THQ Nordic is dusting off another old franchise and bringing fans something new with a new Desperados. Desperados III is a stealth real-time tactics game set in the Wild West.
This isometric game makes you choose between staying hidden in the shadows or coming out with guns blazing as you take on bad guys with a team of up to five desperados.
Desperados III comes after the original game Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive in 2001, and Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge in 2006. But Desperado’s III is a prequel, set at a time when the hero of the earlier games, the gunslinger and knife fighter John Cooper, is still a child.
I spoke about the game with THQ Nordic producer Jonathan Riedler, who is working with the tactics-savvy development team at Mimimi Productions in Munich, Germany.
The game debuts in late 2019 on the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Here’s a edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Is your studio in Austria?
Jonathan Riedler: I’m the producer on the THQ side, and the studio is based in Munich. Munich and Vienna aren’t so far apart, so I can go back and forth by train.
GamesBeat: How long have you been working on Desperados III?
Riedler: I’m the producer on the THQ side, and the studio is based in Munich. Munich and Vienna aren’t so far apart, so I can go back and forth by train. It’s been two years, or a little bit longer.
GamesBeat: I’m not familiar with the series’ history. How old is it?
Riedler: The original Desperados is almost 17 years old now. It was the golden age of a real-time tactics games. Commandos was a popular series around the same time. After a couple of years, there was Desperados II, which took a different approach with some special feature like first-person mode as an option. But the first one was always the best-loved game, and that’s where we’re orienting this one. We’re more inspired by the first game. It’s a prequel. It tells the story of how the characters in the first game met.
GamesBeat: Is the kid somebody special in the first game?
Riedler: The kid you play is John Cooper. He’s the main character of the first game, and also this third game. You get some backstory about what happened on his learning trips with his father. Over the course of the game we’ll have episodes where we show more of the background.
GamesBeat: You mentioned Commandos. Is it comparable to that kind of gameplay?
Riedler: Commandos and the first Desperados were very similar. There hasn’t been a Commandos game for quite a while. There’s really only been one game in this genre recently, which was called Shadow Tactics. It was very critically acclaimed and did very well. It’s by the same developer that’s doing Desperados III.
GamesBeat: Why did you decide to do a prequel?
Riedler: We looked at the story that happened in the second game, as well as a spinoff game that was called Helldorado. You could look at that as Desperados 2.5. We decided that the story that we wanted to tell should be a fresh start relative to those. It’s not just a prequel, but it’s also a kind of reboot. We’re taking some liberties with developing the characters.
GamesBeat: When is it coming out?
Riedler: We’ll be announcing that at Gamescom. It’ll be at some point in late 2019, on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. We’re building it in Unity.
GamesBeat: How long would you say it is?
Riedler: That depends a lot on your play style. There’s always the option to go guns blazing and rush through missions. We’re looking at 25-to-35 hours. But we also have lots of replayability planned, with new takes on all the missions. You can replay them with different objectives. We also have normal mode, which is already pretty hard, and then hard and hardcore difficulty.
GamesBeat: How would you describe the style of gameplay? What kind of audience enjoys this, where you’re planning out how to outwit the enemies?
Riedler: Obviously all the fans of the earlier games in the series will enjoy it. But with the intuitive gamepad controls–for example, today almost all of the players have picked the Xbox controller to play. It’s very easy to approach, very easy to get into for people who aren’t that into strategy games, real-time tactics games. It’s for anyone who likes a challenge, who likes a puzzle, and who likes to play a western game with a good story. It’s a lighthearted approach to the genre. You can play the game in whatever style you want. Every mission has multiple solutions. Every situation has many different ways to solve it.
GamesBeat: Can you talk a bit more about the story?
Riedler: The main story is partly the origin story, how the team got to know each other, and where John Cooper came from. There’s also a classic western revenge story. We’re going to tell a bit about John’s childhood, and the story has something to do with what happened back then.
GamesBeat: How versatile is the kid? What can you do with him?
Riedler: The kid is very basic in his skill set. He has three of the four main skills relative to John Cooper in the other missions. We show how John learned to handle a knife, how he mastered the coin, and one more skill that’s going to be introduced in the flashback scenes.
GamesBeat: When you have a complicated mission, what kind of things are you doing?
Riedler: You’re quick-saving a lot, like every 30 seconds or every minute. You’ll try a lot of different things — different distractions, different angles where you can sneak through and try something. You can also go into the planning mode, which pauses the game, and come up with very complicated strategies with different combinations of skills. Often you’ll need to take out many opponents at the same time. Otherwise they’ll see you dealing with one guy and alert reinforcements. With reinforcements the game gets much more difficult. Sometimes, in these situations, people will just say, “Okay, I have no idea what to do” and they’ll just shoot their way through the situation and then go back to moving on stealthily.
GamesBeat: Do you think people are more into Westerns in games now, after the success of Red Dead Redemption?
Riedler: That certainly helped to get people into western games again, even though it’s a very different kind of mood. We have a lot of silly humor in the dialogue. It’s quite lighthearted in contrast to what can be more brutal gameplay, if you choose to take a very lethal approach. But you can also always sneak past and use non-lethal knockouts and tie people up.
It’s been great fun for me to make this. I’ve already played the missions about 20 times each, and it’s not getting old. I’m looking forward playing the more difficult versions, because that’s not implemented yet. I’m also very much looking forward to announcing the fifth character in the game, which we’ll be revealing in the summer. That character is going to be very special, very innovative. The gameplay will be very enriched by what you can do with her.