Developer Haemimont Studios is best known for the excellent Tropico series. However, its next effort is a bit of a departure, moving away from simulating island dictatorships to the RTS/turn-based tactical combat game Omerta: City of Kings. I recently had a chance to play a pre-release build of Omerta and, I have to say, I was quite impressed.
The top level of the game is a city landscape, depicting a portion of Atlantic City during prohibition. Somewhere in the portion of the city, you’ll have a hideout for your gang. Your gang is based around your boss, a character you build from the ground up in RPG fashion, molding his stats and leveling him up. You surround him with a variety of hired thugs with different skills, from thugs armed with bats, to cat burglars, to gangsters who are deadly shots with a pistol. With your gang, you attempt to gain influence and expand your empire. The game proceedings as a top down RTS fashion, with you giving orders to your gang members which they will carry out, according to their stats. It does matter which member does what, as some are smarter and can execute tasks more quickly, or are stronger and can carry more loot.
Making money is the fun of the game. You can build distilleries to make moonshine, selling it in bulk or opening speakeasies to sell it to the public yourself. Or, if violence is more your style, you can raid other people’s distilleries and take their liquor for your own. You can also smuggle weapons, burglarize homes, and make money in a variety of other ways. Much like in Tropico, you’re not forced down one particular path, but are given the freedom to manage your gang as you see fit. Getting too much heat from the police? You could bribe a local officer. Or maybe you could open a soup kitchen, and the police will think better of you and lay off. Or maybe you’re better off throwing a fundraiser for a local politician. The game provides all these options and more.
Occasionally, you’ll put too much pressure on other crime families, or you might simply decide to attack your foes. At those times, the game switches from its RTS management sim mode to turn-based tactical combat. Each of your team members is rated for movement and action, allowing some to firing quickly and others to move very far and fast. Action points can also be spent on special abilities. These include a wide variety of actions, like defensive stances, bandaging team mates, activating deadly aim, or shooting through cover.
Terrain is fully on display, as your gang can take cover behind objects, destroy them with fire, and so forth. The game also includes line of sight, forcing caution when moving into a new area. You never know what might be lying around the corner. There are a variety of weapons from pistols and shotguns to my favorite: the baseball bat.
Your gangsters and your boss character will level up as you proceed through the campaign. As characters level up, their stats will increase and you’ll get to choose from a variety of perks. The perks seem pretty standard, from increasing critical hit chances to added movement points. The upgrade system adds an interesting RPG element to the game. The upgrades seemed pretty free form as well, allowing you to upgrade your characters however you please. The game seems very, very wide open to a variety of strategies.
Omerta is looking like a fantastic addition to the strategy pantheon, with a unique blend of management sim, tactical combat, and RPG elements. Look for its release (and the full review here on Vagary) coming in February 2013.