Desperados III PC Review

Attention to detail that extends past its strong tactical core makes Desperados III a must-play, despite its niche appeal.

By Woozie, Posted 15 Jun 2020

My party of three needs to traverse a courtyard teeming with enemies but, to attract no attention, they have to act just at the right time. I take note of anyone that could see me and give the order, but just as Hector, the party’ resident burly man, splits an opponent’s skull with his axe, he gets spotted, which quickly sees enemies pouring in and overwhelming my party. Luckily, I had quicksaved just before acting, which lets me go back to move Dr. McCoy in position to snipe the pesky enemy as Hector takes down his prey. But this time around Dr. McCoy takes a bit too long to hide the body, getting spotted yet again by a third, patrolling foe. One quickload later I move John Cooper closer and, as he’s able to carry bodies quicker, I’m finally free to move forward. Beating Desperados III involves lots of trial and error, but eventually discovering the right way to plan your moves and watching them unfold like clockwork is extremely satisfying, showcasing developer Mimimi Games’ expertise when it comes to developing real-time tactics games.

Desperados – not to be confused with Desperado, the 1995 film featuring Antonio Banderas – is a real-time tactics series that took a fourteen-year hiatus before returning to life with its third entry. Set against a western backdrop, Desperados III follows John Cooper, a bounty hunter hell-bent on finding a man he’s tracked since he was a child. As he travels across the Old West, he crosses paths with a handful of other misfits who, due to circumstance and maybe a sliver of fleeting friendship, team up to reach their goals while dealing with the forces of the hilariously stereotypical Devitt company.

Desperados III, PC, Review, Screenshot

You’re always outnumbered in Desperados III but properly mapping enemy positions and their vision range alongside making the best use of your five heroes’ kits always sees you through. Where Cooper uses coins to distract foes, knives to kill silently and dual revolvers to loudly dispatch two targets at the same time, Kate can use perfume to temporarily blind all guards and pickpocket goods. Hector is slower but his size makes him the only one who can deal with stronger Longcoat opponents, while also using a bear trap, and whistling to attract guards. Dr. McCoy is a pragmatic sniper with a knack for using chemicals to distract and knock out opponents, while Isabelle stands out thanks to her ability to not just control enemies using voodoo magic at the cost of health, but also link their fates, ensuring that one bullet or unfortunate accident takes out two enemies.

Each of Desperados III’s fairly large levels are made up of smaller sections that act as self-contained puzzles. Static enemies constantly overlook set parts of the levels. Those moving around can provide both an added danger to keep an eye on as well as windows to slip past them and position in – often conveniently-placed – bushes which obscure your characters as long as they’re crouched. If bushes aren’t available, you might be able to use ladders, ropes or doors to reach higher ground that, most of the time, keep you out of sight. Vision is key to completing levels as it lets you know which areas you can safely navigate. You can click individual opponents to track their vision cone or place down markers using right clicks and see if anyone’s vision extends to that spot. You’ll get quickly seen when caught in the vision cone’s full area while the striped area lets you move through it if crouched. Needless to say, trial and error also apply to navigating the web of intertwined vision cones.

Desperados III, PC, Review, Screenshot

The self-contained nature of these areas disappears the moment you choose to go loud in a spot where other foes hear you or if someone bumps over a body you didn’t have time to clean up. Not only does this usually spawn more enemies from guard posts but those from other sections of the level can decide to investigate. While you will find yourself able to fight back, as most characters wield firearms, their relative fragility alongside cooldowns and limited ammo make it impossible to Rambo your way through levels, even on easy difficulty but especially above. Thankfully, Desperados III’s UI gives you all the details you need, letting you know when enemies both on and offscreen will hear you.

The peak moments in Desperados III are those in which you carefully set up a plan – often using the Showdown Mode that pauses time – only to see your characters synchronize and pull it off perfectly. You’ll also find yourself having to act quickly, executing several such plans in a short period of time to make sure you don’t get noticed. As cerebral as planning things out can get, there’s an almost visceral satisfaction to clearing an area of enemies in this manner. That being said, the longer levels can feel a bit overwhelming due to the sheer amount of enemies you constantly have to face. There were several moments when I found myself wishing the game would cut me some slack or that it offered more elegant ways of getting past areas.

