Omerta – City of Gangsters
What happens when you take the look and feel of the interface in “Tropico 4”, add 1920’s scenery, and adopt a combat system similar to that of “XCOM: Enemy Unknown”? Why, you end up with “Omerta – City of Gangsters”, of course! The former comparison to “Tropico 4” doesn’t surprise me much, considering that “Omerta – City of Gangsters” was published by the same folks who brought you the most recent games in the “Tropico” series. I was half expecting Penultimo to pop up at one point and start spouting loyalist propaganda all the while wearing a cheesy gangster hat. If you don’t know who that is kids, then play your “Tropico” and be a better man/woman for it.
The game itself is broken up into a series of levels, similar to that of the “Tropico” series. Each level consists of prescripted objectives that you’ll have to complete one at a time in order to see the level to its conclusion. Beating a level usually awards you with more gang slots, characters to hire, and etc. Before beginning the first level, you can name your boss, pick a portrait, choose some traits, and off you go. The first mission takes you through a tutorial of sorts, as does the second level. I was grateful for this, as some of the city map parts were a bit confusing…though I’ll get to that in a minute.
“Omerta – City of Gangsters” is both a turn-based strategy and real-time simulation game. The former rears its head in the form of turn-based combat, where your gang will square off against an opposing force (cops or gangs). Each particular character has its own “priority” that determines if they’ll get to go first, next, and etc. When your chance comes to move a gangster belonging to you, you’ll be able to move them, attack, perform special actions, and so on at the cost of action and movement points. The latter, the real-time simulation aspect, comes into play when you’re managing your operation as a whole. Here, you’ll rent buildings, send your gang on various missions, buy/sell goods, and so on. Both gameplay genres appeal to me, so I really couldn’t turn the game down when it went on sale for ten bucks on Steam (down from forty).
The majority of your time will be spent on the city map, which houses the gang management / real-time strategy aspects of the game. You’ll start with a base and whichever gangsters you’ve hired thus far, though you’re limited to six for a particular level. From your base, you’ll send your individual gangsters out on various missions in an attempt to raise both dirty and clean money in order to grow an empire and complete the objectives. Doing this often requires the purchase or raiding of other businesses in order to gain beer, liquor, or guns (the three primary goods). With these resources flowing in, you’ll be able to sell them for money by completing jobs (think of them as side missions) or supply your businesses that automatically sell them. Sounds pretty complicated, but it’s not in all honesty…you’re spending money to buy goods and businesses with the goal of selling goods to make money.
As you’re unlocking new sections of the city by purchasing intel (which allow more buildings to be used), you’ll occasionally have to enter combat. Some of these events are prescripted and some aren’t, depending on the circumstances. For example, if one of your gangsters gets arrested by the police, you’ll be allowed to embark on a rescue mission to break them out. After choosing your “task force”, you’ll enter a top-down view similar to that of “XCOM: Enemy Unknown”. Rather than each side taking their own turns, each character does via a calculated rotation. Speaking of which, each character has a unique set of stats and weaponry that will give them their own strengths and weaknesses. A character with high muscle and finesse will fair well in regards to their attack power, but someone with low smarts won’t move as often in the rotation. In addition to this, your gangsters level up and can be given perks to provide them with a leg up on the competition.
As a whole, I both liked and disliked “Omerta – City of Gangsters”. As far as the negatives go, the supply chain aspect in the gang management portion of the game is incredibly simplistic. Fans of the “Anno” series will more than likely be disappointed on this end of things. Resources automatically generate and sell provided you have the appropriate buildings. You do have some customization in the form of building upgrades, but they don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. The process of earning money can take a while and why the game didn’t include a “speed-up” function is beyond me (at least, none I saw on the interface). There’s also somewhat of a time limit in the form of “heat”…that is, the intensity of how much the police notice you.
Just to touch on heat for a minute…like “Grand Theft Auto”, the more stars you have, the more the police are onto you. This doesn’t have an effect however until you hit five stars, in which case an investigation begins. You’ll have to pay money (which increases every time) to bribe them to go away, implicate someone else, call in a favor, and so on. If you fail to do any of these things, the game immediately ends. Heat automatically generates based on the level’s police presence, though you can speed that up by committing crimes. I found this mechanic to be a neat way to simulate your quote unquote “evil meter”, but the fact it automatically generates sort of defeats the purpose of going legit in the first place.
The turn-based strategy parts are also lacking, I feel. One of the things I loved about “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” was the overwatch ability, which allowed me to end my turn and still have some sort of defensive reaction/attack in case the enemy decided to advance. Sadly, this action is not a standard feature here. While there is a cover system, it seems as though you’re rewarded more for using your movement points to rush the enemy without penalty, close in, and fire at point-blank range. I really would have enjoyed more defensive abilities to allow for long firefights behind cover. I did appreciate the depth that the individual characters had (stats, weapons, etc.), but they didn’t mean much since I felt rushed into attacking the majority of the time.
That’s not to say that “Omerta – City of Gangsters” isn’t a good game. It’s easy to drop hours into the first few levels alone. That, coupled with the sandbox mode, gives the game a good deal of replayability. You won’t have the wide range of options open to you in a level of “Tropico”, but the amount of available structures are significant enough to make a difference. Worth the ten bucks I paid? Most definitely, yes. Worth the full price of forty bucks (as of 12/5/13)? Possibly, though there are other games out there that do either the turn-based strategy or real-time simulator genre more justice. The “Tropico” and “Anno” series does resource chaining and city management much better, whereas I feel “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” offers more from a turn-based perspective. As such, “Omerta – City of Gangsters” spreads itself a little too thin for my tastes, but is still a relatively fun experience regardless.
Final Verdict: 6/10
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