Review: Omerta: City of Gangsters has a great premise but gets repetitive
Any fan of mob movies -- like Goodfellas and The Godfather -- would love a game that allows you to control your own group of wise guys. Omerta: City of Gangsters allows you to do just that, putting you in the middle of prohibition 1920s Atlantic City. Part XCOM-like strategy combat, part resource management, Omerta tries to strike a fine balance between strategic combat and city takeover through alcohol and firearms. While the concept is great, Omerta suffers from repetition and depth.
Fresh off the boat from Sicily, you'll start off creating your mob boss. Since Omerta: City of Gangsters was developed by Haemimont Games and published by Kalypso Media, you'll notice that it borrows a bit of the character creation from Tropico 4. Choosing your background from a series of multiple choice questions, you'll customize your starting stats. For instance, choosing one answer might give you +1 to cunning and finesse, but will give you -1 to muscle.
You'll also notice the style of the game right off the bat. Between sepia tones, the hand-drawn portraits of your goons, and the 1920s jazz that'll play throughout the game, it's impossible to not get that good old mob feel. Combined with excellent some really good voice acting and narration, Omerta really does the little things to create atmosphere. So it's a shame that the visuals don't match the rest of the effort. Now don't get me wrong, the game looks nice. The rain effect as drops hit the pavement, reflecting the light of your nightclub, look really nice. The problem is that despite your efforts to own whichever part of Atlantic City you're in, nothing ever changes. Let me get into how the game plays out and you'll understand.
Omerta's campaign has you choosing between missions on the map of Atlantic City. A mission will have you starting out with a certain amount of dirty money, a hideout, and some buildings you can rent to start up businesses. Most of the game will be a resource management-type game. To get things done, you have dirty money, clean money, beer, liquor, firearms, a 'liked' rating and a 'feared' rating, as well as a 'heat' rating. With dirty money, you can set up breweries to make beer, businesses to sell things for more dirty money, and bribe officials. Clean money is made by having businesses that are legal. For instance, selling alcohol from a pharmacy will make you clean money. Beer, liquor and firearms are used to make money through trades NPCs and selling through your stores, clubs and casinos. They're also used to get things done. If you go to an informant to unlock more buildings in the city, you'll have to pay them in dirty money, beer or liquor. Also, firearms are used to perform drive-by shootings on other businesses to close them down, or to increase the effectiveness of your business or raise your fear rating. Liked and feared ratings affect the effectiveness of your businesses.
You'll also be managing your heat rating. Your actions will draw the attention of law enforcement. When you get to five stars, an investigation will start, trying to bring you and your operation down. Luckily, the men in blue of Atlantic City like to have their pockets padded to look the other way. Bribing the investigator or getting on the police chief's good side will lower your heat rating. Also, creating a lawyer will lower the heat you receive.
As you can see, there's a lot going on. You'll have to balance all of these resources based on what your goals are at the moment. That brings us to the quest objectives for that mission. You'll have an objective, like raise $5,000 in dirty money. Once you accomplish that, you go on to your next objective, until, finally, you accomplish what the mission wanted you to. Then, you go back to the map and start the next mission. There's two problems I find with this. First, while you may have different objectives at different times, it always boils down to building the same buildings, starting the same businesses and getting the same upgrades. Omerta's downfall is its repetitive nature, which leads into problem number two -- every mission has you start over. It's hard to feel like you're building an empire when you have to start from scratch every mission. There's no continuation of your power, so it never really feels like you're working towards anything, other than the end of the game, which I don't feel invested in anyways. It's a shame that a game that does so much to make sure you get the 1920s mobster feel fails where it matters most. Ultimately, Omerta: City of Gangsters would have had a greater impact on strategy if it was a persistent world that lives and breathes. Also, putting a business in a building doesn't change the appearance of that building. What the...
Also, I can't help it, but I can't look past the hideout assigned to my mob. You can upgrade the mansion you're assigned to up to a four-star hideout. This increases the efficiency of your businesses and gives you more storage for your beer and stuff. Then, you can decorate each room in there -- bedroom, pool, entrance, garden, etc. -- all to make it more fancy. Each room can get upgraded three times to look fancier. The problem is that it's just cosmetic; there's no point to decorating anything. So why is it even an option to? It costs quite a bit of money to decorate the rooms. I just wish there was a benefit to making your mansion look awesome.