Keep the change, ya filthy animals.
Announced during the E3 Nintendo Direct, Empire of Sin is the latest title from Romero Games. During E3, we sat down with the team behind the game and were given a tour of the mechanics and concept behind it. Empire of Sin throws the player into a neighborhood in prohibition-era Chicago where they can begin the process of taking over the city’s underworld. You start by selecting the character you’ll be controlling—the character our tour guides chose was one based on the infamous real life gangster Al Capone—and then find yourself coming into town in a taxi where the driver can give you information on the various other factions you may encounter.
From there, the player can begin their work, taking on various rackets such as illegal speakeasies, breweries, or brothels and recruiting new members of your crew around the neighborhoods. Eventually, you will butt heads with another faction in the city, at which point a sit down with their leader may occur. These scenes were incredibly interesting as both characters sit down and have a parley, and depending on your responses the meeting could end well for both parties or could end in a trip to the alley; that’s where the guns come out.
Combat in Empire of Sin is reminiscent of the XCOM games. Characters are placed on a grid on which they can only move a certain number of spaces during their turn before they have to stop and choose an action to perform. Full and half-cover areas on the map are marked almost identically to XCOM with a shield icon, and firing your weapon on an enemy seems to use very similar calculations to decide whether or not your shots are going to land. Your weapon selection is generally what you’d expect from the era, allowing you to outfit your crew with things like shotguns, tommy guns, or even grenades. Be especially careful with that last one, however, because using it may just attract some unwanted attention.
Of course, you and your fellow troublemakers are not the only ones in town. As with any game that centers around the business of crime, the player will also have to worry about the groups affiliated with the city itself. This can include the police, the Bureau of Prohibition, or even the FBI if you’re not careful. While acting overly trigger happy can result in gaining police attention, a few gunshots here and there won’t really turn any heads. Start throwing grenades, though, and you may find cops not only looking more closely at your operations but also joining mid firefight themselves. Having a bad relationship with the police will make conducting business around the city a lot harder as the cops are much more powerful than your average gangster, and you will have to pay bribes to pacify them.
A big theme in the design of Empire of Sin appears to be providing multiple ways to play so that you can find a way that most suits your style. According to the developers, the game can be played on a micro or macro scale when it comes to controlling your henchmen and business ventures, or even in terms of navigation with a zoomed-out city view as well as a zoomed-in street view that is a little more localized to your boss’s exact location. Even the size and length of the game is entirely under your control. The player can load a game with six neighborhoods and multiple rival bosses that could take upwards of eight hours to complete, or if you feel like a more bite-sized experience, you can generate a single neighborhood and boss for a game that can be completed in around an hour. These customization options as well as the randomization of safe house locations and bosses seem to be aiming to create a game with near infinite replayability.
Interestingly enough, the game impressed me the most with its secondary goal: to educate the player as they play. The taxi driver on your way into town at the start of the game will give you information about the history of Chicago, and you’ll also be able to newspapers each day containing real stories alongside stories based on activities within the game world. We were also guaranteed that the Switch version of Empire of Sin entered development at the same time as all other versions of the game, as well as the fact that the game is being designed first and foremost with controller use in mind. Overall, Empire of Sin, slated for release in 2020 on all major platforms, looks like an interesting take on the strategy genre with a setting full of potential. It’s definitely a game people should be keeping an eye on.