The Wild, Wild West
German developer Mimimi Games came to my attention via a Steam sale about four years ago when I stumbled across Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun. It was my reintroduction to the Real Time Tactics genre of games that I used to enjoy with the Commandos series. Shadow Tactics was a near perfect representation of the genre and brought all those ideas of what medieval Japan was like to life. The announcement of the acquisition of the Desperados license was met with woops of joy from new and old fans alike and I can definitively say that they haven’t disappointed.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
The main story follows James Cooper (yes, this section title is wrong, just go with it) on a mission of revenge. As a bounty hunter he has merged his job with his passion. He is joined on his quest by four others either along for the ride out of loyalty or for money.
Each character brings a particular set of skills to the team and using each one will lead you to success. John Cooper is the all-rounder. He carries a knife that he can use up close or throw to take out enemies at a medium distance. For louder longer-range damage he can use his two six guns to eliminate up to two enemies. He also has an unlimited set of fake coins that he can toss to distract enemies for a short period.
The first character you meet is the mysterious Doc McCoy a Civil War surgeon with a habit of using his medical skills to kill up close or his custom gun to snipe from afar. Seriously, he can be a bit OP. As a bonus, he can use his doctors’ bag as a lure, just throw it out and certain enemies will investigate. The bag will explode and blind the enemy giving you time to take them out. It’s a great tool for isolating enemies.
Next up is Hector, a bear of man carrying around a giant bear trap that he named Bianca. He also carries around a shotgun able to take out 3 closely grouped enemies at once and for close in work he just uses a freaking axe. Gruesome.
Kate O’Mara is the femme fatale of the group a lady who uses her charms to distract and lure the bad guys. She also has a mean, mean knee to the crotch attack and a short-range gun. She can blind the bad guys with perfume too, but it is a skill I have hardly used.
The final character that you meet quite late in the game is Isabelle Moreau, a lady from the south who brings some voodoo the team. She can mind control certain enemies and with her mind link ability what you do one enemy will happen to the mind linked one. Meaning that you only need to stun or kill one to get rid of the other. Your basic twofer.
A Fistful of Dollars
Mechanically the game plays exactly as you would expect – you control the five characters as you navigate around each level either trying to avoid the enemies or kill them using the skills of each character at your disposal. AT first glance this game looks and plays exactly as Shadow Tactics does. The characters are similar, each following the same archetypes (allrounder, tank etc). and for 95% of the game the mechanics are the same. However, Mimimi have added a few welcome ideas. Well welcome in that they are an evolution not so welcome in that they make the game much more difficult.
The biggest addition is the fact that you now have to be aware of not only enemies and their patrol patterns and lines of sight, but also civilians. If you commit an abnormal act such as an assault to even just creeping around in sight of a civilian, they will notice and raise the alarm. The good thing though is that as long as you act normally you can walk right past guards without raising suspicions. So, while your options to act are restricted your freedom to move around is opened up. Mimimi gives and takes in equal measure.
This is a refinement to the game mechanics as the majority of the game remains the same. You find a safe place to hide while you survey the area in front of you and determine the best way to deal with the enemies in that part of the level as you make your way across the map to your ultimate goal. The game, like the modern Hitman games, is really a puzzle game disguised as a murder simulator. Taking your time to scope out the overlapping sight lines and patrol patterns is the way to go with this game as that enables you to decide how best to tackle the area with the characters and skills available. And this is where the beauty in the level and character design is most evident. You can tackle the enemies in any number of ways. I tend to favour using Cooper and Hector with Kate’s distract and lure abilities to help. Doc McCoy tends to be used mainly as a last resort character when the other characters are in use elsewhere.
The art in the game comes from how you decide to tackle the level. A lot of trial and error is involved because when you first enter an area in the level the overlapping sight lines make the task seem impossible. But once you figure it out you can’t believe how simple it is. When I realised that I could combine Bianca with Doc’s doctors’ bag lure it was a game changer. One particular area seemed impossible with four characters and six enemies. Everything I tried was a complete failure. Until I realised that I had to use all 4 characters and their skills in concert to get past the enemies. Handily on difficulty levels below Hardcore you get a handy pause that allows you to stack one action per character and with a press of a button (Enter) the actions will be executed simultaneously. Seeing something you planned executed flawlessly is an amazing rush. Hardcore doesn’t pause but allows you to stack the actions.
