The 1920s gangster scene has always been fascinating, at least in that the media tends to portray it. Whether untouchable, Boardwalk Empire or the Godfather (set in the 1940s and 1950s), the combination of sophisticated classic cars, beautifully tailored suits, Tommy Guns and smoke clouds is truly amazing and exciting. Add aesthetics.
Of course, for most people, even those involved in the gang-grand scene in their twenties, everyone knows that the reality has become harsh, violent, horrifying, bullets and bars. But we play video games to escape reality, or at least to avoid it. Empire of sinCombining XCOM-like combat, grand strategy, and interesting 1920s concepts published by Paradox Interactive, it swirls like a cocktail in a mixer. So how does it taste?
Empire of Sin is a blend of real-time strategy and turn-based strategy, but it also has a strong sense of RPG. Choose a gang from a surprisingly diverse set of characters. One or two of them are actually real people, but they all feel like a fairly broad archetype. No one will be surprised to see Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans, but you can also play as a female circus barker or as a Chinese or Mexican immigrant gangster. It also has a variety of playstyles and in-game benefits, and is fully voice-based.
Once the game is launched, you can play a simple tutorial to own your first territory, from the safehouse, which basically functions as headquarters, to Speakeasy, brothels, and casinos. The more territories you control, the more money you can make, and territory variations using a system cribbed from poker hands also give you a bonus. For example, one of each type of building has one type of bonus, and three buildings of the same type have different bonuses.
Territories can be obtained in two basic ways, apart from story events. Quoting Pablo Escobar, you can do this with silver or lead. Territories can be purchased semi-legally or handed over to gangsters. Your protagonist is a named character with skills, backgrounds, and a fairly intriguing system of likes and dislikes. Then enter the building, shoot and kill everyone on the move and take over to the gang.
It’s cheaper to forcibly take over a territory and send a message, but it also affects your reputation with other gangsters, but it’s always getting worse. As it grows, bad publicity also allows you to recruit new and stronger characters.
When the shootout begins, it switches to a turn-based view. In the XCOM type, there are two actions for each character, and the cover is indicated by a shield. Here, while the AI reacts in turn, move the character in the order of the initiative, shoot and make a melee attack. Turn-based combat has some strange quirks. Character hit points are often exhausted by shooting and melee attacks, especially for bosses, which are often very high. Therefore, firing a shotgun at close range may not kill the enemy. And, as in this genre, it’s often at the mercy of the RNG gods that certain shots are more likely to be missed.
Most of your enemies are low-grade, faceless general guards who die under the load of a truck under the muzzle of your gun. Your character is very strong and will level up quickly. Before fighting your first opponent as a major boss, you may find yourself chewing on many shootouts against a factionless “thug” to expand your fast-growing empire.
Each boss has a different style, what they are good at, and the opinions of other bosses. All of these are laid out in a classic paradox style with a list of positive and negative points and percentages of probabilities. When you first meet another boss, you can arrange a “sit-in” to go to their territory and talk about how to work with them, at least initially. This leads to a loose RPG-style encounter, played in a smoky room with exaggerated gestures, when talking to rivals to make peace, if you wish.
Otherwise, you end up in a lawn war and they try to rob you of territory in the same way you do the same to them. When they invade one of your Speakeasy or other territories, you use your general guard against them with Fire Fights that interfere with your movements on the main map. Real-time travel on Chicago’s main map is fairly slow, but you can basically teleport using a taxi. There are also map issues that can sometimes make it very difficult to find a location.
Missions will also pop up to guide you through interesting, cliché stories and keep moving forward. Some of these missions are specific to your character. The Irish character Donnaban is a survivor of the Easter Rising and causes some complications. However, these story missions are difficult to track and may not slow down as the empire expands. This often means that trying to figure everything out is a burden.
