulty feels earned, there were multiple times where it felt as if I would unfairly trip an alarm or be spotted. I’m admittedly not the best at these kinds of games, so I found the whole experience difficult even on the standard difficulty. Those looking for even more of a challenge will be able to ramp things up to a whole other level with even higher settings available.

On the topic of the standard difficulties, Desperados III features plenty of extra challenges for players to attempt at any given level. For instance, each level has a speedrun time, challenging players to finish a level that took me an hour to complete in 12 minutes. Other challenges range from killing a certain amount of enemies with one character, killing all enemies, killing no enemies, or even level-specific circumstances such as taking a picture with a dead body. These challenges provide fun new ways for players to approach levels and challenge you to look at obstacles in unique ways.

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Desperados III doesn’t have a groundbreaking plot or outstanding graphics. Still, its gameplay mechanics end up making it one of the best tactical campaigns that I’ve ever played in a while. I had a blast getting the most out of each character’s unique skillset even during some of the more difficult missions. In the end, this will satisfy any craving you’ve had over the past ten years for the Desperados series.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jake Yoder

Lover of all things gaming, anime, film and theatre. Shonen anime/manga enthusiast.