Empire of Sin: The Mafia strategy game promises a lot

Empire of Sin is a strategy game set in the golden Mafia era, the 1920s. The game tries to be city management and turn-based tactics at the same time. Behind this is an economic system based on alcohol, lots of brutality and unique mob bosses. Our goal is clear: we want to take over the entire city! To do this, we choose one of the gangsters, come to town and try to fight our way to the top of the food chain.

The story and characters

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Empire of Sin: The gamescom trailer with new gameplay

At first we choose one of the 14 gang bosses. These all bring different personalities and skills with them: some are well versed in combat, others are better at negotiating, while others are particularly good at developing brothels, bars or breweries. After we have chosen our future head of the city, things start right away. With tutorials. The many tutorial texts literally overwhelm us. So after we let ourselves be guided through one or two scenarios, the city is finally open to us. From now on it is a matter of raiding buildings, which we consequently take under the nail to set up business. Optionally, we can "get" these from other bosses for the price of lots of flying lead.
In Empire of Sin, only two things count: money and alcohol. We can keep an eye on the entire economy and see who has more influence in which area, but at the end of the day all that matters is how much income we have available. With this knowledge we can save most of the complexity.

In practice, that means for us: raiding stores, exterminating everything and taking over. This of course makes the other gangsters aware of us, whereupon they invite us to talk. These negotiations could be strategically challenging in theory, but the ultimate goal of the game is to be the sole ruler of Chicago anyway. It makes even less sense to enter into a pact, because the negotiations mean that we are always offered so few resources by the other groups that we will receive significantly more money and influence if we simply take over their shops by force.

In addition, the conversations are incredibly boring. The unique characters are hardly staged sufficiently and after one of the two conversations there is only standard dialogues. In addition, it is usually completely obvious which option leads to which result. Either we are offered ridiculously little money and alcohol, or should give up the shops that we have just taken over, otherwise there will be war. But since we gain a much greater advantage from war anyway, it makes little sense to enter into any negotiations. The whole thing holds a lot of potential, unfortunately only a fraction of which is being exploited.

After a while we also meet random characters, receive messages or send a letter. That often opens up ways for us to side quests, which are more or less irrelevant. The little money we get from these missions is not worth mentioning. In addition, no interesting stories are written here, at best it is a contract killing, for which we can collect a little money.

Penetrate, slaughter, take over!







Here we stand directly in front of an uncovered enemy, but only have a 30% chance to hit. Why? Nobody really knows.



Here we stand directly in front of an uncovered enemy, but only have a 30% chance to hit. Why? Nobody really knows.

Source: PC Games




So since we mostly hike from house to house, raiding should be fun. And it does. Partly anyway. The fighting takes place tactically – with obvious XCOM influence – in the houses or streets of Chicago. In turn-based battles, we can take cover or half-cover behind objects and see the percentage of opponents that can hit us. The weapon types allow a little tactical depth. So, of course, it's best to send someone forward with a shotgun while our rifle hunters stay in the back lines. The balance is mostly good, if it weren't for the problem with the bosses we played. These have felt infinite HP, very strong stats and to top it all, depending on which we have chosen, a boss ability that is far too strong in most cases. So you can often eliminate occupied houses with five to ten enemies with three people without any major problems. The only hurdle are enemies carrying explosive items. Grenades and co. Can be thrown precisely over the entire map, always hit and cause a lot of damage in a large area. But since we cannot see whether opponents have explosives at their disposal, a fight can very quickly appear unfair. In general, in contrast to Fire Emblem, for example, there is no way to see which skills and items the hostile gang members have. In this way, every variable of tactical combat can never be calculated.

There are various contract killers in our gang who we can hire via the bulletin board. Each of these killers has their own skill tree and types of weapons that they can use. The skills allow many different compositions of gangs with which we can make the city unsafe. However, preparing the group would be more fun if there was a little more challenge. Even with a higher level of difficulty, it is usually no problem to decimate opponents without much thought. Unfortunately, the length of the animations and the entire fight does not help either.
On top of that there is a system that allows us to see how the assassins relate to each other – whether they like each other or are more enemies. But in very few cases this has an effect on the style of play. The only thing we noticed was that we couldn't hire a unit that hates another that's already on our team. Otherwise the system is hardly noticeable. Even with the message "Unit A is mad at Unit B!" nothing further happened. Neither special dialogues nor effects on the fight.

Besides balance problems, there are also massive difficulties with the AI. Often enemies run straight into the open line of fire instead of looking for cover. Even in the first boss fight, the final boss decided to run in front of a unit with his revolver, only to give it a melee attack with his fists. To complement that, the coverage system sometimes seems a bit arbitrary. Our ally is on the other side of a street lamp with an adversary behind it? This is logically only a 30% chance of a hit, although our character emerges from behind cover and points his weapon directly in front of the enemy's head.

Empire of Sin has an incredibly beautiful soundtrack. The acoustic background suits every situation. Regardless of whether we are in a hectic fight, having a conversation or just in the main menu, we are always accompanied by suitable jazz music. Chicago's 20s also looks very compelling, from the characters' clothes to the streets. The guns in the game also sound massive and satisfying. The characters on the other hand are very different. Some are uniquely dubbed, others seem more like: "Oh, we don't have a voice actor anymore? I can do it!"

It could have been so beautiful







One of the many menus we are allowed to click through.



One of the many menus we are allowed to click through.

Source: PC Games




In addition to problems such as unnecessary discussions with bosses, balance difficulties and a lack of intelligence in the warring gangs, there is an economic system that loses weight after a short time, because you quickly understand the basics and can use it to your advantage. Because that's not enough, we find ourselves in infinitely complicated menus. The first few hours you will be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options. The situation does not get any better if, after taking some business, a house is attacked every few minutes that the guards there must defend. We only have enough fighters if we have increased the security level especially for this restaurant. Once forgotten, we can give up the house as we will lose the battle anyway. For all the places we run, individual stats such as atmosphere, word of mouth and security must be leveled. Once we have a whole neighborhood, that's a lot of work. But when we get down to it to take over all areas, the fun of managing goes very quickly.
The battles can also be repetitive. We always find ourselves in the same streets and in identical shops. No combat environment looks special or stands out in any way. A nice surprise are police officers who occasionally come in on the street during gang wars. However, these are so incredibly weak that we can shoot them down with no problem. Theoretically, the police can also raid our shops, but this didn't even happen to us, even if the danger level was 80% for hours.

Empire of Sin (buy now € 38.73 /€ 35.99 ) is incredibly ambitious, but unfortunately cannot do justice to himself. In every respect there is a lot of potential that could be exploited with patches, for the current release of the game, but unfortunately this is not the case. If you want a solid Mafia experience, you should go for the Mafia series.
The game is available for Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch.

My opinion

I wish Empire of Sin hadn't disappointed

The game promised a lot that I was really excited about. Manage the city, negotiate with other bosses, make pacts and always keep an eye on the complex economic system. In the end, however, I felt like I was just running from bar to bar, slaughtering everything and "wasting" a little time in the menu in between. Unfortunately, the individual gears do not mesh with one another. They don't necessarily spin smoothly on their own either. It's a shame, Empire of Sin could have become a hit with more time.

Lots of different bosses
Fun battle system
Wonderful jazz music
Convincing game world
Insignificant negotiations
Police are too weak
Expanding business is hardly fun
Always the same combat areas
Own boss is too strong
Too little staging of the characters
Fights are very easy
Missing information in battle
Partly unfair elements

Empire of Sin has done too much and has not been able to live up to its expectations.

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