If there is one genre that is particularly lacking in gaming, it is the classic Western. While there have been certain entries that have seen substantial acclaim, most fly under the radar or never gain widespread notoriety. In moseys Desperados III, the latest in the Desperados series, and developed by Mimimi Games. Released in June, it manages to capture the spirit of old Spaghetti Westerns and combines it with challenging real-time tactics, or RTT, gameplay. While the game is a far cry from immersive cowboy experiences like Red Dead Redemption 2, the unique aspects result in a product that stands on its own two boots. That said, there are some drawbacks that could disappoint hardcore fans of the Western genre or frustrate players with little patience. To get the full details, fasten your spurs and buckle up for this Desperados III review for PC.
Story – Ain’t Got No Badges
Nailing a classic Western in story and atmosphere is no small feat. Even nowadays it seems like the genre is typically misunderstood or somewhat antiquated. Modern day attempts that do not rely heavily on tropes, such as Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight or Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2, are few and far between. Unfortunately, as a major fan and viewer of the genre, I cannot say that the overarching story is particularly innovative. It focuses on the typical revenge plot between protagonist and antagonist, a characteristic which is a downside for those hungry for originality. However, if the standard pork and beans fare is what you are after, then this Western RTT has plenty of flavor to enjoy.
The best Westerns have recognizable characters, such as the Man with No Name, John Marston from Red Dead Redemption, or even the cast of Fallout: New Vegas. While the narrative falls short, the characters are well done and one of the better aspects. There are five heroes available: John Cooper, Hector Mendoza, Doc McCoy, Isabelle Moreau, and Kate O’Hara. Each come equipped with defined personalities, great voice acting, and interesting abilities which are explained further in the review. To be honest, motivations are simplistic when the characters initially join. Once players delve into the missions, character individuality really begins to bloom. The dialogue and interactions between the crew have clever moments which keep the playthrough enjoyable. The main story is unlikely to push the buck when it comes to Westerns, but the developed characters make it worth picking up on PC.
Gameplay – Striking Gold
Character mechanics are where the game shines, partially because it works in tandem with each hero’s identity. For those new to real-time tactics games, the player controls each of the desperados in a variety of missions to achieve specific objectives. This must be done in a stealthy manner however, and the player achieves this by making use of their diverse abilities. When starting off with John Cooper, players get access to the standard throwing knife, revolvers, and coins to divert enemy attention. But beyond that, you are looking at everything between Hector’s massive bear trap, Bianca, to Isabelle’s voodoo mind control. The abilities perfectly match each character, with instances like Doc McCoy being able to eliminate enemies with a syringe and Kate using disguises to move through dangerous areas undetected. The creative kits support this dynamic cast, and are one of the main reasons for checking out the game.
What makes the abilities great is how they interact with each other in practice. One of Isabelle’s powers is a poison dart which can connect two enemies. Then Doc McCoy can use his long-distance sniper to finish off both instantly. One fun combination was to have Kate use her lure ability to draw an enemy into a secretive location where Cooper could take them out with a throwing knife. The only true limitation to these kits is the players own imagination. Showdown Mode freezes the action so each move can be set up perfectly before initiating them all at once. A shoot out can be planned out in this fashion and executed instantaneously, a characteristic reminiscent of Spaghetti Westerns. After reviewing Desperados III, I believe the unconventional kits and deep gameplay live up to the source material it depends on while still managing to stand out.
World & Maps
In true Western fashion, the entirety of the tactics experience takes place in areas of the United States of America. As a game reliant on tropes this is to be expected, and thankfully the developers picked out locations that are diverse. From the dusty town of Flagstone, Colorado to the bustling city of New Orleans, Western lovers will feel right at home. Small details such as flora or geography are consistent with the mission area, something often lacking in other games. In addition, each part of the world can take place at different times of day or have varying forms of weather. These variations keep scenes feeling fresh, which goes a long way for maintaining interest in the locales. Much like the desperados themselves, the world offers a strong atmosphere that will immerse players in the Western vibe.
There are limits to the maps, and this is where the Western ambiance starts to break down. A real-time tactics experience is going to focus primarily on strong gameplay and less about simulating the cowboy life. This is understandable, but Mimimi could have done more for variety when it comes to map mechanics. One example are the main enemies, the DeVitt Company men. To keep it clear for the player, the models for each enemy type offer little diversity and are mostly identical. Over time, their styles and actions end up somewhat stale. Maps also rely heavily on bushes or tall grass for the main characters to hide in, a characteristic not very Western at all. These are small nitpicks, but compared to the cast and detailed world, I found the map mechanics to be a bit lacking.
Missions & Replayability
When it comes to the mission objectives, players can expect a wide variety of tasks. Even genre greats, like Red Dead Redemption 2, suffer from repetitive designs in how quests play out. Throughout the game, there are a host of classic Western moments like blowing up a bridge and defending a family ranch. Many levels introduce new mechanics so there is always something to look forward to while playing. Overall, the missions encourage stealthy maneuvers to pick off individual enemies until the coast is clear. If looking for an action-packed shoot ’em up, this RTT experience is not for you. Being impatient and trying to run through areas quickly will most likely set off alarms and pressure the player to quick load. Constant quick saving and loading diffuses any tension, unfortunate because it is a hallmark of the Western genre.
For fans of real-time tactics, this game is chock-full of content that houses tons of replayability. Missions can take a fair amount of time to complete, anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour for an average player. One nice touch is the post-game review, which shows the full route taken. On completion there is a splash screen revealing multiple challenges, which can include self-imposed limitations and speed-run timers. A special mode, Baron Challenges, unlocks midway through the game and offers short missions with a specific objective. With the recent Bounty Hunters update, players can replay missions with any of the desperados adding even more variety. Once the content has been exhausted, there is a level editor to mess around with to design your own Western shenanigans. If there is one solid reason to dive in, it is Mimimi’s dedication to providing bang for your buck.
Graphics & Audio – Livin’ High and Wide
Real-time tactics games generally do not push boundaries in the graphics department. In this case, the visuals throughout are good but nothing to write home about. Immersion is key, and in that regard the graphics meet the mark. During my playthrough, I never experienced any jarring framerate drops or unforgivable visual bugs. Exceedingly small details, like character models, see some limitations but the portraits for the cast pick up the slack. The maps are the best representations of the graphics, due to diverse locations, colorful designs, and attention to detail. Sadly, this feeds into the notion that the Western aura airs on the side of window dressing. While it matches the genre visually, that is about as far as it goes other than the cast. Again, if just trying to get the Old West fix, then the graphics will be sufficient.
In comparison to graphics, the audio is exceptionally authentic and represents the Western atmosphere perfectly. From the title screen, players are greeted by a fantastic theme that is actually memorable. Each mission has a soundtrack that matches the location but manages to be subtle enough so not distracting. The lucid, jazzy tracks of the New Orleans level were a particular favorite of mine. The voice acting throughout the game is top-notch as well. While dialogue plays into this, I found the desperado actors to nail their characters. This is important, because without their voices the main characters could have been a lot less interesting. Ambient dialogue from civilians, enemies, and side characters helps keep players grounded in the world. The graphics and audio reviewed for Desperados III on PC create an enjoyable world that is worth getting into.
Desperados III was reviewed on PC with a Steam review key provided by Evolve PR.