Desperados is one of those franchises that are easy to miss but super hard to leave. After two successful games and a strategy that will scratch your brain for days, the third game is right around the corner. Desperados 3 releases in a few days and I had the chance to play and review the game early. Mimimi Games has taken real-time tactics to a level that even the most hardcore players will find their challenge. Is it the right fit for you? What can you expect when you first boot up the game?
Honestly, this was the first time I got in contact with the Desperados franchise and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was up against. I’m an avid strategy fan but the challenge Desperados 3 provides kept me glued to the screen for hours upon hours. Is this game perfect? No, there are parts of it that would need some refinement but I wouldn’t trade the experience for something else.
Starting off with the basics, we have a Wild West setting and a prequel story to that of the original Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive. Even though I haven’t played the previous games, the cutscenes and character dialogs kept me well informed about what I was doing pretty much the whole time. The story behind Desperados 3 is a story of revenge going back to the very roots of the franchise.
In Desperados 3, you have 5 characters at your disposal, each with his/her very own set of skills. We have John Cooper, your classic western gunman and my personal favorite character to play as. You’ll also follow Kate O’Hara, a runaway bride with a lineup set for distraction and intel gathering while Arthur “Doc” McCoy is your go-to medic and a master in chemicals. The last two characters and, honestly, the most versatile ones are Hector Mendoza, a powerhouse using traps, axes and shotguns, and Isabelle Moreau a voodoo specialist. Isabelle is by far the most fun-to-play characters with abilities that take control of enemies, chaining abilities, and healing.
If I had the chance I would use Kate and Doc less and utilize Isabelle and Hector more in all chapters. However, Desperados 3 has a way of making all characters vital in each map, giving them use in each situation. For instance, Doc is vital for picking locks, and most of the time he’s not even happy about it. Kate can steal items like keys from enemies, so she’s another useful asset to each battle.
Not all characters are available from the beginning of the game. You’ll slowly make your way towards them as you progress the story in a seamless way. Unlocking Kate for instance is a particularly hard task, given her skill set while Isabelle was a much easier task. After unlocking all characters, you’ll be tackling most of the remaining chapters with all of them, adding another layer of challenge to the mix. The bad thing I could find about the Desperados 3 characters is the colors chosen for you to tell them apart. Doc and Kate have too similar colors which kept me behind on various situations where I wanted to use one or the other.
Going back to gameplay, one thing that makes this game different from any other of its caliber is the enemy AI. Although their perception of the space around them doesn’t go to extreme lengths, they are anything but forgiving. You’ll have to count your steps and perfectly time your move in order for enemies to not spot you. That’s at least if you plan to play stealthily.
One thing that makes the tactical part of Desperados 3 a bit more approachable is the Showdown mode. You can basically pause the game and plan your actions before hitting play and watch characters execute them. This won’t stop enemies from shooting you as soon as you press Play, so you’ll have to be as thorough and careful as possible while using it. Personally, I used it in only a few situations where it was absolutely necessary. I found it easier to go real-time and take advantage of some minor tricks that made stealth easier for my characters. For instance, I found that stealth killing, instantly grabbing the enemy and dragging them in a bush raised no alert so I used that as a “banner” in my playthrough. It saved me in countless situations where otherwise I would have been spotted.
The most important part of the Desperados 3 gameplay is the fact that you can tackle every situation differently. The main story is linear so you won’t be messing up by following any decision. You can move completely stealthily and kill no one, go guns blazing and cause chaos or use the environment to cause “accidental deaths” that won’t raise suspicion. I tried to utilize stealth for most of the game, although I did my fair share of killing.
If you’re having a hard time choosing what playstyle you should choose, the game has you set up already. The Badge System, which is practically your achievement list within the game gives you specific tasks that can, on occasion, define your playstyle. For instance, you might need to use the environment to kill a number of times, of kill a certain amount of enemies and so on. If you’ re a completionist, you’ll find the Badge System to be your bread and butter.
Did I like the gameplay overall? Yes, I did! Was it extremely hard? Yes, it was! Each chapter’s map is huge and needs at least an hour to tackle. In addition, the more characters you have to play, the more difficult it gets. Some times I found myself hitting replay over and over again just to get past an enemy. However, tactics are the essence of Desperados 3, so the challenge is what you’re looking for in it.
Reaching the “finish line” in each chapter comes with a fulfilling sense of achievement. If I could add Desperados 3 into my daily schedule, I would say that it’s a daily medicine for low brain activity. Like, do you know what I want to do today? Tackle only one mission in Desperados 3. That can keep the brain going for hours.
The biggest sense of achievement is the chapter completion screen which comes with a small video, representing all your movements on the screen. It’s amazing how you can fit an hour in just one image. This was my favorite Desperados 3 feature by far.
After finishing the main story, which is somewhere around 20 hours or more if you’re playing on Normal mode and significantly less on Easy mode, you have end-game challenges you can tackle for additional badges. Those can be accessed through the mission select screen and offer a much more defined goal for your playthrough. Mimimi Games has confirmed that there will be more challenges, as well as DLC coming to the game, so you’ll be facing even more challenges in the future.
In terms of graphics, Desperados 3 surprised me in a good way. I’m a fan of isometric video games but I know better than to have big expectations. The layers in this game though are insane. I could see big structures at different levels in the distance and, despite my initial thoughts, could reach them. The fact that the map is almost 90% explorable despite it being linear plays a huge role.
Also, Mimimi Games has put extra effort into the game’s cutscenes, making character animations and textures look amazing. Although you can’t expect much from isometric games’ graphics, we can always appreciate a studio adding that much detail to it. I found myself getting immersed into an isometric world, something I didn’t think was possible. The level detail, the character conversations, and the overall audiovisual feeling was the thing that drew me to this game more than anything else.
If I could, I would give Desperados 3 a more impactful story. Yes, you learn more about the characters and their backstories and some rather interesting facts about life in the 1870s USA. But other than that, the revenge plot didn’t stick to me as much as its gameplay and the intensity it holds. I could easily see this game getting a weekly challenge and not care about the story behind it. At least, that’s the feeling I got after completing the game.
Overall, Desperados 3 is an immersive experience, even without having an immersive world per se. The storyline is indeed a bit stale most of the game but if you’re in for the strategy then you won’t even bother. Taking a step back to look at what the developers achieved with the third title for Desperados, I can say that the game is worthy of your time. It might be roughed around its edges, the amount of challenge and personal achievement you’ll get from completing each chapter will be definitely worth it.
Desperados 3 releases on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC on June 16th. Its initial price tag is at $49.99.