When it comes to Prohibition Era gangsters, there aren’t that many games out there that show enough love for the culture that was created by men with tommy guns and the knack for booze and liquor. The whole entire “I follow my own rules” mentality of a gangster is what facinates me the most, which is why I was pretty psyched to see this game come out in a RTS form.
The game itself is published by Kalypso Media and developed by Haemimont Games, also resposible for Tropico 4, which to my standards, with that name, it should have had a decent amount of hype behind Omerta. But to my surprise, it seems like no one really caught wind of it. I could only guess why…. -_-
Omerta: City of Gangsters is a simulation game like Sim City, with turn-based tactical gameplay, similar to the style of XCOM but with less “umph”. The story takes place back in the 1920’s where these so-called gangsters were brewing up and selling illegal booze. You character follows the formula of a gangster and starts to build an empire of his own.
From just two men helping rent out joints, and building breweries, you can gain up to 15 gangsters that’ll help you out as you rise to the top. It doesn’t seem like much but let me explain; each character you unlock throughout the campaign has their own individual stats, that are also affected by the perks that you can earn. Perks are modifiers that add a certain number of points towards increasing your critical hit percentage or the amount of moves your character can have during combat.
The gameplay can be confusing at first, but once you get the hang of what it has to teach you, you’re good to go. You control the camera with the right stick, and move your cursor over the map with the left stick. The rest of the buttons will correspond to whatever is shown on screen. You’ll be tasked to begin opening up businesses by renting out joints to start small ventures like speakeasies, bookies and pizzarias. Then you gradually move up to buying out land for casinos, hotels, insurance companies and more. Once you have enough money coming in, you’ll be able to pursue further ambitious ventures and progress through the story.
Progressing through story is quite interesting. You have a choice of a district within Atlantic City, where all of this takes place, and each district has a person who’s trying to do something big like making their club popular or trying to get rid of another gangster who owns most of the businesses there. So, you’ll be tasked to start up your businesses either the legit way or by making enemies. You have the option to steal, bomb, and pretty much destroy one’s business in order for you to step in and start making money, but in turn, you lose their relationship and it’ll also turns other businesses against you, which could prevent certain actions likes selling your own booze to another speakeasy.
For most of the game you’ll be trying to earn money in two forms: Dirty Money and Clean Money. Dirty money is obtained by illegal actions and is used to purchase illegal businesses like breweries, distilleries or hiring a smuggler to smuggle your booze, liquor and firearms. Clean money is obtained by laundering dirty money or buying legal businesses and it’s the only form that can buy both illegal and legal items. Both are easily obtainable by letting your businesses do their work while you take a break, and then come back to a game with a stack of cash to finish off the mission with ease.
The only real thing you need to worry about are the cops and with each illegal activity you do, a star is added to a total of 5 you can earn before you got them knocking at your door. They’re easily persuaded by cash or by destroying the evidence. But most of the time I’m already stacked with enough cheddar that I’m always bribing my way out.
When it comes down to action, you’re put in a turn-based strategy combat where your characters fight against gangsters or cops. Each character has a set of Move Points(MP), which lets the character move across the board, depending on how many points you have available and you also have action points, which is used to perform attacks. The combat itself is a bit dull with repetitive voice overs that can make any person want to stop playing. The character animations seem very out of place and the different moves each character has didn’t have their own unique look to make the gameplay refreshing to look at.
Now you can probably sense that I’m about to start outlining things that I didn’t like about the game and you’re so right…but the only thing I can really highlight is the user interface.
The game fails to bring an intuitive menu for many players, but I’m a bit more dedicated to learn something new. I stuck on trying to learn how to tell which building is which on the very small radar on the top left corner of the screen but the one problem I had was the color coordination of the buildings weren’t as distinct. I felt like a lot of the time I spent playing the game was trying to find everything on that damn radar… which is a definite no-no on any type of user interface design. You have to make the menu as readable as possible so you don’t have a new player trying to figure out your system and not have them get frustrated before they can start enjoying the game.
Overall, the game fell flat. I mean, I could certainly jump into a game like Tropico 4 or XCOM and feel like I have something to accomplish but with Omerta: City of Gangsters, I had no sense of accomplishment with each mission. As I mentioned earlier, you can literally just sit there while your businesses gain money and pretty much pass each mission with flying colors, unless you suck at the turn-based strategy part of the game. If you’re still interested in trying it out, the demo is available and it’ll give you a good sense of what you can except for most of the game.