Empire of Sin review. Romero missed – Gambling addiction

An unfinished gangster strategy from the genius of shooters.

Similar in spirit

John Romero is an industry figure as controversial as he is. In his career there were Doomand Quake, and controversial Daikatana, and nonsense like Pettington Park… Now the maestro, who is already over fifty, has founded a small indie studio named after himself – and together with his wife he does what they like there. And everything would be fine, but for some reason they like Empire of Sin.

Yes, the style is really okay here. But with everything else …

Serious business

Empire of Sin is a rare case when the title of the game fully reflects its main goal: the player needs to take on the role of a crime boss and build a real empire of sin in Chicago of the 1920s. It sounds intriguing, I admit it, and the setting deserves all the praise. Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, felt hats, Tommy Guns, incendiary swing in the background … Damn stylish. But, unfortunately, it also needs to be played. And in terms of gameplay, we are offered a combination of only two elements: a simple 4X strategy and tactics in the spirit of XCOM.

Each game begins with the choice of a “ruler” – just like in Civilization… Among the fifteen gangsters, there is the legendary Al Capone, and some tattooed circus performer, and a bunch of racist stereotypes: Irish, Mexicans, French … I don’t want to choose, except that there are not enough Russians with balalaikas. Moreover, unlike Civilization, our criminal genius does not just look after things from somewhere from heaven: he personally negotiates with competitors, walks the streets in real time and, of course, knocks out people’s brains with his own hands.

The authors refused from the random generation of bandits. Each mercenary has his own appearance, biography, strengths and even relationships with other gangsters: from heartfelt love to burning hatred

And this is an extremely sensible decision. In particular, this approach made it possible to introduce a plot into the game, and each main character received his own story in the spirit of a gangster movie. For the narrative, this is a huge step forward compared to most similar strategies, and in addition to the personal “central” task, there are additional tasks that soon begin to pour in from literally everywhere. The guardians of morality staged a picket near the brothel – you need to quickly deal with them before they attract the attention of the cops. The blind moonshiner promises a batch of his best drink, but first demands a thousand dollars for a container – to give or not? The Maple Syrup Producers Association of Canada has heard of a new entrant in the alcohol market and offers a dangerous but tempting deal – help them or not get their hands dirty?

During battles, seemingly authentic jazz begins to growl with electric guitars. Anachronism, of course, but it sounds very cool

Sometimes things can be settled peacefully: by persuasion or threats. But more often than not, you have to uncover the trunks – and here the game gives the first misfire. At the heart of combat is a system we’ve seen a million times in XCOM, Gears Tactics, Phoenix Point, Phantom Doctrine, Mutant Year Zero and god knows where else. “Moved – took cover – attacked”, except that the order of the move here is determined by the scale of initiative in the spirit of Heroes of Might and Magic 5… Although in terms of entertainment here, of course, not XCOM, but rather Wasteland 3: Sluggish animations, flat special effects, lopsided models – all this is worthy of the snows of post-nuclear Colorado. And the surroundings are not impressive either. In short, you can play it, in principle, but you can hardly enjoy it.

More on Gambling

In the meantime, we pretend to participate in spectacular gangsters, the city does its best to pretend that it lives its own life. Pedestrians roam the roads, drive cars, cops recklessly fight with bandits and fire right in the streets, gangsters do not lose money and slaughter the pharaohs … Everything seems to be cheerful, but so unnatural that there are no words. It is completely incomprehensible why it was even possible to model Chicago, in which there is nothing to do except step-by-step skirmishes. Why was it impossible to limit oneself to an abstract map or even figures on a city map, as in This Is the Police?

And everything would work fine without errors. But no: the characters regularly fall into each other, instead of pistols they shoot directly from their fingers, and sometimes they completely stop responding to commands

Mafia Tycoon

Moreover, the local economy (already elementary) works mostly somewhere behind the scenes and does almost without visualization. There are “breweries” (in fact, they are, rather, universal wine and vodka factories) that produce alcohol, and there are establishments that distribute it. The main thing is that the quantity and quality of the booze meet the needs of the public – that’s all. The noble don does not have to think about other trifles. There is no need to create supply chains, look for ingredients and equipment, or hire workers: we just choose what to produce and what to sell (and at the district level at once) – and enjoy the money flowing into our pockets. At least until someone tries to take our business away from us.

