I bloody love a good tactical, turn-based strategy. So, when I got to play Desperados 3 and thought that’s what it was, I was keen as a bean. However, it turns out that Desperados 3 is NOT turn-based. Instead, it’s a real-time tactical game and it’s damn good. Set in the Wild West, I was in control of one (then two) cowboy types as I attempted to free a captured train from some no-good varmints.
Viewed from an isometric perspective, but rendered in full 3D, Desperados 3 is first and foremost a stealth game. The idea is to sneakily get your heroes into their optimal locations and unleash hell on the unsuspecting enemies.
Being real-time, rather than turn-based, there is a bit of a learning curve to Desperados 3 but, it doesn’t take long before you understand the rhythm of the action, combat and stealth.
If you ignore, for a minute, the fact that that this game plays out in real-time, you’ll see that it has a lot in common with turn-based strategy titles. You move your characters to where you need them and you attack the enemy, hoping to escape unscathed.
The major difference is that in Desperados 3, if you can kill the enemy you need to always remain on your toes. Enemies move and surveil the environment, always looking out for signs of disturbance or something out of the ordinary. It adds a new layer of tension to a genre that usually gets by as a numbers game.
Strategy games don’t usually include stealth as an option, outside of sneak attacks, so having Desperados 3 so focused on it is a really interesting twist.
Regarding stealth, as you move around the gameworld and get near enemies, you can bring up a view cone for enemies by holding left-on the D-Pad. You can see which parts of the field are in clear view and which are obscured. Once you’re hidden, you have a number of options to exploit such as tossing a coin to lure enemies away, throwing your medical bag which is booby-trapped with gas or throwing a knife for a lethal takedown.
I had access to two characters during my hands-on. Doc had access to a scoped weapon, which meant I was able to take out enemies long-distance while using Cooper for up-close takedowns and distractions.
It took me a while to realise I could control both characters at the same time which is essential. For a long time, I would move one, then switch to the other and move them, going back and forth and wasting a tonne of time. Eventually, an in-game tool-tip explained I could control both at once and I was set.
Better still is Showdown. By pressing up on the D-Pad you enter Showdown mode and can plan out your next moves for both characters. For example, during the mission I played, I was able to take out a sniper and two sentries through Showdown. When you activate it, you perform the move you want to carry out and record it, like a macro. Then you switch to your other character, record their movements and then press play and watch it all unfold.
It’s so satisfying to effectively plan and pull of elaborate plans through Showdown that you’ll want to try and do it as often as possible.
Missions in Desperados 3 are self-contained set pieces requiring you to get from A to B or to complete an objective. How you do it is in your hands. Desperados 3 gives players plenty of options for proceeding through the levels and I can imagine a lot of people will be attempting pacifist runs, ghost runs and chaos runs. It’s all possible within what already exists of the game.
Having only played one mission and controlled two characters I don’t have a lot of knowledge about what else is in store for Desperados 3 but, what I played was intense, tough and satisfying. So, if the game can maintain that level of action and entertainment for the duration, strategy fans are looking at a winner.
Desperados 3 is planned to be released this year on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.