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Review: Desperados III – a tactical strategy title set in the Wild West

AKA: Quicksave Simulator

desperados 3 screenshot
Image: KnowTechie
The Good
Fantastic sense of achievement when things go right
It's a rootin' tootin' shootin' good time
The Bad
You'll die. A lot.
Guaranteed to wear out your F5 key
8.8
Overall

It’s been nearly two decades since Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive shot its way onto our computer monitors, and the gaming world has changed drastically since then. Strategy games have turned into “who clicks first,” and puzzle games all seem to be of the “match this stuff so it disappears” variety.

Now, thanks to THQ Nordic, the franchise is back, with a prequel to the first game in the series, full of cowboys, cowgirls, and all the lead you can eat. For ostensibly being a stealth game, Desperados III slinks onto the screen with all the subtlety of a bar fight at closing time.

It’s an origin story, so let’s meet the gang.

There’s John Cooper, the main protagonist, and cookie-cutter gunslinger. He’s handy with a knife, loves to tie people up, and has two barrels of fun. Then there’s Doc McCoy, who seems to have forgotten his Hippocratic oath, even if he ever took it. He’s got a fun medicine bag of tricks, including using it as a stun bomb for curious enemies, syringes of poison, and a long-range, silenced pistol that’s perfect for clearing the way ahead.

desperados iii gameplay

Image: KnowTechie

Then there are the ladies who bring their own mix of skills to the mayhem. Kate O’Hara is your femme fatale, with a silent Derringer to back up charms when all else fails. She’s also a disguise master and a perfect distraction for almost any bandit.

Also included on the team is Isabelle, who brings the power of Voodoo. Yes, in a game about gunslingers there’s also all the magic you could shake a doll at. She can mind control foes, or tie the fate of enemies together, so when something happens to one, the other suffers the same fate. Spooky.

Rounding out the bunch is Hector, the huge trapper who is just a little bit too attached to his bear trap. I have to admit, it was great fun wolf-whistling foes to their demise after they walk over the carefully-laid trap. He also loves axes and has a room-clearing shotgun, because of course, he does.

With such a diverse team, you can really mix it up when you figure out how to tackle the enemies. Combine skills from multiple characters, and the patrolling bandits will never know what hit them. Often literally, as you can drop entire sections in a single chain reaction after pausing with Showdown mode and assigning everyone’s tasks.

desperados iii gameplay

Image: KnowTechie

One cool addition to the genre is Civil Zones, which just like the air of civility permeating every spaghetti western, means your characters can stroll around as if the street belongs to them, as long as you don’t do anything shady. That’s a welcome change, letting you find a more opportune place to sneak into the hot zones without having to sneak around the entire map.

And you’ll want to use the Civil Zones, as the maps are big. Big enough that you might find out some useful information while wandering around, although in practice this is more of the “see that sign, it’d be a shame if it fell down” kind and not of the treasure-hunting type.

You could even play it as a tactical shooter if you prefer. See, the games Showdown mode, where you can pause and plan out your actions, gives you the scope to go in guns blazing. You’ll probably run out of ammunition, but there are crates to restock scattered through the levels.

Desperados III is a tough, but rewarding experience

gameplay from western tactical title

Image: KnowTechie

Whichever way you decide to play, just keep your finger near the F5 and F8 keys. Those are the Quicksave and Quickload functions, and you’ll probably press them more than your mouse buttons. Seriously. I haven’t died more since the last time I tried to beat Dark Souls.

That’s okay as well, as the game rewards your persistence. You’ll feel like a lucky son-of-a-gun in no time at all as you learn more from failure than from success.

Desperados III is the pre-sequel that we didn’t ask for, but we sure needed it. It’s a (poisoned) shot in the arm that shows how problem-solving, not lightning-quick reflexes can save the day. Not that there’s no place for lightning-quick reflexes, I mean it is a Western game with gunslingers… If you prefer your games with a little bit of mayhem, a lot of thinking, and two-fingers of the house whiskey, go buy it and give your F5 button a workout.

Desperados III is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Editors’ Recommendations:

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The Good
Fantastic sense of achievement when things go right
It's a rootin' tootin' shootin' good time
The Bad
You'll die. A lot.
Guaranteed to wear out your F5 key
8.8
Overall
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