Des­per­a­dos III

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.

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