Omerta – City of Gangsters (2013)

With all the killing, gambling, and other activities, it is easy to forget that the mob is just a business. One that must worry about cash flow, employees, customer relations, amongst other headaches, even operating outside the law. Yet it still retains a slight allure in fiction and reality. In 2013, Kalypso & Haemimont Games created a Gangster simulation, against the backdrop of the 1920s. One that lets you build up a vast criminal empire, in Omerta – City Of Gangsters.

You customise your avatar’s stats, and appearance through this fun questionaire

Both the campaign and sandbox mode start similarly. After creating your mob boss avatar, (from what he looks like, to his stats, all communicated by a fun multiple-choice questionnaire) you are placed in a unique district of 1920s Atlantic City, with a house, and dreams of power. Each district has its advantages and trade-offs, but the gameplay is mostly the same. The player can amass quantities of Beer, Liquor, or Firearms, to help fuel their empire. You acquire Dirty Money, to pay for your henchmen (if you choose to hire some) and build/ upgrade your businesses/ fronts to rake in the cash and defend your enterprises. Later, you can launder that Dirty Money into Clean Money for legitimate services, like Hotels, Hospitals, and other properties. All while dealing with the police, other independent businesses, and rival gangs.

Seeing the side-streets, shop windows, and the citizens does a lot to immerse yourself in 20s Atlantic City.

Your first recommended action is to steal a car (enabling your character to complete an action quicker) and rent out some businesses. These mainly come in two types. Premises are your bread-and-butter, with offerings such as warehouses and distilleries et al. They do not generate money independently but provide the resources to do so. Joints are the more client-facing operations, these can include Ponzi Schemes, Speakeasies, and Soup kitchens, among others. These can be upgraded to maximise efficiency or other benefits. You can dilute your spirits or fix the matches in your boxing arena for more profit and resources, usually at the cost of your fear or liked rating. Said Liked and Feared ratings also help with the efficiency of your businesses too. E.g., If you are feared your Loan Sharks will operate more competently. There is joy in customising your playstyle for the district you are working in, and watching your empire grow. You can even upgrade your safehouse, with cosmetic and practical improvements, from making your bedroom look glamorous to hiring guards. The music and aesthetics lend a great hand in immersing you in the setting. As the levels are fully rendered in 3D, seeing citizens in 20s attire, and the vintage billboards adds a lot to the immersion.

The map allows you to expand the criminal activities, while dealing with lavish personalities.

You are not alone; independent businesses and rival gangs compete in an already crowded neighbourhood, and the A.I. can be ruthless, especially if you are slow to capitalise. Outside the district, you can access a map of Atlantic City. This map serves as a billboard, where colourful characters can buy, sell, or commit favours. There is also a random chance that someone may try to swindle you out of a deal, for example, or offer you a further chance to boost your Liked/Feared rating. There will come a time when the heat will rise, or you need to take on your rivals with force. This is where the other half of the game comes in; a turn-based tactical mode. If you played any of the myriads of X-com clones, you will sure to be comfortable here. Your gangsters have a set amount of movement and action points for you to move around the map. Its simplicity is far from rocket science, but there is room for some tactical chicanery to get the upper hand if you are in a less than winnable position.

The X-com element should be familiar to anybody who has played and X-com clone.

Omerta provides a straightforward yet strategic element, with an intriguing backdrop of 1920s Atlantic City. The simple pick up, and fun to master gameplay make for an engaging experience. The game’s path of vengeance is a lot of fun and getting into the weeds of Mobster micromanagement turns out to be an offer you cannot refuse.

You’ve got to spent your ill-gotten wealth on something.

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