Yeehaw, the time has come, pardners. Desperados 3 follows the story of one John Cooper, one of the wildest-westiest names I can think of, on a journey of redemption across the rootin tootin west. It’s a prequel to the classic Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, and sees you teaming up with some quirky characters from different backgrounds. There’s some exquisite stealth mechanics available that enable us to execute intelligently choreographed chained takedowns - imagine if John Wayne and John Wick got into a drunken bar brawl together. Desperados 3 is a wonderful example of a hardcore tactical stealth game, the last one we saw was the popular Shadow Tactics back in 2016.
Desperados III grabs you by the barrel of your gun and doesn’t let go, providing a wonderfully entertaining journey that will sometimes pull your hair out as you try to figure out the best way forward, but with “space pausing” as a standard and the replayability on offer, this is going to keep you trying hard to improve again and again.
The game begins with a few tutorial missions that show you the basics and introduce you to the unique abilities of each playable character. Each mission will require you to achieve a certain objective, and it’s amazing how much variety is present here; from the selection of characters you start with, to certain modifiers like forcing you to use non-lethal takedowns instead of lethal. Each level is a puzzle just itching to be solved and can be completed in many number of ways, with the vast array of tools and abilities at your disposal to create some truly entertaining synergies between characters.
It can be pretty hard, but very rewarding too as you plan these great mastermind strategies. You’ll need to keep your eye on five or six moving guards (and their cones of vision) at the same time, and have the keyboard shortcuts for your different weapons fully internalized so you can pull off some amazing feats of coordination in a critical split second, and a plan for disposing of the bodies afterwards too.
After completing a mission you are greeted with some juicy statistics to absolutely obsess over: from the number of saves, loads, and deaths, to the exact amounts of time spent with each character and how many kills were achieved with each ability. There’s also a really nifty overview map that tracks your entire movements and actions across the whole level, replaying them back to you at various speeds which can be really hypnotizing at times when you really get the hang of the gameplay.
Finally, after viewing your statistics post-mission, you are rewarded with mysterious challenges. These aren’t presented to you at first, and will reveal themselves after completing a mission for the first time. These challenges will require some skill in completing them, and it just begs you to replay levels over, and over, and over again as the perfectionist inside you slowly starts to surface.
If you’re looking for a gritty western tale, this might disappoint, but the main story is good enough to keep you invested at least, and the various personalities of its main cast add some much appreciated humor and banter. I think Hector might be my favorite character, but each one has their own little quirks to keep you interested in their stories - and their company - along your journey.
It may not be a western classic like the old spaghetti westerns, but Desperados 3 stands tall as a great western tale not of redemption, but of brilliant tactical strategy. There’s nothing more rewarding than pulling off the perfect synergy of puzzle-violence (after loading up a quicksave 2, 3, or 18 times), and the amount of challenges to complete after missions is just begging to be replayed for the most passionate of perfectionists. Now if you’ll excuse me Pilgrim, I got a horse to catch.