Exclusive First Look: Omerta – City of Gangsters «

Haemimont Games has already done a great job of teaching us how to play like a ruthless dictator with Tropico 4. Now it’s time to learn how to play as a whole new kind of bad guy: gangster. We just had our first look at Omerta – City of Gangsters, a tactical and turn-based strategy game, and while many aspects are still in the development stage (like the turned-based combat), I’m excited at the prospect of being able to establish myself as the Don of my very own boardwalk empire.

Welcome to Prohibition Era Atlantic City

When the game starts off you’ll be in control of a general character that is fresh off the boat. For whatever reason he feels that the quickest way to success in Atlantic City is to pursue the career path of a gangster. It’s too early to tell how customizable your playable character will be at this point, but I’d be surprised if it’s anything more than a template portrait, because how your character looks isn’t the important part of this game — it’s how you act, plan, and attack.

The planning portion of the game takes place on a vintage map of Atlantic City that includes some noticeable landmarks like Steel Pier and Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel. This world map is color coded (showing the areas that every rival family owns) divided up into 20 districts with three to five locations inside each district that need to be controlled before a headquarters can be established in that zone. Once the headquarters is established you can then start planning to muscle into the next zone, but it must be adjacent to an area you already control. So for example, if my headquarters was Boardwalk Hall, I could only expand into the adjacent Atlantic Avenue or Brighton Park.

The buildings inside these territories serve different roles and they’re also the primary means of earning income. In one such example shown, a warehouse was purchased which could be turned into a brewery, distillery, or a lookout. You must plan from a strategic level what you want to do because these buildings can only be used in one capacity — you can’t make a hybrid brewery lookout post, for example.

Once the building is in control it’s also up to you to figure out who in your mob family should be put in charge. In some cases these family members already have some previous experience, so for example, if someone has already run a speakeasy, he might be the best person to tap to be in charge of your new underground saloon. Or if you purchase another building that can be turned into a bar, perhaps you can hire someone with previous bartender experience who is thus a good listener and can provide you some intel on the movements of a rival family.

Turn-Based Gangster

Money is the sole currency in Omerta – City of Gangsters and there are two types of currency you can earn: clean and dirty. Dirty money, for example, is earned through extorting people and running rackets, where-as clean can be earned through legitimate business operations.

And you’d better plan on making both dirty and clean money, because you can only buy certain things with each currency type. You’ll need clean cash to buy that brand new car, but dirty money does give you options. For example, dirty money is needed to establish a laundering operation. And what does a money laundering operation do? Now you’re catching on.

When you’re not making money (and cleaning it), you’ll be trying to expand your territory. Muscling into enemy turf will bring up Omerta’s combat mechanic (which wasn’t shown, only detailed) and is described as turn-based combat with action points, cover positions, and destructible environments. When asked to clarify how these battles might play out (hex-based?), Timo Thomas, Head of Game Production at Kalypso Media, answered via email:

“There’s neither hex nor squares,” Thomas explained. “Movement is entirely based on actual environmental obstacles, range and action points — sort of subpixel accurate if you will. Visibility/line of sight and bullet paths are dynamically calculated in the 3D environment (similar to how Jagged Alliance: Back in Action works but fully turn based). There is also fog of war for areas your characters cannot see.”

Considering these battles will be occurring fairly often as you work to take control of Atlantic City, I was curious to know how many map-types we might expect to see once the game ships later this year.

“Tactical maps are fixed presets for all locations on the strategic map, with unique ones for the most important locations and landmarks as well as generic ones for businesses, apartments, bars, restaurants and warehouses,” Thomas said. “You will of course re-visit locations throughout the game, for example when you lost a territory to a rival gang or are being attacked on your own turf.”

The characters involved in these skirmishes will earn XP and you’ll be able to upgrade their skills and basically create your own super squad of gangsters to take into battle. The upgrade skill follows standard RPG role conventions, so expect to create a gangster Tank and a DPS.

Heat and Reputation

As you start to take over more and more of Atlantic City it becomes even more important to keep your buildings well managed. This is done by appointing squad members to guard these buildings from rival attacks or from police busts. The risk of a building being attacked or busted is indicated by a heat meter that tracks the number of bad things you do in the game. The higher the heat, the worse your reputation gets, which makes it harder to bribe the police and get them on your side.

You will also have a good guy/bad guy reputation to take care of. For example, you can convert buildings into soup kitchens or homeless shelters to help establish yourself as a saint amongst the locals. This will ease up the pressure from the mayor or the police. As an added bonus you’ll find that people in the city will volunteer to run scouting missions for you and report back on the goings-on of rival gangs. But if you don’t wind up getting on the locals’ good side, you’ll have to pay to get this type of information.

Even though everything I saw was in such an early state it all sounded incredibly fun to play — there’s something romantic about being in control of a mob family, even if it does happen to be in Atlantic City. If Haemimont Games can come through, building on their experience from the last two Tropico games, we should be in for a nice gangster-filled treat later this year.


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