Sometimes I think I set my expectations a bit too high or maybe I generalize games too quickly from a cursory glace. I can’t be blamed entirely. In my defense, the trailer boasts that it’s from the makers of Tropico 4, Haemimont Games, which by itself is a world building simulation game but if we include the company behind it, they have a substanstial amount of simulation games under their belt. But, for argument’s sake, let’s say we ignore that, we still are presented with a game that is most definitely a mafia game with a heavy sim vibe. I’ve link the trailer below so you can see for yourself.
Before I go any further, I have to say that I really enjoyed Omerta but it’s my job to explain where I got caught up in my expectations and what Omerta actually is. Normally all tutorial sections have a slower pace to them and restrict you from accessing certain elements. So what I thought was the gradual progression of a tutorial turned out to be the very casual approach to a mafia simulation. I’m told to go set up a brewery, lo and behold my actual character (who you set up through interesting multiple choices that govern the starting stats your character has) goes and runs to get the job done! I’m thinking to myself, “Damn this is cool, it’s just like Gangsters from Eidos”
So I wait for the action to complete, yet another staple of simulation games and eventually it does. Slowly the game instructs me on what I need to do next and, right on queue, the actual game slowly starts to dawn on me. This is not a mafia-sim game. I mean it is, but practically everything is on auto-pilot and the chance of failing seems very low. Literally the only way to fail at the city-building part of the game is to spend money on establishments that need to sell stuff without producing anything TO sell. The mafia sim part of this game is the equivalent of an infinite-runner with very few obstacles.
I’m glad I touched on the fact that I really liked this game because otherwise you’d believe that I’m ripping this game apart. Anyways, BACK TO THE TUTORIAL, it looks like the game is quickly losing it’s shine and then I’m told I need to go settle a problem personally with a rival gang. It’s at this moment that I am both extremely disappointed and super effing happy at the same time. It turns out, Omerta – City of Gangsters is also an SRPG…that’s strategy role-playing game to those who aren’t in the know. Again the tutorial starts explaining how this works and what I need to do, but my eyes are already darting around excitedly noticing how cool this game just got.
So here’s the deal. You have MP, AP, Health and courage. MP stands for movement points and AP stands for action points. Fairly basic terms and I feel self explanatory. Movement is free roaming and not grid based, things like stairs don’t take more MP but passages can become blocked which will force your character to try and find another avenue. There are also cover systems (such as cars, boxes, containers and such) in place that are highlighted by green arrows that, depending on what they are made of, can be destroyed. Not only that but line of fire matters and based on the weapon you’re using the percentage of hitting your own teammates changes. Not only are there precision weapons and spraying type weapons, they also open up whole new talents/skills that one can use and require different amounts of AP. One example is the ‘Dance!’ skill from the revolvers which has a cone-like spray pattern that does no damage but lowers courage and takes considerably less AP to use.
Lastly their is the courage system which is a reworked fear mechanic. Essentially, each character has an allotment of courage. As the battle goes on and different skills are used the amount goes down. If this value reaches zero the chance of the character panicking and running away greatly goes up. Just another thing that adds to the strategy.
The variety doesn’t end there either. There are numerous gang members that you can unlock (or just jump straight into multiplayer – which I sadly wasn’t able to try because I just couldn’t find a game – or a sandbox game and just play) in the campaign that slowly introduce new special abilities unique to the character. Some of the early techniques are second wind that can regenerate some of your health or one skill that can reduce the fog of war.
Thankfully there’s also some additional gametypes to the combat sections outside of just killing everyone. There are bank heists/other retrieval missions where you have to make your way into a building, snatch the objective and then try and escape. Another variant of the retrieval mission is breaking your gang members out of jail if they managed to get caught by being incapacitated during a shoot-out.
Last and certainly not least is the inclusion of multiplayer game types. Both Co-Op and Competitive managed to get into the build and I’m more than certain that this is where the game is going to pay in dividends. While playing against the computer (in the combat sections at least) I’ve been somewhat reasonably challenged (Note: I played on medium, so I’d say it’s pretty well calibrated) but playing against real people seems way more interesting to me. As shown above, there are four multiplayer game types. One set: a Free-for-all/last man standing which will most likely be the most popular and an objective type where you have to steal money and get to your getaway car before your opponent does. Rounding off with the cooperative gametypes, you’re left with the bank heists and jailbreaks.
The game takes place during the prohibition era of US history located in Atlantic City, NJ. Which brings me back to the world-building simulation part of the game. I took a few notes while playing the game and there was one specific note that I took that I wanted to lean on. When you start your battle missions and you’re selecting which of the four gang members in your employ that are gonna go in, you have an option titled ‘Auto-Resolve’. This is basically a flat percentage that is calculated based on the people you’ve chosen. The chances of resolving it automatically are far lower than if you went in to do it yourself but the fact of the matter is that this option, from a game design perspective, caters to the simulation lovers. And if the intent was to allow this group of people to get back to the city-building/mafia sim that I was expecting, they will be sorely disappointed.
The buildings that you can establish businesses on are preordained and not just in one way but three! There are premises which make the product, joints that sell the product and construction sites that have auxiliary effects for your gang. You can buy other buildings but all they do is give you flat money in rent in timed intervals. There are rival gangs in the same area as you but the consequence of entering a territory owned by an opponent is apparently a relationship status. What it boils down to is if you encroach on their turf, your relations go from neutral to cold. Big whoop. Essentially the rival gang says, “I’m mad at you mister!” and pretty much that’s it. Each area of the city you’re in feels less like you’re carving out your own piece of territory and instead just a checklist of items to strike off your list. I refuse to accept this part of the game as a simulation of any kind. Instead I chose to view it as a neat story element for the combat sequences to make sense (just don’t auto-resolve those, otherwise there’s very little game to play).
8.5 / 10: The Best Mafia Turn-Based Strategy RPG I’ve Ever Played.