Desperados III Retains the Spirit of the Originals and Plays Surprisingly Well on a Controller
Desperados III feels like a proper successor the the underrated originals and actually plays well on a controller.
While the strategy game genre has seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to series like Fire Emblem and XCOM, some other well made games from the genre’s less popular era aren’t remembered as much. One such series was Desperados, a western-themed real times tactics game series from Spellbound Entertainment and Infogrames. Nowadays, it is one of the wealth of IP owned by THQ Nordic, and they have decided to revitalize the franchise with Desperados III.
Desperados III is being developed by Mimimi Productions, developer of the highly underrated Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun. The Desperados series was a major influence on Mimimi as they worked on that Shadow Tactics, so it’s somewhat fitting that they are working with THQ Nordic on Desperados III. After trying out two lengthy missions of the game on a PS4 controller, I can say that not only is Desperados III a fun strategy game that respects the originals, but that it is surprisingly intuitive to play with a controller as well.
As Desperados III is a prequel to Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, the first mission follows a young John Cooper as he attempts to prove himself to his father. While this mission is light on combat with guns, it does a great job at introducing players to the controls, movement options, and abilities of John Cooper. The gameplay will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has played the original Desperados or Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun and that isn’t a bad thing. The game’s ability to blend real time movement with tactical strategic decisions always keeps players on their toes, even in this tutorial missions.
While other western games like Red Dead Redemption 2 typically lean into the more action heavy portion of how people see the wild west in the modern era, Desperados III instead leans into a much more methodical and badass approach to wild west. The western setting also helps Desperados III stand out among its 2019 strategy game contemporaries, showing that there is always some potential in series and settings long forgotten by most publishers.
After learning the basics of sneaking, hiding bodies, distracting enemies with coins, and throwing knives as John Cooper, I proceeded to a much more thrilling level that introduced Doc McCoy. This level took place following a massive shoot out on the train as Doc and John Cooper attempt to take the tank engine over to get to a nearby town. Doc differs in playstyle from John Cooper as he has a bag that will distract low tier enemies and scoped gun with a long range. While the train served as a throughline, this level was much more open ended than the tutorial level and showed me the potential the final games later scenarios could have.
This level is also where Desperados III’s Showdown mechanic really started to shine. Players can activate this mode to stop time and assign actions to all characters in their squad before they all pull them off at the same time. If planned efficiently, this can either get players out of a tricky situation quickly or take out an entire squad of enemies stealthy before a quarrel even starts. This is possible with one character, but is much more satisfying with two. It also allows players to pull off many of the aforementioned badass moments players associate with westerns and will likely see a lot of deep tactical use within the game’s hardcore community.
Doc McCoy and John Cooper were eventually able to clear the tracks and get to where the needed to go. While this is where my demo ended, it definitely got me excited for the full game. While Desperados III looks like it will satiate the needs of both series fans and those looking for a strategy game set in a unique era, I was even more shocked by how well the game played on a controller. Console releases are usually the bane of strategy games, but this seems like it will not be the case due to an intuitive control scheme that takes advantage of both sticks and has a button to center the camera. While it may sound like an unlikely stretch, try out Shadow Tactics on PS4 to get a feeling of the decent control scheme Mimimi Production has found for console strategy games.
Desperados III is currently slated to release for PC, PS4, and Xbox One in Fall 2019.