Dark Light

It’s a great time to be alive for people who grew up playing video games in the 90s and early 2000s. From remasters to remakes to sequels, some of our absolute favorite games of the bygone era are making a comeback. The latest game to join the likes of System Shock, Beneath a Steel Sky, and Vampire: The Masquerade is Desperados. Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, was a PC classic that was lost to the annals of time when the developer Spellbound closed its doors forever. The two terrible sequels didn’t help either.

Little did everyone know that THQ Nordic, the savior of disputed IPs and endless remaster makers would give the series a second chance with Desperados III, an ambitious follow-up developed by Mimimi, the folks behind the outstanding Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun. Mimimi has a tough job on their hands. Not only do they have to revive the long-dead Desperados series but they also have to recreate the magic of the first game to a broader audience. How well they accomplished this feat? Let’s find out.


Story & Narrative

Desperados III is a prequel to the first game in the series. It’s centered around the series hero and bounty hunter John Cooper in his path for vengeance that’s years in the making. The story also sets up John’s first meeting with hitman Doc McCoy and John’s would-be lover Kate O’Hara (from the first game), all the while introducing new playable characters like John’s longtime friend Hector Mendoza and Isabelle Moreau, a voodoo witch.

Much like the first game, the prequel is about a rag-tag bunch of misfits coming together to take down a larger threat by outwitting overwhelming odds. Always outmanned, never outgunned. I hate spoiling a good story, so let’s leave it at that.


Truth be told, I didn’t expect the game to surprise me when it came to the storytelling. But I was proven wrong by how the game managed to tell a cliched spaghetti western story in a compelling way. I will admit that the story takes a while to pick up but once it does, there’s no stopping it. The stars of the story are no doubt its likable main cast and their relationship with each other. The building tension, suspicion, friendly banter, and clashes among the main cast are what makes the story of Desperados so entertaining. You’ll get an even better experience if you’ve played the previous games but it is in no way necessary to do so.

Gameplay & Mechanics

Desperados III is a story-driven real-time tactical stealth game with a big emphasis on outwitting overwhelming odds. If you’ve played the original games, Commandos, or even Shadow Tactics, you’ll feel right at home. Do note that some players might find the game a bit too similar to Shadow Tactics, but that’s always a plus in my book. I usually reserve the judgment at the end of the review but here, I’m breaking the norm. Desperados III is hands down the best tactics game I’ve played in quite a while. The stealth mechanics carried over from Shadow Tactics are near-perfect. Each character is unique and useful in their own ways. There’s a huge variety in mission structure and level design. The AI is relentless. Replayability is high and creativity is encouraged.


With that out of the way, let’s break Desperados III down.

Player choice is the keyword

In Desperados III, you are tasked with controlling 1-5 characters in big, open maps filled with enemies, and obstacles as they complete various assortment of objectives and challenges. Throughout the 20+ hour campaign, you’ll tackle missions of varying difficulty in a wide variety of landscapes including barren deserts, mountainside villas, murky Lousianna swamps to crowded cities bustling with life. All traditional stealth tropes can be found here including hiding spots, enemy patrols, view cones, alarms, reinforcements, and civil zones. In Desperados III, Each encounter is a puzzle with dozens of ways to solve it. Player choice is key and replayability is guaranteed.


Much like Shadow Tactics, there is a large focus on trial & error and experimentation. Although most encounters can be tackled in a variety of ways, there are so many things that can go wrong thanks to the excellent enemy AI. Hence, the game encourages the player to ‘save scum’ often to reach desirable outcomes. However, that’s for us mere mortals. Hardcore strategy enthusiasts won’t have any problem doing flawless purist runs.

The game also gives you extra challenges to face while replaying missions in the form of badge objectives and the Baron’s Challenges where you have to complete missions in certain ways and with restricted equipment. Then there is the customizable difficulty settings where you can individually tweak the enemy setup, player health, ammo count, detection speed, amount of saves, etc. The game is as easy or as difficult as you want it to be.


The Desperados 

The 5 playable characters in Desperados III are a huge part of making the experience so special. Each protagonist acts as a character class and comes with unique weapons, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. The player starts off with John Cooper, the gunslinger equipped with dual revolvers, a throwing knife, and a coin to distract enemies. It’s not far before the roaster is expanded with the sharpshooting hitman Doc McCoy, Hector Mendoza, and his trusty bear trap Bianca, the runaway bride Kate O’Hara and her seductive qualities, and finally, the voodoo witch Isabelle who dabble in the dark arts.

Character abilities in Desperados III share a lot of synergies. How you use them in sync to adapt to any given situation defines your gameplay experience. For example, Kate’s ability to don disguises and lure guards can be used in conjunction with Hector’s bear trap skill, or combining Isabelle’s ability to link two enemies with Cooper’s dual revolvers yields great results. This synergy is encouraged by the ‘showdown mode’ where you can pause the game and queue actions for individual characters to be executed at your leisure. A little imagination and quick thinking go a long way in Desperados III.

Nitpicking as usual

The game is at its best when it gives you control over all of the heroes in an open mission structure. However, it takes a long while before you are introduced to all the characters as well as get a laydown of all the game mechanics. Isabelle, for example, is introduced in the 9th mission, more than 10 hours into the game. Even then, the game continues to add new mechanics such as enemies able to track footprints in the mud as late as the 11th mission.

Then there’s the fact that you are forced to play certain missions with certain characters for the sake of storytelling.  This is more apparent during the first two chapters. The later missions do try to avoid this as much as possible but that’s not always the case. I feel as if some replayability is lost due to this reason. At least the game should have given you the choice to pick which characters you want to play these missions as. But that’s just me.


Since the game is very specific with its commands and because there’s so much environmental interaction, sometimes the heroes have a hard time performing the correct actions. You will have to constantly manage the rotatable and zoomable camera lest you prefer misclicks and inaccurate pathfinding that ruin your perfect run. It’s not as bad as Shadow Tactics but still annoying when you have to control multiple characters.

I also feel like there should have been a bigger variety in the enemy roster. Enemy types that are resistant to voodoo magic and sniper shots would have been a good addition. But for now, we’ll have to settle with Long Coats who can’t be taken down easily, Gunwoman whom you can’t seduce and guard dogs who can sniff you out.

Visuals, Performance & Sound

The original Desperados III had some beautiful 2D art for its time. Desperados III is no slouch in that regard. The game looks amazing. From the vibrant art style to the densely detailed levels to the quality of animations, Desperados III brings its rendition of the Wild West to life. I’m going to let some of these screenshots do the talking.

Desperados III runs as good as it looks. With everything maxed and the resolution scale cranked up to 150%, it never dipped below 60 fps at 1080p on a GTX 1070. During my 30 hour playthrough, no crashes were experienced and no bugs were found. Well, except that one time when Kate got stuck amidst the rubble after knocking down a structure.

I may not be the best judge of sound design. But I wholeheartedly embraced everything Desperados III threw at my ears. The music is what you expect from a Western drama and the epic themes fit well in the missions. The voice acting, to my surprise is rather good (very good, in fact) and a far cry from the phoned-in dialogues present in similar games.


Desperados III is hands down the most fun I’ve had in a game this year. To die-hard Desperados fans, it’s a return to form for the series, and for Shadow Tactics fans, it’s a spiritual successor that share the same mold. An engaging story and near-impeccable gameplay mechanics combined with AAA-like presentation makes Desperados III a must-play for strategy lovers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts