The creators of Shadow Tactics ride out to the Wild West
The slow, thoughtful pace (and difficulty) remains intact
I’m meeting with Dominik Abé, creative director of Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun and founder of Mimimi Productions. I admit I’m only halfway through the campaign. “It’s pretty difficult,” I say. “Sorry,” he laughs. He needn’t apologize. Shadow Tactics is inspired by old-school, uncompromising stealth games like Commandos and Desperados. Given the extent to which ShadowTactics wears its influences on its sleeve, Mimimi seems like the perfect developer to resurrect the Desperados series. I’m shown a partial playthrough of one level of the upcoming game, as new character Hector is rescued by returning series regular Cooper during a bar brawl. Having dispatched their attackers in a cutscene, the pair must slip past goons camped outside of the bar.
It’s classic Desperados in tone, but the art style and presentation is reminiscent of ShadowTactics— albeit with a detailed, intricate Wild West town replacing the buildings of Edo period Japan. Hector even plays like a combination of Shadow Tactics’ characters Yuki and Mugen. He’s a heavy-set lad capable of carrying two incapacitated guards and armed with a shotgun that can deal massive damage, but who can also set bear traps with which to ensnare patrolling guards.
The focus seems to be more on using combinations of characters. So while Hector can set a trap, you’ll need to use Cooper’s whistle to draw a guard towards it. And, true to the genre, things quickly escalate in difficulty, with open areas that require synchronized takedowns, and special, armored enemies who can deflect Cooper’s throwing knife.
Slipping away from the bar, Hector and Cooper reach the town proper. This is a ‘civil’ zone, where the duo is free to explore without being harassed. “In a Western town, an armed cowboy doesn’t draw too much attention,” explains Abé. “Only if you do something suspicious—if you kill somebody, people react to you—but as long as you just walk around and don’t do anything you’re good.”
This is one of the main things I saw that clearly differentiates DesperadosIII from both its predecessors and Shadow Tactics. “It’s kind of new for the genre,” says Abé. “Before there were only the possibilities to disguise yourself. Here, we have the possibility to have more cool settings, because it would be weird if, in a Western town, everybody would start shooting at me.”
Dead Light District
Hector enlists Cooper’s help checking off a hitlist of targets. There are multiple people around the map in need of killing, but, for the demo, we focus on only one—the new owner of the local brothel. As Cooper and Hector explore, they overhear conversations that hint at ways to complete each objective. We learn that there’s a stash of laudanum hidden in the brothel, and the owner has a drinking habit. If the pair can steal the laudanum, they can use it to spike the owner’s whisky, poisoning her. This is just one option: The two could also try infiltrating the building for a direct kill.
“It depends on the map, but mostly we have at least two major paths to approach [an objective],” says Abe. “Like, really major, where you’re like, ‘I played the map and didn’t tackle this area.’ You have a lot of freedom and replayability.” I like this approach as an evolution to real-time tactical stealth games. The slow, thoughtful pace (and difficulty) remains intact, but here Mimimi is bringing in elements of action-oriented stealth games like Hitman into the mix. DesperadosIII, like ShadowTactics before it, may be old school, but that doesn’t mean it can’t evolve and improve the genre.
As in ShadowTactics (and real life), your abilities make noise.
Don’t be a jerk and you’ll be safe in civil zones.