As some of you have guessed I played the game by save scumming, now before you get mad, the game actively encourages save scumming. See the screen if you don’t believe me. However, save scumming has its drawbacks. I remember saving at the exact wrong time when playing Shadow Tactics forcing me to replay a whole level after getting about 45 minutes into it.
Of course, for the hardcore out there, you can play through the game without saving, it’s a goal/achievement listed in the end of each level. Also listed are speed run times that for me seems utterly impossible. One of the levels that took me just under two hours to complete has a speedrun time of 17 minutes. There will be guys out there who will meet this goal, but that will take hours of studying the level through videos and the very handy replay feature that allows you to study your first run through the level.
Luckily you can adjust difficulty levels down to a granular level on a various slider. This allows you to set the difficulty to Normal, but if you think enemies are too easy or too hard there is a detailed slider allowing you to adjust their reaction time or even the number.
While the game is great, it’s not perfect. There are some minor criticisms. The first is more a personal preference, but one that will be shared by many. The levels are too darn big. Yes, I am complaining that the game can be too long. If you thought those long Starcraft missions required a time investment wait till you play through this game. Admittedly save scumming and the level design splitting the level into clearly defined areas to clear mitigates this “problem” but the levels are huge.
The second minor issue I have is that the cutscenes are all from an isometric viewpoint rendered in Unity. They lack the detail and polish that you would get from a higher budget game but get the story across.
The game uses Unity and as such is rock solid. There were no crashes, glitches, or framerate dips even though a high framerate in a game like this is not as important as it would be in an FPS or action game. This also means that the game scales to modern consoles, just like Shadow Tactics. Unity is ageing a bit and the colour palette and level design is pretty much the same as Shadow Tactics.
I did experience one odd, irritating bug though. I am lucky enough to own a gaming desktop and a gaming laptop and that gives me the luxury of playing on different devices. However with the review copy of the game when I tried to switch between devices the game would mysteriously delete off one of the devices and Steam would not properly reinstall the game on the device it was deleted from. The only workaround I could figure out was to backup the game from one device to an external HDD and simply copy and verify the files to the other device. This could easily be a Steam problem, but I’ve never experienced this issue with any other game.
One benefit of Unity is the fact that it scales across platforms. So, if the fancy takes you, you can stream the game to a Steam Link or plug your PC into a TV and have just as a good a time playing on your couch using a controller.
Hang ‘em High
The game is perfect for people who like to take a tactical approach to their games, but who think that the turn-based action of Xcom is too slow. While action takes place in real time you still have the time and options to plan your approach. The Unity Engine may be a bit old, but the fact that it allows the developer to deliver a rocksolid experience is definitely a plus.
Desperados III will definitely scratch that Real Time Tactics itch for fans of the genre and if you are new to the genre and just want to experience what fans have been raving about, it is accessible enough that you will be hooked by the combination of puzzle mechanics and interesting characters.
For a Few Dollars More
As a bonus, I thought I would recommend supplemental media to enjoy with the game. First off is any Sergio Leone & Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. I particularly enjoyed the Dollars Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, A few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly). Of course, Eastwood continued with higher budget Hollywood westerns such as Pale Rider and ultimately Unforgiven for which he won two Oscars.
Coincidentally during this time, I was also reading the excellent Jonah Hex comic book series written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey from DC Comics. The series had very little supernatural elements and no super heroics across the eleven collected volumes. The protagonist is not very likeable, but the tales as dark and gritty and skew more in tone towards Unforgiven, making them a little bit more realistic.
This review is based on the PC version of the game we shall have a PS4 version review up soon.
You can purchase the PC verison on Steam here – https://store.steampowered.com/app/610370/Desperados_III/
Desperados III is Deveoped by Mimimi Games and Published by THQ Nordic
For more info on other versions of the game and where to buy them head here – https://desperadosgame.com/
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Freelance AUTHOR: LYNLEY JAMES
Desperados III is a story-driven, hardcore tactical stealth game, set in a ruthless Wild West scenario. In this long-awaited prequel to the beloved classic Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, John Cooper will join forces with the runaway bride Kate, the shady hitman Doc McCoy, the giant trapper Hector, and Isabelle, a mysterious lady from New Orleans. On Cooper’s quest for redemption, his adventures lead him and his gang from rural towns, over swamps and riverbanks, and finally to a dramatic showdown worthy of Wild West legends.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 44.99
Product In Stock: Not Available