Paradox Interactive is increasingly proving that it can not only develop complex global strategies, but also publish projects of other genres, such as, for example, the Empire of Sin gangster tactics from Desura Online Games. The developers did not miss either: the Romero spouses (John Romero, Brenda Romero) made a name for themselves on real masterpieces - you already know about John's merits in creating Doom , Quake and other id Software hits , and Brenda, for a minute, was the game designer of Wizardry 8 and writer for the Jagged Alliance series.
One can argue for a long time about the advisability of introducing Prohibition in the United States in 1920, but the fact remains: the consequences of this prohibition were many, one of the most important was the emergence of many criminal empires that overwhelmed almost all spheres of life in large American cities. Chicago is the most striking example: the Italian mafia, and indeed all American organized crime of that time, is associated with this city. Not far from the truth - something, but there were enough bandit groups, large and small, in those days.
It is not surprising that the authors of Empire of Sin focused specifically on the variety of criminal communities and their leaders: the player can choose from almost a dozen bosses, among which there are both celebrities, including Al Capone and Dean O'Banion, and exotic likethe prototype of Romero's great-grandmother .
Bosses differ in appearance, skills used in battle, as well as features that affect the entire criminal empire. For example, production costs in breweries under the control of the Chicago Syndicate will be lower, and Al Capone himself knows how to shoot suppression from a machine gun. It seems that this should ensure the uniqueness of wagering for each of the factions, but in reality this does not happen: you will notice the consequences of the initial choice only on the battlefield, and economic and diplomatic bonuses remain behind the scenes (I will tell you why a little later).
The gang requires a clear structure, but in reality the bonuses from the posts held are invisible. Sometimes this hierarchy does not work even in the literal sense - due to bugs, it is impossible to choose the desired position.
The second (and last) important difference between one leader and another is a unique backstory, resulting in a long chain of quests. It is not necessary to complete them, but it will not hurt to dive into it - if you don’t get tired of running on different ends of the map, of course.
A lot of attention is paid to dialogues - EoS wants to be like a role-playing game. But all such curtsies in the direction of RPG, like testing skills during conversations, turn out to be fiction: they will not trust you with important decisions (if you bend your line, you will get a little money from above for persistence), besides, the boss very quickly pumps parameters to the maximum. thanks to which he is able to convince any interlocutor that he is right.
To help the leader of the gang, you can hire up to ten subordinates, choosing from fifty characters you like for every taste. If buildings are defended by ordinary faceless guards, then these bandits are not inferior to the bosses in development: there is a memorable appearance, background, a unique pumping tree and a set of skills, both starting and obtained during the game.
These guys are not averse to talking to the bosses in our face, and the consequences of this conversation can be quite unexpected: for example, one of the fighters left my gang when I refused to help his friend.
But another thing is more interesting - the system of character relationships. Each bandit has friends and enemies (and even lovers) among the rest of the Chicago underworld. A war has begun with a neighbor, and he has an old friend of one of your mafiosi as henchmen? Be prepared for the fact that the latter will refuse to shoot a friend, or even run away altogether if a friend dies at your hand. The death of the sworn enemy, on the contrary, will only please.
It is noticeable that the developers tried to make as many bright and memorable NPCs as possible, and they coped with this task perfectly. On the other hand, there is clearly too much variety here: the abundance of female characters, including among the bosses, every second gangster is African American (which in those days was rather an exception to the rule), and if you look closely, you can find hints of same-sex relationships one sweet bandit couple.
As a result, there are considerable problems with the atmosphere of criminal Chicago. Yes, stylish jazz music, yes, beautiful locations in the spirit of those very 20s, but keeping the commitment to the "agenda" for the developers turned out to be much more important than ensuring authenticity. I do not deny the right of the authors of the game to their own opinion (in addition, you can find isolated examples confirming their point of view), but the bloody showdown of the 20th century, in which the majority of the participants are women and blacks, I personally have little association with gangster wars during the Prohibition era.
In Empire of Sin, Chicago is divided into districts (their number, like the number of gangs, the player chooses before starting the campaign), each of which has several buildings of different types: brothels, breweries, underground bars, casinos and hotels. Breweries, as their name implies, produce alcohol, sell it in bars, brothels and gambling houses bring constant profits, and hotels serve to increase the number of customers who spend their money on drink in the aforementioned establishments.
