February 13, 2013

Omerta: City of Gangsters

Developed by Haemimont Games
Published by Kalypso Media

With the returning popularity of the city builder, such as Sim City, and the turn-based strategy genre, like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, it’s a nice change of pace to see someone attempt a mash up of these two genres.  That someone was developer Haemimont Games and publisher Kalypso Media.  From the creators of the popular Tropico 4 island management game, comes Omerta: City of Gangsters, a city management and squad-based tactical strategy game all rolled up into one.  It’s always refreshing when developers start to think outside the box and create something entirely new by borrowing elements from wholly different genres and Haemimont Games certainly took a chance with this game.

This game tells the story of a new and upcoming organized crime boss intent on making a name for himself in a sprawling, and historically accurate, 1920’s Atlantic City where the prohibition is in full swing.  Players take on the role of one of 6 bosses and create their character by answering some fairly simple “history” questions about their chosen persona.  This fleshes out the back story of your character before he arrives in Atlantic City from overseas.  From there, players play through the story by completing quests and building their empire.  This crime family empire won’t be build overnight, however; It will take time, money, gang members, bribes, drive-bys, evictions, building purchases, businesses, and a host of other actions before you can even begin to think about rising to the top.  The majority of this game is played out similar to a city builder game, except the city is already built.  This time, you will find yourself purchasing buildings and establishing businesses, like breweries, pizzerias, gun runners, smugglers, and speakeasies, to front your criminal operations and gather the required ‘currency’ in the form of manufacturing and selling beer, liquor, weapons, and ammunition.

When a situation arises that requires some more personal action, such as removing a rival gang from a local hotel, staging a bank heist, or breaking one of your people out of jail, the game switches to a tactical turn-based strategy.  This is where things really get interesting. A host of characters slowly become available each with their own colourful stories and abilities. You’ll soon find that characters that carry machine guns, shotguns, and pistols will carry more weight to an operation than those with knives and other melee weapons.

Omerta Screen 1

The concept of Omerta: City of Gangsters is a solid one. The story is interesting and the characters are most certainly colourful, if a bit cliché as if they’re right out of a 80’s mobster movie.  The problem here is that Haemimont Games has tried to mash together two different genres but, unfortunately, has not done either of them really well.  There are many glitches in the game apparent right from the start that will begin to drive you nuts.  I ended up having to turn off the music because, while it is the perfect choice for the 1920’s era, it kept skipping and repeating and became very grating after a while.  Additionally, more often than not, when selecting a building to either look at the description or do an upgrade, the information panel would just close without my interaction.  The tactical strategy portions of the game also feel incomplete as if just a little more time spend in development could have polished them up more.  Each character has a set number of MP (Movement Points) to spend during their turn, but the game doesn’t do a great job showing the player, visually, how far each character can actually move (displaying a movement boundary, for example).  This tends to cause characters to end their turn out in the open and not behind cover; a dangerous place to be.  The multiplayer versus mode has issues that shouldn’t be there either. For example, when my opponent laid a trap (which was one of his members’ abilities), I was able to see the action he took and also see where the trap was so it would never affect me.  I could also see where all his people were on the map without having to first see them in my line of site, which is the case in the single player campaign.

Omerta Screen 2

In concept, Omerta: City of Gangsters is certainly a bold and intriguing concept and most of these issues could be fixed with patches. If that happens, we’d have a truly great and addictive game on our hands.  As it stands now, however, the game feels rushed to completion as if it were trying to beat another game to market.  With everything this game has going for it, it’s a shame that it was released in such a state.  I really want to love this game, with its wonderful combination of two great genres, a great story, and quirky characters, but the gameplay just needs to be perfected a little more.  Until the game is fixed of these issues, I honestly can’t recommend it to anyone. I really want to, but I can’t and that’s a real crying shame.

Haemimont Games, I gave you (much more than) an hour and I am NOT IMPRESSED.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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