Upon a recent trip to San Francisco, I had the opportunity to visit a hidden speakeasy and learn more details about the upcoming 1920's-based strategy game, Omerta - City of Gangsters. Currently in development by Haemimont Games, creators of Tropico 3 and 4, Omerta has players beginning the game as a new immigrant in America that soon discovers the opportunities provided by crime. Built upon an upgraded version of the Tropico 4 engine, Omerta shares many similarities in terms of the gameplay, interface, and visuals.
As players begin the game, they are presented with various options for creating a custom mobster boss that ranges from selecting their appearance to back story. The narrative is presented through graphic novel-inspired pages that help in setting the game's brutal time period of prohibition and gangsters. The two primary gameplay modes of Omerta either has players managing the expansion of their mobster rule across the 1920's version of Atlantic City or tactical, turn-based combat that takes place in a zoomed-in view of the particular encounter.
The city management aspect has players taking control of 20 sectors or neighborhoods that comprise Atlantic City. In each of the sectors, players can expand their rule through a variety of means from raiding warehouses and distilleries to performing various illegal operations and transactions. The key economy elements include booze, guns, and liquor, which expand later in the game to include gambling and tobacco. Each of the economy elements become vital for trading with the assortment of NPCs scattered around the different sectors. In completing missions and dealings with other characters, players earn both clean and dirty money that serve individual purposes. If the player decides to assist a celebrity or buy a car from a dealership, both of these situations will require the use of clean money.
The player's headquarters and use of informants are also important in expanding one's rule over the city. With the headquarters, upgrades are offered that unlock a total of 30 different building types which can be used to convert structures to other desired venues. For example, a player-controlled warehouse can be converted into an underground boxing club or distillery. As well, the use of informants is important for revealing the identity of structures within each sector. As players expand their rule, they must also keep in mind their "fear" and "like" ratings which continually react to to actions taken when managing the city and in missions. Certain scenarios even require that players meet a defined "fear" or "like" rating before taking part in the activity.
The police make an appearance in Omerta through some of the missions and a five star system that is individually rated for each of the city's sectors. From the types of businesses that players manage to the actions taken when dealing with certain NPCs can result in either a increased or lower crime rating. Once five stars are earned, the police launch an investigation that presents the player with an assortment of options for evading jail or what is considered in Omerta as the endgame. Players that ignore the investigation and go about their business can expect an eventual endgame screen. Some of the options available for evading the police include pinning the crime on another gangster or simply offering a money bribe.
The tactical combat of Omerta takes place primarily in missions to solve some of the more complicated situations that arise from rescuing a fellow team member from jail or robbing a bank. Players will eventually gain the ability to take four active characters into battle, with two additional support characters that range from drivers to medics. As players progress in the narrative, they will gain access to a selection of 15 unique characters that each have individual abilities and personalities. When in combat, each character has a select amount of action and movement points that are replenished through each turn. Action points are primarily used for combat with hip and aimed shots to special abilities. One of the more memorable characters from the preview included Doc, that was as a drunken Irish bar manager that carries two six-shooters into each battle.
The turn-based combat incorporates an array of elements that continually require players to keep their surroundings and actions in mind. Environmental objects such as crates can be shattered from a heavy weapon blast that results with characters in cover prone to enemy fire. Cover is automated in combat by simply moving a character near an object or wall. Each of the weapons in battle have cones of fire and various hit percentages that are displayed before firing them. Players must be cautious of their aim if fellow team members are in close proximity, which could result in a shotgun blast hitting a friendly character versus an enemy. Characters that are downed in battle might receive temporary and even permanent injuries that range from gouged eyes to broken legs. As well, there is an auto-resolve option available for battles if players wish to focus solely on the city management aspect of Omerta.
As having seen Omerta at E3, I was pleasantly surprised to see the graphics have improved tremendously in terms of both overall effects and presentation. The streamlined interface and detailed sector map of Atlantic City combine for an accessible gameplay experience that offers just enough information for beginners, yet still offers additional details for experienced players. From the day and night cycle to the rain-slick streets, the environments that compromise Omerta's world are highly-detailed and a pleasure for spending hours within either selecting the perfect combat tactic or raiding rival distilleries.
With the majority of Omerta's content based around the single-player campaign, I was delighted to discover the inclusion of competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes with support for two players. The modes consist of a simple deathmatch in which each player selects from four characters to use in the tactical combat aspect of gameplay, in addition to a rob the bank match that has players either work with or against one another to steal the most cash. As well, players will have access to a sandbox mode that has a variety of city sectors with the simple objective of acquiring the most power and rule across the particular neighborhood.
The 1920's setting and strategy-based gameplay of Omerta - City of Gangsters have interested me since its original announcement, but I had been continually worried about how all the elements would come together for the final product. After stepping out of the hidden speakeasy and back into the modern city of San Francisco, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a wealth of new features and addictive gameplay that will surely consume hours upon hours of my free time. Fans of past turn-based strategy games such as Jagged Alliance and XCOM as well as the city building and management genre of games should keep a close eye on Omerta as its upcoming release approaches in early February 2013 for Windows PC and Xbox 360. The combination of addictive tactical combat with the 1920's setting of mobster rule and prohibition is simply too good of an offer to refuse in Omerta - City of Gangsters.
Kalypso Media provided airfare and hotel accommodations for the press event that previewed Omerta - City of Gangsters.
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