Three more types of buildings are buildings for sale, abandoned houses and shelters. The first ones can be purchased legally, the second ones are waiting for their new owners, who will clean up the "abandonment" from a small number of unorganized bandits and put real estate into business (however, instead of building a business, you can take out everything valuable or completely burn the building down), the latter serve as the heart of the whole groupings. Each gang can only have one hideout in each area, and, as a rule, the boss himself lives there with numerous guards.
Overall global mode in EoSto match a serious economic strategy: the player is responsible for the entire range of issues related to illegal (and legal too) business, from the production and storage of alcohol to expanding the client base. It is noticeable that the authors tried to move away from the primitive system "Buy cheaper - sell more expensive": residents of different areas prefer different drinks, a casino can go bankrupt because of a lucky guy who made a fortune, and the habit of leaving one of the characters at the bar to help ordinary security guards can lead to the development of alcoholism in your henchmen. Buildings can be improved - to increase their attractiveness, expand the range of booze produced, or, importantly, increase security.
Without this, nowhere - do not forget that there are other gangs in the city. For the time being, they remain neutral, but one day they can choose a forceful solution to the issue. Something that happens on the city map resembles a typical 4X from Paradox : the AI has the same capabilities as the player (except for completing quests), they fight and are friends not only with him, but also with each other. A rich diplomatic system only reinforces this impression: trade, wars and truces, alliances, tribute payments - everything is in place.
But the desire to look like a real strategy is not enough - the economy does not really work due to bugs and problems with balance, and the confusing interface only complicates the understanding of the processes. The reports on the state of affairs in the underground empire lack visibility, so it is almost impossible to understand exactly how the player's decisions affect the life of the city (and whether they do).
You can start taking over all the buildings in a row without thinking about whether opening another brewery will lead to bankruptcy or unnecessary police attention. The cops, judging by the training tips, should actively get into the criminal life of the city, but in all my playthroughs, their participation was limited only to occasional interference in street skirmishes with other gangs.
Moreover, all this fuss with diplomacy and business development is not needed at all to win. Barely getting to your feet and pumping a little three or four fighters led by the boss, you can safely go to seize the shelter of the first neighbor you come across. Tactical battles are quite simple, and after killing the leader of the enemy gang, all its property automatically goes under the control of the player. Money starts to flow like a river, but there is simply nowhere to spend it: there are enough trophies obtained in battles to equip the soldiers, and the hiring of new gangsters is hampered by the slowly growing level of fame (especially since a small team is enough). As a result, it becomes simply pointless to engage in economic development.
Turn-based battles do not stand out either. Yes, they are moderately interesting, but this is not the merit of Romero Games, but a completely copied two-phase tactical system with a percentage probability of hits from XCOM - you will not find anything new here, except for fresh bugs and problems with balance. For example, some skills are so powerful that they allow the player to emerge victorious from battles with a much superior enemy even at the start of the campaign. Mediocre animations and generally outdated technical part do not add attractiveness to battles - there is not even destructibility here.
If we recall Al Capone 's famous aphorism about a kind word and a pistol, then in EoS there is a clear bias in favor of the latter. The easiest way to victory is war, but constant battles get boring, quickly turning into a routine of ingeniously grinding enemies.
Empire of Sin looks like an unsorted heap of potentially interesting game design ideas. There are a lot of them, and if they worked as they should in a unified bundle - the economy affects diplomacy, and the latter looks back at the combat system - then it would be much more interesting to play. However, all these "features" are not only broken by bugs, but also exist on their own, which is why they become somewhere useless, and somewhere simply boring.
One gets the feeling that the developers simply did not have enough time to build a coherent image of the game. An indirect confirmation of this is the earlier postponement of the release . But this did not help either - hence the main flaws just at the junction of the systems, such as scanty rewards for quests, coupled with huge prices for weapons in the store and the absence of the need to buy them.
Perhaps, after a few patches, EoS will reach “Commendable”. But for now, forget about the "kind word" and "just business" - unfortunately, now only one pistol is enough to capture Chicago.
Pros: memorable images of gangsters; system of relationships between characters.
Cons: bugs, including those that prevent the game from passing; strategic mode does not work as intended; skewed gameplay towards battles; awkward economy interface.