*** 05_EoS – Meeting a new gang is like meeting a new civilization in the corresponding series. Only the difference between competitors is much more modest.

Organized crime, unlike more or less civilized businessmen from other “tycoons”, does not like to conduct business honestly. It is worth showing weakness, and thugs of some “Viceroys” will break into your favorite bar to make a brawl. However, opponents can always be repaid with the same coin. The dark side of Chicago should be ruled by only one king, and the other contenders for the throne need to be dealt with by what methods.

And all would be fine, but the strategic part of the gameplay breaks down into one simple moment. Artificial “intelligence” and in the tactical mode is not particularly strong, but in the strategic one generally behaves like an unbalanced puberty teenager. He either proposes new agreements, then dissolves them, then declares war, then begs for mercy, then bares his teeth, then sulks. Doing meaningful business with such a genius and building long-term commercial relations is almost impossible.

Chicago looks good up close (if you don’t pay attention to cloned pedestrians), but from a bird’s eye view everything is completely boring

Let’s say that the AI ​​in most other strategies is also not very smart, quickly turning diplomacy into a farce. But 4X strategies always offer something else. Have Age of Wonders, for example, there was a fight; at Galactic Civilizations 2 – building your own ships; for the same Civilization – in general, little by little: from the development of cities to the seizure of natural resources. But Empire of Sin has practically nothing at the strategic level. Illegal fishing is represented only by drinking, sex services and gambling – no weapons, no drugs, no banal racketeering. And yet the criminal code offers so many enticing opportunities! What is really there, there is not even a special reason to develop their establishments here: people may crave for delicious drinks in elite restaurants, but they will happily whip a booze in a dark basement. Yes, the cash flow is more modest there – but the client is still not going anywhere.

The controls in the dialogs are arranged strangely: on the right is the previous NPC replica, and on the left you can choose an answer to it. And for some reason, subtitles disappear when our hero speaks

In the end, it all looks like Mafia 3: we seize the businesses of one of the neighbors, and then we come to the gang’s hideout and deal with the boss. We repeat until the enemies run out and the city is under our complete control. Moreover, tinkering with enemy bars and casinos is not at all necessary – you can immediately chop off the snake’s head: come to the boss’s shelter, beat him to death with a baseball bat and grab all your property with one blow. This trick can be done already at medium difficulty: here you do not need to patiently accumulate strength, pump up operatives, enter into alliances with yesterday’s enemies in order to press a common competitor to the nail with a joint blow. Most likely, a small brigade of four thugs will suffice. This, of course, makes it possible not to delay the passage, but devalues ​​the strategic layer completely. And why was there a fence?

Underground empire statistics. Continuing along the same lines, there will soon be problems with the police, which will not make the game much more fun either.

I admit, I was waiting for Empire of Sin, but it turned out to be smaller, more boring and worse than I expected. For a story-driven game, there is too little story and too much unnecessary running around the city, for a gangster strategy there is not enough freedom and opportunities, and for turn-based tactics there are not enough own ideas. Honestly, it would be better if Romero made Daikatana 2.


Empire of Sin review.  Romero missed
  • style and music;
  • unique gangsters without random generation;
  • bosses with personal storylines.


Empire of Sin review.  Romero missed
  • secondaryness;
  • flat strategic part;
  • bugs.

How we played

In what: the key is provided by the publisher.

On what: PC.

How many: 15 hours.

Editorial achievement

Empire of Sin review.  Romero missed

“Full immersion”

Buy a distillation cube and organize your own underground alcohol empire.

About localization

Only the text has been translated. There are no particular complaints, but, in my opinion, one could do without words like “boggle”.

Empire of Sin review.  Romero missed
★★ ☆☆☆ Sad


Mediocre strategy and second-rate tactics that are sorely lacking in sensible game design and sound quality control. The only thing that Empire of Sin can pull out is the setting. Do you remember when Romero turned from a trendsetter into an epigone?

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