Omerta: City of Gangsters
Developer:
Kalypso
Price: $40
Platform(s): Xbox 360/ PC
an Xbox 360 version of Omerta: City of Gangsters was supplied to us

Omerta: City of Gangsters takes a city management game and a turn based tactical RPG and combines them in an iconic time period. Unfortunately neither of the modes are particularly compelling on their own, and only serve to break up the monotony of each other.

Kalypso Media is known for their city management series, Tropico, and bring in a lot of elements from those games into Omerta. One major section of gameplay involves management of different districts within Atlantic City.

Players start the campaign by selecting which gangster they want to represent their Atlantic City gang. Select a boss portrait and you’ll then go through an interesting character background building akin to Mass Effect. Each piece of history selected changes the character’s stats which impacts their combat style strategies.

Omerta shines in its time period appropriate scenarios and tone. The voice acting is well done, and dished out in moderation. Instead of having characters read out all of story and mission text, only the first few lines are spoken. Running the organized crime, establishing illegal distilleries, and burning down competing businesses all feel like they were pulled straight from the past. Most of these theme appropriate missions and crime organization takes place in the city management part of the game.

Players establish a mixture of legal and illegal operations in a angled bird’s eye of a section of Atlantic City during prohibition. Players select from predefined buildings to raise money and conquer territories. Premises, joints, and construction lots are the main source of income and can be turned into a variety of legal and illegal establishments. This system is confusing at first because different establishments can only be erected at their specific type of building plot—you can only build breweries at a premise and a speakeasy must be created at a joint. Each establishment ultimately helps fund your way to becoming the top crime boss in the city. It’s too bad that the story’s missions are so structured and the city areas are so restricted. With more content and less linear approach to the tasks, players would feel a greater sense of accomplishment building a crime empire from the ground up.

City of Gangsters also has a free play mode, but again limits players to a small section of the city and doesn’t take long before there is more cash flowing in, than is possible to spend. Additionally, the game contains both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. The competitive modes have players earning and spending money for completing rounds to better outfit their crew. The gameplay consists of more of the same combat from single player, but with a timer forcing players to make their move within 60 seconds to keep the game moving. The co-operative pits two human players together with a common goal against AI, like a bank heist. Cooperative strategy combat is a great idea, and working with a partner for a common goal makes the combat more enjoyable. However, it is sad that even after the game’s launch it is difficult to find a coop match.

Omerta has a great period appropriate soundtrack but is unfortunately broken frequently thanks to a bug. While playing the game at some point, the music and any spoken dialogue is also impacted by the bug. Every 15 seconds or so the track skips back and replays that last 5 seconds. With some of the freestyle jazz tracks it’s not very noticeable while others will give you a headache. Hearing the same line partially delivered twice and then ending abruptly is equally as irritating. It’s not clear whether this bug plagues more than the Xbox 360 version and it isn’t clear what triggers it, but hopefully it can be fixed with a patch.

Unfortunately, the quality with Omerta’s period appropriateness isn’t applied to the actual gameplay.
The combat is familiar to a tactical turn based strategy game. At the start of each combat, mission players select the gang members to bring into the battle. Different characters have different weapons and different tactics they bring to the battlefield. Each gangster levels up and can earn perks that can be applied. The compelling RPG mechanics used well enough, and in the grand scheme of things the only thing that really changes combat is the weapon a gangster has.

Players move their gangsters (costs move points) across the battlefield and can attack or heal (costs action points). Gangsters equipped with guns can attack enemies within line of sight and melee gangsters have to be very close to perform their attack, and can also attack through walls, which isn’t pretty to look at. The biggest problem with the combat is that these systems aren’t clearly communicated to the player and aren’t frequent enough through the story mode to learn quickly. More so, systems within the combat are contrary to some games within the same genre. There is a cover system but it is often difficult to get your gangsters to actually snap to the cover.  Player and enemy turns seem to be random and each gangster has its own individual turn. Players could move three gangsters in a row before an enemy can get a chance to move, or it could be the other way around.

 The Final Word
Omerta: City of Gangsters has an ambitious scope and tries to blend two different genres to form something new.  There is a lot of content and complex systems in combat and city management, yet neither mode is compelling for long. As a whole, the game is lacking a lot of overall polish. I can’t recommend it for its combat with superior strategy games being released within the past month. The city management becomes flat and repetitive quickly. Despite all of the bad, there are a lot of great concepts in Omerta. If you simply crave new simulation content, subtly different styles of turn based tactical RPGs or if you really like gangster fiction set in the age of prohibition, then this is worth checking out. Hopefully Kalypso can take what they learned with Omerta and flesh out something with a more compelling experience.

- MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair