Luckily, the combat keeps the game fresh. Throughout your missions, you'll be presented with opportunities to bust your men out of prison, take on the KKK that are bothering one of your partners, eliminate rival gangs, and other tasks that your men need to flex their firepower for. The combat is like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, where you move each character a set amount of spaces, utilize cover, and fire off attacks at your opponent. Line of sight and positioning are key, as is using attacks that will hinder the enemy. The problem is, once again, depth. You won't feel overpowered with any of your henchmen, and that okay, since they're not supposed to be super soldiers. But the combat is just a little too basic and never felt difficult. The animations for some of the actions are good, but most of them are pretty basic.
I'd say the most strategy comes from choosing your group of four henchmen. You choose from a group consisting of women with tommy guns, guys with intense mustaches and shotguns, pistol-wielding wise guys and a big black guy that would just rather use a baseball bat. Throughout the course of the game, you unlock some other weapons that they can use (they do more damage) and you level up your henchmen. Leveling up gives you the ability to assign a perk to that henchmen. For example, you can give them more finesse so they're more proficient with ranged weapons, give them the ability to move further, make them do more damage the more they attack the same target, or give them more health. Once again, the problem here is depth. The same perks are available to every character, but you're always going to choose the same ones for your ranged characters or melee characters. So the other become a waste to have. A progress/talent tree would've been much more preferred — one where you can take two different paths for the same type of character.
In addition to the campaign, you are treated to a sandbox mode and multiplayer. Don't be fooled by the name 'sandbox.' You're doing all of the same things that you'd do in the campaign, just without objectives. The goal in sandbox is to choose a territory you want to play in, and then unlock all of the buildings and take over the city. It doesn't take long and has you doing everything you did in the campaign, so it feels like a waste of time. Multiplayer has you skip all of the resource management and city takeover and hop right into combat. You can play cooperative missions with another player against AI opponents, or you can play against another person. I tried to play deathmatch, but at the time of this review, I was only able to get in two full matches. Depending on the order of your characters moves, each henchman gets 60 seconds to move around the battleground and complete their actions. After the match, your ranking will be adjusted and you'll get money. You use money to unlock newer, more powerful weapons, new henchmen, and leveling up those henchmen (which just lets you give them a perk). It's nothing amazing, but it does give the game replay value and allows you to skip right to the combat.
Omerta: City of Gangsters is a solid foundation for a great premise. I had fun the entire time I played it, but it was the lack of depth and some gameplay design that made the game feel repetitive. It left me just wanting to skip to the combat portions of the game because I was getting so bored of watching the same businesses do the same thing in every mission. I definitely would like to see Haemimont Games and Kalypso Media make another or release expansions, because they have something good going on here. Even with all of the repetitiveness and lack of depth, it's hard to not enjoy the game. If you're into the whole 1920s mob era, or are just a fan of strategy games, you'll undoubtedly find value in Omerta: City of Gangsters.
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.