This is the 1920s and prohibition is in effect. The mob runs Chicago and runs it under the nose of the FBI. From Al Capone to Stephanie St. It’s clear the bosses are here to recruit new gangs. This is the premise of a new strategic management game called Empire or Sin from developer Romero Games and Paradox Interactive, known for some of the best strategic management games ever released. IsEmpire or Sin one of the best, or will it end up in Chicago’s alley?
I’ll start with this: Empire of Sin is a great game with many mechanisms to juggle. As with other Paradox games such as Stellaris, you will be thrust into a full-fledged strategy game within minutes of loading. For the uninitiated, it can be an incredible experience. Fortunately, this tutorial has allowed you to become familiar with many of the basics of the game mechanics.
At the beginning of the game, you choose your character from a variety of gangsters. As for me, I went with old Frankie Donovan, the Irish shooter. On introductory missions, you take control of the brewery and hire a few fellow brewers to form your little starter band. There’s a lot to learn in the first hour of play, so be ready to start such a solid game.
I already mentioned that the game is divided into several main functions. At the highest level, you walk a good chunk of Chicago. From controlling an area to spreading your illegal machinations and hostile takeovers, the map settles down pretty well once you get used to the meaning of the iconography and how to find your way around. On this postcard you can also see what this game has to offer. The quarters alone are intimidating, but you’ll end up dealing with at least ten headquarters, from Little Italy to Chinatown to the South Loop, just to name a few.
In the next phase of management, you will find yourself in a more active state in one of these districts. There will be unprepared missions, enemy takeovers of your buildings, and much more to spice up the game. That’s what I meant when I ran a quarter, I found it quite intimidating. It is also at this point that you are presented with what seems like a million statistical menus, as well as the full selection of title.
In the semi-open world you control the gangsters and all the criminals you have recruited. When you encounter an enemy takeover or fight, you find yourself in a turn-by-turn fight of type X-Com .
Fighting in the game will be very common, in the sense that you defend your possessions or try to acquire more by force. As a turn-based strategic combat system, this is undoubtedly the lighter side of strategy, though the game does its best to utilize the many proven mechanics of this particular genre. You’ll find that you have several options for weapons and shooting modes that rotate, and you can also be a keeper or just hunt and stay safe.
In the absence of this area, you will not find AI depths above X-Com or other competing titles. Usually the thugs facing me took cover to deliver a low intensity melee, allowing them to be shot in the face with a shotgun when I got up. Overall, I found the actions of these combat stages much more awkward than they should have been, and that made the experience pretty easy. This means that if any of your cohorts die in battle, they are burned out of the game forever. In one of the menus you will find a list of relations, which contains all possible colleagues you can hire at different stages of the game, provided you have enough money. It’s a pretty cool system, as some members work well with others, but not with another group of characters. This creates a certain dynamic when you assemble a team to steal territory from an enemy bandit.
Which brings me to statistics and leadership in general. Honestly, there’s an incredible amount of information about the inner workings of the game and, as a result, the ability to influence and control everything from setting up brewery production, pricing and updating piano content to micromanaging the entire tax and skill development tree for each character. But once you get past the thick screens, you realize that much of this information is rather trivial or, at best, of secondary use. I would also say that it increases the limit of readability in manual mode on the platform and in some places. Fortunately, the contrast of the golden text on a dark background is a saving grace.
If you’re not concerned with looking at the stats and control screens, you’ll find that Empire or Sin puts a pretty decent themed world in front of you. It’s not completely lifeless, and cars will turn around in the neighborhood while rival gangs line the sidewalks. Paper and small pieces of trash lie in the wind like a page of a noir novel. The characters are charming, though a bit exaggerated compared to the classic stereotypes of the time.
The voice casts are quite clever, mature with catchy one-liners that repeat heavily in certain areas of the game, especially when confirming the action of a move. Sit-downs and negotiations with mob bosses are also inspired by the game’s theme, where you spend a short minute bravely navigating your answer choice and hoping the character’s stats stay in your favor so you don’t get shot on the spot! Overall, this game is less Boardwalk Empire, and maybe more classic Dick Tracy (I’m sure I miss my super-secret Dick Tracy watch from childhood now).
My biggest problem with the game is that I just wanted more time in the world and less time worrying about menus and income distribution. I know it may go against the grain for me, knowing this is primarily a control strategy game, and the reputable company Paradox on top of that, but I felt like the world of control and boots on the ground just weren’t what I wanted.
In terms of performance, I had no major problems. The game suffers from some performance issues in the loudest shootouts, and I’ve had several unpleasant issues saving the game, but for a larger game like this, I’d expect a few hiccups. The controls aren’t exactly simple, and typical of the usual PC-centric kind, you’ll find a lot of subtle controller maps that are hard to remember on the fly, so you can get lost in the ground menu, as I kept doing, trying to remember where the setting for this or that situation is.
Empire of Sin lays the groundwork for an exciting 1920’s Prohibition-era world that you can explore and eventually build a thriving empire if you stay on top of the game’s mechanics. I would have liked a bit more depth in terms of, say, third-person combat and even turn-based combat, and less depth in static menus. Juggling is difficult of course, but there is a very solid concept that I think you can build on. In fact, I’d love to see a smaller version of the game, closer to Sid Meier’s Pirates , where I could run around shooting gangsters while managing and expanding my empire with a few basic business mechanisms sprinkled on top.
Revision of the Realm of Sin
- Charts – 6.5/10
- Sound – 6/10
- Gameplay – 5.5/10
- Late complaint – 5/10
Final thoughts : MEDIOCR
Sin Empire wants you to be the head of the mob in all of Chicago. From relationship management to enemy takeover, managing an underground economy, and with an X-Com-inspired combat system for moments of top-down action, this game has everything you need for a first-rate prohibition game. However, the menu is clunky, the heavy and useless time runs out, and the combat is too easy with clunky enemies, making the experience a bit unpleasant for me to really enjoy.
Alex has been in the game industry since the release of Nintendo. He’s turned his hobby into a career, spending just over a decade developing games and now serving as creative director of the studio.
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