You also need to manage the business side of the empire and continue to grow your income as you grow. Most companies generate fairly low profits, and you will often find that your net profit is still tens or hundreds of dollars. Even as an empire across a vast city, you will have a hard time making so much money. And this is the real problem. Because upgrading your gang and your territory is very expensive, especially at higher levels.
Your gang can grow, but new characters can be expensive to hire and demand reduced profits. Their relationship changes over time. The two characters in my first playthrough fell in love and started fighting better when they were together. In my second playthrough, it turned out that one of my gangsters was the mole of another gangster. This kind of thing gives the game a dynamic storytelling aspect and is borrowed from the venerable underrated Jagged Alliance 1 & 2.
However, you may not be able to afford to form multiple decent units. This means that as it expands, it will be in a hurry to constantly firefight to address a variety of issues. And if you run some areas, you may find it not even worth expanding further, as the number of problems this poses is so great. At the moment, this feels like a bug, not a feature.
And it’s worth talking about bugs. That’s because the Empire of Sin is crawling bugs at this point. After leaving the building, I teleported to another part of the city without explanation of the reason. The mission failed because the characters who needed to talk to complete the story couldn’t interact. And on one save, I couldn’t start sitting no matter what, and ended up in a war with another gang boss.
In addition to this, there is a terrifying enemy AI in battle. The bad guys often rush out of the cover, stand close to you and move away from attacking, or run around parts of the cover for no apparent reason. Fighting the same set of bad guys over and over again in the same kind of place, the fighting is repeated very quickly. Protecting the base is also rapidly getting old.
Then there are very tolerant police at the moment. Other than shooting the people in front of them, they haven’t caused me any problems or tried to take me in a significant way.
Another big problem at the moment is that when you participate in a gang war, you basically have a single simple strategy that works every time. Go directly to your rival’s safehouse, join with the best teams and shoot everyone. If you win, you get all of their territory. Rinse and repeat. It works every time. These battles can be difficult, but the rewards are so great that no diplomacy or subtleties are needed.
In this universe, it doesn’t make much sense to me to know where my opponent’s safehouse is. Also, there is no real reason to do diplomacy. The synergistic bonuses you can get to avoid war are great, but there is one proven strategy for dealing with hostile gang bosses who can usually afford to divide and rule.
Finally, Empire of Sin on Xbox It feels like a bold attempt that has been flawed by its own ambitions. The paradox excels at sweeping a large number of grand strategies, but this element of the game, the territory and business management of the Underworld Empire, feels underdeveloped and difficult to manage. XCOM-style combat lacks imagination and sophistication, and poor combat AI can be a hassle to play. Finally, the RPG element is fun, but lacking in depth. Having pre-generated bosses means that it can be difficult to really empathize with them.
The Empire of Sin has a lot of jazzy soundtracks, great ideas, great maps and much more. But now it’s far less than the sum of its ambitious parts and is lacking in a very frustrating way. Paradox has a long history of supporting games with multiple patches and DLC, so if you don’t see any improvements after the patch, you’ll be shocked. But at the moment, it’s terribly lacking.
“Fred, you broke my heart, you broke my heart.”..
The 1920s gangster scene has always been fascinating, at least in that the media tends to portray it. Whether untouchable, Boardwalk Empire or the Godfather (set in the 1940s and 1950s), the combination of sophisticated classic cars, beautifully tailored suits, Tommy Guns and smoke clouds is truly amazing and exciting. Add aesthetics. Of course, for most people, even those involved in the gang-grand scene in their twenties, everyone knows that the reality has become harsh, violent, horrifying, bullets and bars. However,…
Empire of Sin Review
Empire of Sin Review
- Ambitious concept
- Jazzy soundtrack
- Fun characters for stereotypes
- Bugs everywhere
- Terrible combat AI prevents already repeated combat
- Management elements are difficult to use
- Many thanks for the free copy of the game-paradox
- Format-Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC
- Version reviewed-Xbox One
- Release Date-December 2020
- Selling Price-£ 39.49