Desperados is one of the many franchises getting a new lease on life in the past few years. The 14-year long wait is finally over with the launch of Desperados III. The new game is a prequel to Desperados: Dead or Alive and follows John Cooper on his journey for redemption. Along the way, players will meet familiar faces and new friends.
Desperados III is well written. The story is told through cut scenes and extensive banter between characters throughout the game. The sheer quantity of conversation between characters gives the story more depth than the average RTS. The characters quickly become fleshed out by how they view their shared experience. The dialogue is solid with each character’s personality shining through. The story is an unabashed tribute to cowboy movies. Traditional themes of family, revenge, and redemption are explored. A lot of familiar movie tropes are used, but they are usually done in a way as not to feel tacky or cheap.
Desperados III is an RTS that focuses on the actions of the individual unit versus combat between armies. Players will work their way through the maps to complete a variety of objectives. The game offers players the choice between stealth or head to head combat. The difference between the choices isn’t as distinct as it seems, as many stealth runs will involve killing or knocking out several enemies and combat-centric runs will need some stealth to set up an initial ambush to even the odds.
Depending on the map, players will have access to one to five characters. Each character has a unique set of skills that lets them fill a specific niche. Cooper is a jack of all trades character. McCoy specializes in short range lures and long-distance combat. Hector specializes in body disposal and taking down Long Coats alone. Kate specializes in distraction and crowd control. Isabelle is a close-range specialist and support character. No matter the kit, each character holds their own during stealth and combat. Out of the five characters, Isabelle has the most interesting kit as she isn’t the classic gun slinging cowboy but rather has a unique voodoo skillset focused on enemy manipulation.
Desperados III’s Showdown Mode is the signature gameplay element. Players can assign a single command to each unit in this mode and have them executed at once. This is perfect for stealthy approaches and ambushes. Depending on the difficulty level, it can slow or pause the game so players can have some time to plan or think. Time runs normally at the highest difficulty setting, but players can still use the move execution function. I am in love with Showdown Mode as it can simplify the often chaotic nature of the game when managing multiple characters. It gives a co-op like feel to the game without the need to coax friends into buying a copy of the game. Also, it helps that executing the perfect stealth takedown or stealth ambush with Showdown Mode is incredibly satisfying.
The level design is solid. Levels are split into individual sections where triggering an alarm will only spawn reinforcements within the area. Each area is a miniature puzzle, challenging players to figure out how to best to conquer odds stacked against the player. The levels are designed so that stealth runs will require specific characters at some points, while other areas can be done with any combination of characters with a varying degree of difficulty. The gameplay can be incredibly unforgiving at times, especially as players learn how to exist within the stealth rules. Constant quick saves and quick loads were common in my game, only lessening a little as I became accustomed. There are some sections of the game that are stealth only. They are an interesting change in pace for those running a combat-heavy strategy, but some are incredibly difficult. I found the Baton Rouge mission to be particularly brutal, even though I had been running stealth exclusively up until then.
The controls are decent. There are a lot of default control layouts so gamers familiar with different titles in the franchise or the RTS genre in general will find something comfortable right out of the gate. The controls are well organized, allowing players to have fine control over all five units. I really like the developers’ attention to detail. All five characters’ skill types are bound to the same key, so swapping between characters feels intuitive. There is a fast forward button that is absolutely brilliant for stealth players as they no longer have to wait around for enemy patrols to walk into an ambush. The only issue with the controls is the pathing in areas with multiple floors and with bushes. Characters will tend to favour the main floor when given a single movement instruction, so I found myself babysitting my characters with more movement instructions when working around stairs and ladders. Characters aren’t always considered hidden when they are instructed to crouch by the edge of the bush. I am unsure if this is a camera angle issue or a radius issue, but I had to get into the habit of checking in on my units once they hopped into the bush.
Despite the few hiccups, I really enjoyed my time with Desperados III. The game is an intense and challenging experience that gives me so much satisfaction when I figure out a level. The game has an impressive amount of complexity considering the player only controls two to five units at a time. There’s a minimum of two or three possible approaches at any time, giving players a pleasant amount of flexibility. The game offers an impressive amount of content as each map can easily take over an hour while players figure out the strategy for the map. Combined with the bonus challenges and extra difficulty levels, Desperados III has a lot of replayability potential. The game is also well polished, and I rarely ran into any bugs.
Desperados III does an excellent job of recreating the cowboy film aesthetic. The title screens, camera angles, scenes, props, clothing, and environments are bang on. There are some minor graphical glitches like floating lumber and held items not lining up perfectly with the hands. They are rare enough that when these glitches do pop up, it’s a bit surprising.
The audio experience is amazing. The audio plays a big role in recreating the cowboy film aesthetic. The sound effects are enjoyable. The voice acting is very good, with almost all the actors able to replicate the American southwestern drawl used in film. The soundtrack is a great accompaniment, mixing the standard cowboy film music with a few other genres. My favourite is a jazz infused track I heard early in the game.
Desperados III marks a triumphant return for the franchise. While there are a few minor issues with the controls and the odd frustrating level, the game is well polished. The gameplay is incredibly satisfying, with a good amount of complexity, depth, and replayability. The well-crafted story, audio, and visuals are combined to bring the cowboy film experience to video games. Desperados III makes an extremely compelling case for a fourth game.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.