Desperados 3 brings real time tactics and magic murder bags to the Old West

Bless you, Desperados 3, for having a gentle prompt appear on screen every so often reminding me of the last time I've saved my game. I'm not great at tactical games, so I'm taking great swaths of time in Desperados 3 to carefully put my characters in place and spring my traps, and when my plan goes awry—which has happened several times now—it's a real ballache to start from my last save and re-position everyone all over again.

I'm controlling Desperado mainstay Cooper in this demo, who has a throwable Bowie knife, dual pistols, and the ability to toss a coin to use as a distraction or lure. I'm also controlling Cooper's new acquaintance, Doc McCoy, who has a medical bag he can place as a flash-bang trap (just go with it), a poison syringe for stealth kills, and a sniper rifle for taking out distant targets. I'm slowly—very slowly—working my way to the front of a train that's been stalled by a gang of what feels like a hundred bandits, and taking them out—when I don't muck it up—a few at a time.

This revival of the Desperados series is being led by Mimimi Productions, developer of Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, and it certainly shows. Fans of Shadow Tactics will feel right at home, the samurai and ninja being replaced by cowboys and 1850's New Mexico subbing in for Edo period Japan.

I can't say from this demo if it's as hard as Shadow Tactics, which was notoriously difficult, but I do feel challenged, especially this early on in the game. I'm only controlling the two characters at the moment—I'm told at points players will control up to five characters at once—but I already feel like I've got my hands full. This is a big, big level, and there are scores of bandits. When things go sideways, such as when I've misjudged a bandit's cone of vision or hadn't noticed one just in earshot of my latest noisy kill, it feels like the entire gang comes running and quickly put and end to Cooper and Doc. This isn't a game I'll be iron-manning. I need that 'reload last save' button. I might even wear it out.

I do, eventually, manage to get Cooper and Doc to the front of the train. Sometimes it's a matter of luring someone close to Doc with a coin toss and giving him a lethal injection from the safety of a shrub. Sometimes it's a matter of scheduling both characters movements and actions and letting them play out simultaneously to take out a crowd. Cooper will drop two with his pistol while Doc snipes a lookout, just as another reaches Doc's dropped magic murder bag and opens it, getting a face-full of flash, stunning him long enough for Cooper to knife him. As much as I muck things up, I love it when a plan comes together.

At the end of the train level, having finally taken out the bandit boss, there's some extremely cathartic action. I use dynamite to destroy the rubble that the bandits used to force the train to stop at the mouth of the tunnel. The explosion brings the remainder of the gang running, and while I leave Doc McCoy safely crouching in a bush while I direct Cooper as he flings stick after stick of dynamite at the approaching bandit mob. It's a satisfying change from the slow creeping, meticulous planning and quiet skulduggery I've been using for the entire train level. It's been fun using careful tactics to get this far, but sometimes it's better to just throw dynamite at your problems.