So this game kinda came out of nowhere for me. I consider myself a fan of the genre, but I never played the previous two in the series. In fact, the only thing I really knew about the series was that it was generally well-regarded, with III being no exception. Having since finished the game, I’m now kicking myself for not getting into it earlier.
Excellent tactics gameplay. It has been quite some time since I’ve played a game for six or so hours straight and hardly noticed the time passing, but Desperados III managed to do exactly that. It takes all that makes the real time tactics genre fun and polishes it down to its very core, sprinkling in some neat additions of its own along the way. You’ve got the wide assortment of abilities to use, the stealth mechanics that actually have a good amount of depth to them, the environments with all of their interactive elements, and, of course, the layers upon layers of strategy offered by all of this.
Take for example the game’s “showdown” feature. This mechanic allows you to pause the game at any time to plan actions on any number of your characters. You can set up sneaky multi-kills, react to ambushes, or even execute an elaborate distraction trick to get guards off of your target. These can be executed simultaneously or even in sequence using any number of hotkeys.
There is so much to the game like this that there really isn’t a “right” way to go about things. You can go full stealth and try to take out enemies using melee only or run in guns blazing until you run out of ammo. I personally opted for somewhere in-between, conserving ammo and making use of the environment to dispatch of enemies when possible. There’s a ton of experimentation to be had and the game even encourages it. In fact, you’re reminded visually to quicksave if you haven’t done so in the past 60 seconds, that’s how much focus the game places on trial and error. Of course, there’s challenges for completing missions without using the quicksave, but I found it refreshing to see a game embrace it like this.
Fun and diverse characters. While the core gameplay may be solid, it’s the characters that really make the experience. Each character has their own distinct play style, whether that be Doc’s sniping and decoy traps, John’s twin revolvers and knife, or even Isabelle’s mind control and voodoo mechanics. They are all fun to play in their own right, but are even more so when used together. Kate, for example, has the ability to flirt with enemies and guide them away from their post.
You can easily use it to guide them into a trap set up around the corner, such as a bear trap laid by another character or even a character hiding in the bush with a knife. Or maybe Isabelle has already linked that enemy with another so that when he is guided into that bear trap, he dies along with the other guard who is still at his post. There’s a lot to be gained by using the different character abilities together like this and it’s yet another reason why the gameplay works as well as it does.
Fantastic level design and mission variety. So as if the gameplay wasn’t enough, Desperados III proceeds to go above and beyond with its level design and mission variety. Here we have a tactics game that is not only fun to play on a mission-by-mission basis, but manages to make each mission feel completely unique. There’s no filler, no recycled assets, and each mission really feels like its own thing. You’ll be sneaking around freeing your buddies from jail cells in a jungle in one mission only to find yourself pushing an explosive minecart through a canyon in another. And then somehow you end up at a party disguising yourself amongst the guests while trying to assassinate a target.
As with the gameplay, there’s just a ton of variety here, both in the actual design of the level and the objectives you have on each. And of course, the level design itself lends a lot of freedom to the gameplay, providing countless ways to go about completing your objective. It wasn’t uncommon for me to complete a level only exploring half of it, which is quite impressive considering that these levels can take upwards of a couple of hours to complete each. This leaves a lot of room for replayability as well, which is only furthered by the inclusion of additional challenges to complete on each.
Great aesthetic and polish. Desperados III is a good-looking game, especially for the genre. It really nails that Western aesthetic through its detailed environments, character designs, and music that sounds like it was taken straight out of a Western movie from decades past. What’s impressive is that they managed to do this with some excellent optimization and polish. I went through the game in its entirety without ever running into crashing, freezing, fps drops, or really any technical problem that often plagues new releases. In fact, the only real bug I had was the occasional odd physics issue or jerky character movement. Aside from that, it was smooth sailing with the game’s graphics maxed out and running at 1440p at around 130 or so fps.
Weak storyline. I originally did not pin this game as having a larger story to it, so I was surprised to find so many cutscenes and dialogue sections scattered about. Unfortunately though, that story ultimately fails to measure up to the quality of the gameplay. You’re given this generic plot setup and it goes pretty much exactly as you would expect, there isn’t really anything there to elevate it beyond simply being average. Honestly, it just felt like a means to connect all of the game’s levels together. I won’t deny that there are a few interesting twists thrown in there, but the overall package just felt weak.
Little enemy variety. The game may have some top-tier mission variety, but unfortunately it is lacking with regards to enemy variety. You’re introduced to the different enemy types very early on and that’s pretty much it, there’s no special enemies or anything to shake it up as the game goes on. I won’t deny that there is something to be gained from focusing on a core set of enemy types, but it wouldn’t hurt to at least offer up a bit more variety, especially with how diverse the mission types are.
Desperados III is one of the best real time tactics games to come out in years. Fun and strategic gameplay, a diverse cast of characters with their own unique abilities, and some top-tier level design are just a few of the things the game has going for it. It’s honestly some of the most fun I’ve had all year and I hardly noticed the time passing while I was playing. Sure, it may have some problems with regards to its story and enemy variety, but it is 100% still worth checking out, even if you’re not familiar with the genre. Desperados III has solidified itself as a shining example of what that genre has to offer and I highly recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest in seeing what the genre is all about.
You can buy Desperados III on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.