Desperados III, PC, review, Screenshot

Desperados III features a few different enemy types that showcase various levels of immunity to the tricks in your characters’ arsenals. Where regular thugs and gunmen will fall for Kate’s charms, and Hector’s whistle, being easily led to spots where the others can silently kill them, Ponchos and gunwomen are immune to being charmed. Longcoats easily see through Kate’s disguise and, if Hector isn’t around, can only be taken down by shooting them once and having another character attack them from behind while vulnerable. The solutions to progressing through each level never become rote thanks to varied enemy placement and layouts. Open courtyards lead into tighter areas with obstacles blocking line of sight. Certain buildings add multiple vertical levels for characters to act on while muddy swamps balance out the higher number of brushes with characters leaving tracks that can give away their position or event act as a lure. This means you won’t always deal with Longcoats first or last – you’ll need to assess each situation depending on the enemies’ position or patrol paths, the obstacles blocking vision and the entrance points available to your characters. Its levels also stay fresh by granting or taking away options from the characters’ kits, having them deal with loud surfaces and having them start in different locations.

During the story, you’ll head through small towns, lavish estates, the lively city of New Orleans and its adjacent muddy swamps, in what’s one of the most visually varied games of the year and one that doesn’t shun away from playing with different color palettes. New Orleans’ exuberance gets drained once the DeVitt company locks the city down; the swamps feature more brown and green than Flagstone’s predominant yellow. Although its character models’ faces aren’t quite up to snuff from up close, Desperados III is a treat for the eye from beginning to end.

In some situations, Desperados III can be very brutal, even on normal difficulty. In fairness, it’s described as a hardcore tactical stealth game but you’re likely to bump into a few spots that require pinpoint precision when moving or very tight synchronization that’ll see you quick saving and quick loading a lot on the same sequence. While these two tools will be indispensable throughout the entire game, moments like these put a halt to the momentum of what’s otherwise an extremely engaging stealth tactics game. Being able to save whenever you want, however, makes Desperados III tough but fair, even with these brutal moments and its overreliance on high numbers of enemies. Adding to this, are its four difficulties which offer various levels of challenge while also letting you customize specific aspects like the density of enemies and your characters’ health. Easy difficulty makes the game approachable, being perfect for newbies, while normal and beyond progressively raise the bar, fitting more experienced players.

Desperados III, PC, Review, Screenshot

Replayability is another area in which Desperados III shines. Levels, by default, can be approached in a variety of different ways. Badges, side objectives and Baron challenges further add to this asking you to change your approach to completing levels in specific ways. These can be straightforward things from completing a mission on Hard difficulty to avoiding stepping on surfaces that make noise or not using Kate’s disguises. The Baron then remixes old levels using different enemy placements and by limiting the abilities available to your characters.

Desperados III’s attention to detail extends to its sound design. You’ll easily know when you’re causing noise not just by the visual cue, but also because you’ll hear the difference between walking through water, mud or rough soil. In cutscenes, you’ll hear John grunting of effort as he mounts his steed, spurs clinking and Hector having trouble breathing after running to meet up. Following an alcohol-infused night, your characters’ vocal responses when being ordered around will be considerably groggier. New Orleans exhibits another great touch in Desperados III’s sound design, the instruments with which the level’s theme is played changing as you move the camera from location to location. The piano of the posh bar would get replaced by saxophones when drawing closer to its Red Light District and violins when zooming in on its streets.

Desperados III, PC, Review, Screenshot

Desperados III’s story is a veritable western that doesn’t exactly veer away from the genre’s tropes but, through a mixture of excellent voice acting, impactful plot twists and friendly banter successfully manages to make the cutscenes between levels feel like an added reward to successfully completing its challenging missions. The voice acting enforces each character’s archetypes while successfully transmitting care when sneaking around but also bravado or hatred when dealing with foes, resulting in a believable fantasy.

Desperados III is a prime example of an excellent real-time tactics game that emphasizes observation, planning and knowledge of its five characters’ different kits and how they interact while also testing your reactiveness. It can be brutal at times and it relies a bit too much on outnumbering you but also lets you pick your difficulty and quicksave as often as you like. Its tactical core is strong enough to carry you over its campaign’s 25+ hours but developer Mimimi Games didn’t stop there, also offering a rich color palette across the game’s levels and excellent voice acting and sound design. Add difficulty customization and characters who feel like actual individuals with their own personalities to the mix, and you’ve a game that, in spite of its niche appeal, easily deserves the status of must-play.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): THQ Nordic
Developer(s): Mimimi Games
Genres: Real-Time Tactics, Stealth
Themes: Western
Release Date: 2020-06-16

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