by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
You been out ridin' fences for so long now
Oh, you're a hard one
But I know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' you
Can hurt you somehow
And, so ends the first verse of The Eagles classic song Desperado. The lyrics are quite fitting, as the game does have a whole set of features that will please gamers, but it may be those same features that will disappoint others. Desperados III is a tactical stealth game set in the Wild West, where players take the role of John Cooper and his posse in a tale primarily of revenge.
For the most part, the game requires players to take a slow methodical approach to each of the missions. Although the game is played in real-time, the ability to pause time (particularly in Showdown mode) and plan your moves essentially turns the game into a pseudo turn-based strategy with the five playable characters. Other than John Cooper who is handy with a knife and a pair of six-shooters, gamers will control the sharpshooter Doc McCoy, runaway bride Kate O’Hara, trapper Hector Mendoza and Isabelle Moreau.
Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy
She'll beat you if she's able
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet
Isabelle is the wildcard amongst the group. She’s probably not the queen of hearts, as the seductive Kate probably fits that title more. Arriving before the halfway mark of the campaign the voodoo priestess Isabelle has several abilities that separate her from the stealthy skills of the rest of the squad. Her supernatural talents certainly add something to the game, and it is somewhat disappointing that it takes so long for her to make an appearance. But her skills complement those of the other squad members, who each bring their own set of skills to the table. She can possess and manipulate humans and animals and indeed convince them to kill each other. Desperados III permits a healthy experimentation with each of the characters and their abilities. And although there is some trial and error that occurs in finding which ability works in each scenario, there is some enjoyment with doing so, even if there are multiple failures along the way.
Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can't get
Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone
The world in Desperado III is full of reasonably large-scale maps, each with various ways in which the missions can be completed. Sneaking around and distracting enemies is often a better approach than load firearms since loud noises alert extra guards. There are heaps of environmental hiding spaces which allow gamers to slowly move throughout an area undetected. Boulders and bushes make for great places from which to plan your next move, whilst environmental features can also be used to your squad’s advantage. That perilously placed large boulder at the top of a cliff can be gently nudged so that it drops onto unsuspecting foes below. That horse can be spooked just as a guard is walking past, copping a hoof to the head for his troubles. These methods of dispatching an enemy can actually be far more satisfying than sneaking up behind them and stabbing them in the back. One word of caution though…save, and save often, as if something goes wrong and a large group is alerted to your presence, it can all go awry for your posse very quickly.
Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won't snow, and the sun won't shine
It's hard to tell the night time from the day
You're losin' all your highs and lows
Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?
Being the Wild West, there is not much snow to speak of. In fact, the game is primarily filled with browns, greys, oranges, and dusty yellow palettes, as the squad travels through the top-down 2.5D isometric landscapes. But it is this distinct lack of color that enables the pathfinding to work, as enemy vision and alerts are shown in bright greens and reds, easily noticeable against the somewhat dreary backdrops. The settings are quite detailed though even down to the flowing rivers, allowing the gamer to work out a strategy accordingly to the lay of the land. Important points of interest can be highlighted, further enabling an optimal route through the maps. The user interface too, is well set up, allowing for easy access to the characters' skills.
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you
Let somebody love you
You better let somebody love you before it's too late
Desperados III provides for around 25-30 hours of gameplay. Admittedly, some of that will be replaying sections of maps after your initial plans don’t work out. The reasonably clever AI certainly makes things interesting. If they discover you sneaking around or notice a comrade slumped on the floor, they will investigate and will often call for backup. But with each of the playable characters offering something different, there is always a way (or multiple ways) in which to reach your goal. With some interesting backstories for each of the characters, some cool abilities - particularly with Isabelle, and some lovely settings, Desperados III is an enjoyable, albeit slow, puzzle-solving experience. But it is that same methodical experience that won’t suit all gamers, especially those who want some quick-fire action.
Desperado lyrics by The Eagles (Glenn Lewis Frey, Don Hugh Henley)
Intelligent AI, large maps, stealth mechanics work well
Slow approach to levels may not suit some gamers