Review: ‘Desperados III’ Takes You Back to the Wild West

Gaming Reviews Videogames

Desperados III is the latest in the series which takes you back to the old West with John Cooper and his associates. Set in the 1870s, Desperados III takes you from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the bayous of Louisiana, the deserts of New Mexico, the city of New Orleans and even down into Mexico. All the while, John Cooper is hunting for the man responsible for the death of his father.

The Background

Back in 1998, I had the opportunity to write the PrimaGames strategy guide for Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines. This stealth oriented, real time tactical game was unlike anything I had played before. Set during WWII, players took command of a small group of specialized soldiers and spies to complete daring missions against overwhelming numbers of enemy soldiers. I liked the thinking and strategy aspect of the game. Instead of rushing in shooting as in most games, in order to succeed, you need to quietly clear a path to your objective without being detected. Then in 2001, a new game of the same genre was released: Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive. This game was set in the the Wild West of the United States instead of occupied Europe. Its cast of characters also had more flavor and personality than the team of commandos. 

Desperados III is the prequel to the original Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive. While some of the characters return, it also adds a new character. The game is designed by Mimimi Games which previously released a similar type of game set in feudal Japan, the popular Shadow Tactics. Desperados III is available for PC, XBox One, and Playstation 4 and ranges in price from $49.99 for PC to $59.99 for console. A season pass is available which adds access to three future DLCs each of which contain a new mission that together tell the story of a new adventure set after the events of the main game. 

The Characters

One of the most important features of Desperados III are the five main characters. Each has different abilities and unique weapons and equipment. The key to completing the missions is to use each character’s strengths to support the other characters. Not all characters are available in each mission, though a few missions allow you to use all five. Let’s take a look at them now. 

John Cooper

John Cooper is the main protagonist and is available in almost all the missions. A knife is his main weapon. He can sneak up on enemies and stab them or throw the knife a short distance to eliminate threats. He also has a coin which he can throw to distract enemies. For firearms, Cooper carries two six-shooters and can use them to target two different enemies at the same time. Cooper is the all-around utility character that can get through many challenges on his own. 

Cooper fires both his pistols in Showdown Mode. Image courtesy of Mimimi Games.

Arthur ‘Doc’ McCoy

Doc McCoy is a gun for hire who joins up with Cooper. He is a more specialized character, though can accomplish quite a bit on his own. His Colt Buntline Special pistol allows him to shoot enemies anywhere as long as there is nothing blocking his line of sight. This weapon is the only firearm that can be fired and not alert nearby enemies due to its silenced nature. Doc also carries a syringe of poison for stealth melee attacks. When he needs to distract an enemy, Doc can throw his doctor’s bag out into the sight of an enemy and lure them to the bag. Once they open it, the bag stuns the enemy for a few seconds allowing McCoy to sneak up on them and use the syringe. Doc can use his bandages to heal himself as well as other characters who become wounded during a mission. Finally he carries a limited number of swamp gas vials which he can throw at enemies and stun all of those within its burst radius. 

Doc snipes at an enemy from a rooftop. Image courtesy of Mimimi Games.

Hector Mendoza

Hector is an old friend of Cooper and the strongest of the characters. He is the only one who can defeat the powerful enemy long coats in melee combat. Hector carries around a giant bear trap which he can set anywhere on the ground. If an enemy walks into it, they are immediately killed. To lure them towards the trap, Hector can whistle. When a group of enemies gets in your way, use Hector’s shotgun. While it is loud, it will hit any enemies within its cone of fire. For melee combat, Hector uses a large ax. He also carries a flask of strong drink that can heal only himself. 

An enemy is about to walk right into Hector’s bear trap. Image by Michael Knight.

Kate O’Hara

Kate is the master of distraction, but can also be deadly. While she does not have a melee weapon, Kate can knock out enemies with her melee attack and then drag them out of sight. They stay unconscious as long as she holds onto them. However, if she releases them, they become a threat again within a few seconds. Another character can either tie them up or finish them off before they wake up. Kate carries a perfume vial which she can throw that momentarily distracts enemies. If she can find a disguise, she can also walk up to and cause male enemies to look in her direction. She can even lure some of them away from their post for a few seconds. A disguise also lets her walk around without alerting most enemies. Kate usually has to find a disguise during a mission in order to use it. Like the previous characters, Kate carries a firearm. Her derringer is deadly though it will alert nearby enemies. 

Kate walks through New Orleans while luring an enemy away from his post. Image courtesy of Mimimi Games.

Isabelle Moreau

Isabelle is a new character to the series. This practitioner of voodoo has some very interesting and powerful abilities. Her knife is deadly for melee attacks. With her blowgun, she can shoot darts to connect two enemies or even an animal such as a chicken with an enemy. When one of the connected is killed or knocked out, the same happens to the other. This essentially allows her to take down two enemies with a single attack. To help distract enemies, Isabelle has a feline friend named Stella whom she can send to a targeted enemy and cause them to shrink their vision cone for a short amount of time. Isabelle can also take control of a nearby enemy or animal. This causes her to take one wound, but she then can move the target around and do actions. For example, she can make a chicken cluck to distract enemies or if she takes over an enemy, use them to shoot at other enemies. Be sure to heal up Isabelle after using her control ability. She can heal herself or other characters using the jimson week she carries. Unlike the other characters, Isabelle does not carry a firearm. 

Isabelle shoots her blow dart at an enemy to link him to another enemy. Image courtesy of Mimimi Games.

Game Play

During a mission, the player can take control of one character at a time and move them around the map to attack enemies and perform actions. Stealth is an important part of the game. If an enemy sees or hears you, they may sound an alert that will bring in reinforcements of more enemies and make your task more difficult. If you are using an item or ability that makes a sound, a blue circle will appear showing you the are in which enemies can hear the sound. This helps in planning an attack. In addition, each enemy has a vision cone of what they can see. Many visions cones move back and forth as the enemy scans an area. The vision cone is divided into two zones. The solid part of the vision cone will detect any character it crosses over. The striped part of the vision cone only sees standing characters. Therefore, you can crouch down (the primary way to move around the map safely) and not be seen. Characters can also hide in bushes and other terrain while they are crouched. Since bodies lying around can alert enemies to your presence, all characters can pick up a body and drag or carry it to hide it. Hector is so strong, he can pick up two bodies and still move quickly with them. 

Check an enemy’s vision cone to see where you can move without being seen. Image courtesy of Mimimi Games.

The controls are different depending on whether you are using a controller or a keyboard and mouse. With the latter, you click on a spot to move to that location or attack that enemy. On the other hand, when using a controller, you use the thumb sticks to move around and buttons to cycle through characters, weapons/abilities, and to attack or interact. I actually prefer using a controller, even on a PC, though with the keyboard you have hotkeys which makes selecting a character or ability even quicker. 

Mimimi included a feature in Shadow Tactics that allowed you to pause the game and assign actions to several characters and then activate them all at once. This was called Shadow Mode. This is improved in Desperados III and called Showdown Mode. While the game is paused, you can select each character and assign them an action. A new feature is that you can chain actions together. For example, you can have a character sneak up behind an enemy, melee attack, and then carry the body to a location such as a bush and hide it. Cooper uses Showdown Mode to fire both pistols at different targets. There are several challenges in each mission that require players to use Showdown Mode. In order to balances the powerful firearms and Isabelle’s ability to take control of enemies, the game limits the number of uses or shots. Crates can be found around the levels that provide ammo, or in the case of Isabella uses of her control ability. Each crate is specific to a certain character. Another limit is put on the team’s sniper. Doc McCoy’s long range pistol will not allow you to shot the final round if it is needed to complete an objective. This prevents a player from being unable to finish a mission by firing away at enemies. 

Plan out coordinated attacks by several characters in Showdown Mode. Image courtesy of Mimimi Games.

The game can be saved at any time. In fact, one of the most useful features is the quick save. With the press of a button or key, you can quickly save your current progress. Another button or key will bring up a load screen where you can load any of the three most recent quick saves. You can also perform a regular save at anytime as well. Quick saves encourages players to experiment. Do a quick save and then try something. If it does not work, then do a quick load and try again. 

The Missions

The game is divided into 16 different missions. Desperados III does a great job of providing tutorials as you play. The first mission, with Cooper as a boy, teaches players how to move, crouch, hide, and distract with the coin. As the game progresses, new characters and abilities are added with short tutorials to show how to use them. The settings of each mission are beautifully and artfully designed with rich detail. During night missions, light affects the vision cones. Staying in the shadows lets you move around unnoticed while being in the light will get you spotted easily. Many mission have features such as large rocks or hanging loads which can be pushed or released to fall down on unsuspecting enemies. Killing enemies in this manner is considered an accident and will not result in an alert. At the end of each mission, you get the statistics for each of your characters such as how many time they used each of their abilities and how many enemies they killed or knocked out. Then you can watch a replay from a zoomed out map showing your progress throughout the mission.

Cooper drops a church bell onto a target, making it look like an accident. Image courtesy of Mimimi Games.

Each mission also has badges you can earn. They are not revealed until you play through the mission once. Some are achieved as you complete objectives. Others require a second playthrough with a different strategy. Finally, some badges require a more challenging way to play such as not killing any non-objective enemies or not using a disguise. These badges not only encourage players to play through the missions again, but to find new tactics to complete those same missions. After completing mission 11, The Queen’s Nest, the Baron’s Challenges begin to be available. There are currently 8 of these challenges available with plans to release more in the future. The Baron’s Challenges use the same maps as the missions, but with a different set of characters and different objectives. Even though the maps are the same, these challenges are essentially new missions with different enemies in different locations. 

Final Thoughts

When Shadow Tactics was released at the end of 2016, I was excited Mimimi was bringing back the real time tactical stealth action game. Having first played it on a console, I found the use of a controller more to my liking than the traditional keyboard and mouse. When I saw that Mimimi’s next project was to bring back the Desperados series, I could not wait to try it out. Once I got my hands on it, I was very impressed. Since I had previously played Shadow Tactics, the controls were familiar as well as several of the abilities and actions of the characters. Both have a main protagonist who is an all-around useful character, a heavy, a sniper, a expert in disguise and so forth. Yet the characters between the two game are still quite different. The addition of Isabelle Moreau takes the game to the next level. Her special abilities are incredible and lead to completely new tactics for getting through tough spots of a mission. 

The Showdown Mode is also a lot of fun and necessary to use. Not only can you essentially program actions for all of your characters and have them perform them all at once, you can also activate them one at a time. For example, you may want Cooper, Hector, and Isabelle to melee kill three different enemies and then hide the bodies. However before you can do that, you need to have Kate throw a perfume vial at an enemy who can see the thugs you are taking out and Doc needs to shoot a sentry up on a tower who also could spot the action. Order Kate and Doc to act first and after they deal with their targets, order the rest to move in for the kill. This mode can also be great when you have to get timing down just right, even when using just once character. As mentioned earlier, this a a great improvement over Shadow Mode in Shadow Tactics

These five characters will really grow on you. They are the stars of the game. Image by Michael Knight.

I highly recommend Desperados III for those gamers who like to think and strategize during their action games. Using firearms can be a lot of fun, but having to avoid a big shootout is even more rewarding. The story revealed as you progress through the various missions is interesting and engaging. However, the characters really are the stars. By the time you finish the 16 missions, they feel like your friends as you have gotten to know their strength and weaknesses. Some missions have two different paths you can take to get to the objective so playing a second time can provide a different experience. The Baron’s Challenges bring even more replayability to the game. They are quite challenging and force you to do things completely differently than you did on the same map during the story mission. I found myself staying up late into the night as clearing just one more area kept leading to another area, so focused on the game that I did not notice the passage of time in the real world. Desperados III is a great game that after many hours of play, I still want to play even more as I wait patiently for the three DLC missions to be released. 

Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes. The thoughts expressed in this article are my own and not that of the publisher or the editors of GeekDad.com.

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