On the surface, Desperados 3 is a deceptively simple game, but beneath the stealth-based gameplay and western aesthetic, there’s a surprising amount of nuance. From the studio behind Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, Desperados 3 is one of the best stealth games of this generation, bringing its own unique flair to a decades-old genre.
Desperados 3 derives much of its appeal from its freedom to experiment, highlighted by a well-integrated quicksave system that allows players to instantly reload if they mess up. After a minute has passed since the player’s last save, a timer appears at the top of the screen, letting them know how much progress they will lose if they make a mistake.
The quicksave implementation is very good, as it keeps the three most recent saves ready and gives players different jumping-off points. This ensures that players have a failsafe in case they push into an unworkable position within a level or want to try other, better routes to an objective.
Of course, it’s still frustrating when an enemy is alerted, but it also ensures that missions aren’t played too safe, giving Desperados 3 a faster pace than most stealth games. That pace keeps players on their toes throughout the experience, but still allows time to take in the entirety of a situation. It’s a delicate balance that lesser games constantly struggle with, but Desperados 3 achieves almost every time.
Desperados 3 is a challenging game, though there are different settings for players who want to increase or decrease the challenge. Either way, failure is a common occurrence, and Desperados 3 actively encourages players to fail. As players begin to understand the tools at their disposal, and more importantly, how those tools can be used together, the solutions will become clearer.
The game features five unique heroes, each with their own unique abilities: Cooper, Hector, Kate, McCoy, and Isabelle. Each character has its own advantages and disadvantages, and players are sure to find their favorite as they play. Hector is a particular standout thanks to a massive bear trap, generous health pool, and the ability to carry multiple bodies at once. But using every character at the player’s disposal is always useful, and often necessary to find a practical solution to the problems of a level.
There is hardly a single solution to a problem, either. Between environmental kills, diverse skillsets, and multiple routes to an objective, Desperados 3 offers a variety of options when it comes to finishing a level. An early segment dangles a Gatling gun as an obvious path to victory, but it’s entirely possible to find more stealthy and more rewarding routes out of the mission. Players are often given a list of objectives that can be met in any order, which keeps things open and unique.
With so many moving pieces, Desperados 3 requires a healthy amount of situational awareness. There are always different factors at play when trying to complete an objective, be it enemies, an important item, or some other environmental event. Fail to keep any of that in mind, and players tend to alert the guards, leading to sticky situations. Even with quicksave, Desperados 3 is a game that punishes a lack of planning.
That may not sound appealing to some, but for those who have always wanted to plan the perfect heist, successfully completing an objective without detection is a real treat. To help with that, Desperados 3 features a showdown mode, which allows players to plan an action per character, then execute the moves simultaneously. It doesn’t always work perfectly, usually due to misinterpretation of the timing, but the game’s best moments are when the characters’ actions sync perfectly to complete a goal.
There are still moments of frustration scattered around, mostly in the form of problems that have no apparent solution, or require an annoying amount of trial and error. Occasionally, this can be caused by something as simple as forgetting a basic skill, but there are situations that are frustrating by design.
It helps that the enemies are consistent based on their AI. For example, major enemies are easily distracted and can lead around the map. Meanwhile, enemies with ponchos are harder to disrupt, and will usually stay in place unless fully alerted.
Players have to learn to use these behaviors to their advantage and these are the kinds of moments where Desperados shines as a brilliant stealth game and a solid western game. When players defeat the AI, they not only complete an objective, but beat the game.
Desperados 3 is a stellar game with tight mechanics and a healthy dose of variety. A strong cast of characters and a setting that feels foreign to stealth games make it a unique experience, even if there are some frustrating moments sprinkled throughout. Its challenging moments may be a deterrent for some, but ultimately it succeeds as one of the best stealth games of this generation.
Desperados 3 was released on June 16, 2o2o, for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Today Technology was given an Xbox One code for this review.