I’m not going to lie to you. I do not know what a Desperados is. The same goes for Desperados II, which I assume must exist. But I played Desperados III, and I like it.

If you’re as clueless about this series as I am, just know that Desperados III is a tactics game published by THQ Nordic. It is coming out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Again, I had never heard of this franchise before. But it turns out I’m really into this brand of cowboy-flavored action.

I played Desperados III on PC at a pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo event in Santa Monica. The closest I can equate it to is something like Fallout Tactics. If you’re looking for an even nerdier comparison, I had flashbacks to Star Trek: Away Team (I bet not many of you remember that 2001 game). You control a small party in a top-down perspective, using their abilities to sneak your way through maps.

Cowboy stealth

In the first level, I just controlled one guy. It was a kid, actually. His father would go ahead and do most of the dirty work, sneaking behind enemies and killing them with a knife. I would point-and-click my character’s way out of danger, sometimes throwing a coin to help distract enemies. It worked as a nice tutorial to ease me into the somewhat complicated mechanics.

Throwing coins to distract people may sound like pretty typical stealth stuff, but the cowboy flavor goes a long way. Outside of the Red Dead series, this still feels like an unexplored genre in gaming. It was nice to play such a hardcore tactics experience that wasn’t sci-fi, fantasy, or post-apocalyptic.

Train scene in Desperados III.

Above: Train scene in Desperados III.

Image Credit: THQ Nordic

The gameplay portion picked up in the second part of the demo. I played as a gunslinger and a doctor working their way up a train mid-robbery. The gunslinger could shoot his pistols. I could even pause the action to pinpoint two separate targets to take out at the same time. But this would be noisy. I was better off finding sneakier routes, using coins and taking out enemies with my knife.

The doctor had a more specialized kit. He could also take out enemies silently, but he would use a syringe of poison. He could also throw his medical bag. Like with a coin, it would attract an enemy. But those enemies would then open the bag, releasing poison gas and knocking themselves out.

Sneaking together

The level had a tight design that forced me to use both characters carefully. Vision cones indicated where my enemy could see, but I could still work my way around them by hiding in things like tall grass. And if I didn’t have enough cover, one person would have to distract an enemy or take him out while the other sneaks his way through.

It’s satisfying tactical gameplay that’s elevated by the fun Western setting. It’s like solving a series of puzzles, with the solutions usually involving murder and hiding bodies.

I had never heard of Desperados before, but one demo later and I’m pretty excited for Desperados III.