Omerta: City of Gansters Review
I used to think that the key to creating complexity and depth was having many different variables. Omerta: City of Gangsters proved that wrong. If you simply list the elements of the game you would be tempted to infer that it must be a deep and rich experience. The game Consists of two main parts, the city management aspect and the turn based combat. In the city management portion you have to negotiate with politicians, police deputies and sheriffs, city officials, celebrities, other mob bosses and criminals, and establishment owners. You buy and sell in three commodities, beer, liquor and firearms. There are 3 classifications of buildings you can manage and each of these classifications consist of roughly ten different types of buildings. The game distinguishes between dirty money and clean money, allowing you to only use clean money when building legitimate business operations like hotels, law firms, and hospitals. You have to also manage how much you are feared and liked and always make sure you have ample storage space for your goods. You also have to hire gangsters with different salaries and stats, equip them and level them up. You can even send gangsters to do jobs for various miscellaneous effects. The game has all of these elements and still manages to be a fairly simple exercise. It’s not enough to have many variables to create a game with depth, the variables have to interact and affect each other in interesting ways.
Omerta is lite gaming. There are no tech trees and skill trees. Buildings can only be built in a select few pre-determined locations. It’s remarkably easy. But Omerta can still be an enjoyable experience none the less.
The game differs from most of the entries in its genre by relying on different scenarios to drive the core of the experience and this difference drives a lot of the game design. While most management games rely on the player creating his own stories through a more open-ended design, Omerta uses it’s scenario based campaign to tell a more focused story. Each scenario becomes a chapter in a larger over-arching plot. There are no competing players in the scenarios either. The police and other mobsters are more like aspects of the environment than actual agents with their own resources to manage. Everything plays by the script. The cops and mobsters attack when that’s the next beat in the story and your only reason to build one building over another is because the current scenario arbitrarily deems it necessary. In the end Omerta feels more like a puzzle game than a simulation.
Multiplayer and a sandbox mode are included as an afterthought. Multiplayer consists only of the turn based combat and features 4 maps. Two of the maps are cooperative, there is one in which you try to kill the other players team and a final one where the players fight over a bag of money. You accumulate cash to spend on weapons and levels for your multiplayer team outside of the match but nothing is done to balance out the different load outs. A player who has been playing longer and has better weapons and gangsters is simply going to have the advantage. You also can’t see the name of the player you are competing against and you can’t communicate in game by typing or using a microphone. It’s just an all-together shoddy experience.
The game has many oversights as far as its interface goes as well. Hotkeys are unmarked, I had to figure out what they were by guessing. You can’t see what traits your gangsters have once combat begins and will only be able to take advantage of them if you memorized which ones you gave them when they leveled up. The game also doesn’t have an easy way of telling you what buildings are available on the map. It’ll tell you what you own, but if you need to interact with a deputy or a celebrity you have to hunt them down on the map each time. The mini map doesn’t differentiate them either and simply displays all the neutral buildings as dots. When you are selecting what gangsters to go into combat with, you can’t look at their stats or change their equipment either, which can be frustrating.
With all of the game’s problems it can still be fun. A lot of gamers are experiencing buyer’s remorse for buying it but if you go in with the right expectations you might have a good time. I just wouldn’t buy it for full price right now. There’s a demo available here if you want to give it a try.
Rating: C Is it worth 40?: No, I’d wait for it to be dirt cheap on a steam sale if you’re interested. I definitely wouldn’t buy it for the consoles when it releases for them.