Omerta – City of Gangsters is the latest game to release on the PC and Xbox 306. Developed by Kalypso, this Sim’s type game is based on the Italian mafia hitting America in the roaring Prohibition era. Omerta also mixes in action with turn based combat similar to X-Com, making for a unique gaming experience overall.
On the surface Omerta can be overlooked with simple game mechanics that make up the same type of Sim games. However, by the time you finish your first mission you can start to see that there is a lot of well thought out depth to the scenarios. The easiest way to make money is to create a speakeasy to sell beer and wine, but it’s not as easy as renting a building and then establishing it. You need to think about supplying as well.
You can either rely on outside suppliers or you can take them over either by raiding them, or using a drive by shooting to make them flee their establishment. Raiding can make the owner upset if he stays and if you do a drive by you bring up your Fear rating, a rating that judges how much the community is afraid of you, and it can also bring the police down on you. Once the police have had enough they launch an investigation and you can either try to bribe them, blame it on someone else, or try to destroy the evidence. Bribing costs money, blaming brings down your Like factors, and destroying evidence becomes a combat mission where if you lose, could cost you some of your henchmen. See, I told you it becomes in depth. And all you wanted to do was open a speakeasy.
The truth is, if the depth wasn’t there, you could easily blow through some of these missions and not even care about the story, but every layer of game play really drives you in and before you know it you’re completely hooked on Omerta. The combat system isn’t all too spectacular though. At times it feels a little tacked on, and can sometimes slow down the pace of the game and story.
In combat, much like X-Com your henchmen can only move a certain amount and still be able to shoot or melee. Melee can be more accurate than shooting, however you have to be one space away from your enemy in order to engage and usually if you don’t take them down during your turn you have to stand in front of them and hope they don’t kill you. Shooting is safer and you can hide behind objects for better coverage and although it may take longer to kill your enemy because you miss more, it’s still the preferred route. In fact one character, who is handy with the knife, is easier to use when you only throw his knife instead of engage in close quarter combat.
Each mission progresses the story, as well as the depth to game play. In the first few missions you only have to worry about making money. Later on you have to also handle taking on tasks for crime lords which can’t be done without still making money. Making seven thousand dollars in a mission seems hard but you also can go to the main map and accept offers from characters to buy or sell products. Some characters offer other services like bringing up your Like or Fear, or some might need a loan or can help with laundering. Later missions also require cleaning the money.
Although every action can be completed using dirty money, I found that clean money works just as well, but there’s no hint to let you know. In fact there are a lot of things in the game that just seemed implied. There’s a time of day system with night and day effects, however there isn’t a clock or calendar to be specific. When a mission requires you to lose the heat in seven days, you really have no idea how long that is.
There’s also no clear breakdown of your expenses. As the game progresses you have to pay your henchmen, the rent on buildings, and other commodities and all you get is a bar at the bottom of the screen to tell you basic numbers such as dirty money, clean money, storage, beer, liquor, like, fear and heat. In order to get stats on how much a certain location is operating you have to click on that particular building. It can show the stats of efficiency, how much is sold, and you have options to upgrade. But there still isn’t a place to look at a breakdown of all establishments operating and how they all stack up.
For the same matter it is also hard to navigate around the screen. I was never introduced to rotating the camera and for the first few missions I stuck with the default camera. This made combat missions hard when the enemy would hide behind an object. Once I found that you could rotate the camera the game play became much easier although there wasn’t a way to go back to default nor could you snap the camera angles. On the town map you can also rotate the camera, but to navigate around the map you have to move your curser to the edges of the screen. This makes it difficult if you only want to mouse over the bottom bar to get a better description of your numbers and the map just keeps scrolling down. It would have been nice to have the option to click and grab the map to move it instead.
Everything else for this game was pretty much done well. Characters are well voice acted, even though some of their lines can be repetitive. The art is also done well, even if most of the times you will have to zoom all the way out to see as much of the map as possible. When you put a task to a henchman, you can select the character and zoom in to see them running down the street. The overall story is pretty engaging, even if slightly predictable. Name another Sim game with a compelling story let alone a story at all though.
Omerta – City of Gangsters will certainly keep you entertained for quite some time. It’s one of those games that on the surface look pretty simple, but it will certainly suck you in. The game play is solid and in depth but doesn’t let you peek under the hood to help micro manage. The combat system changes up the style and is engaging as well but can be auto played at times if it isn’t your cup of tea. If you’re into Sim games, you might want to give this one a try, and if you’re not you can still have some fun.
This game was reviewed on the PC.