Empire Of Sin
Proving that even 1920s mobsters are people too
“Every mobster you recruit comes with their own personality and quirks”
Publisher Paradox interactive Developer romero games ETA summer 2020
The phrase ‘historical strategy’ no doubt conjures a certain set of images in your mind – medieval kings, Roman legionaries, world maps where all the countries are different colours. What it probably doesn’t make you think of is Al Capone.
Old Scarface himself is one of 14 playable mob bosses in Empire Of Sin, which challenges you to pick your problematic 1920s fave and take over Prohibition-era Chicago. On the city map, you manage your network of illegal businesses – brothels, speakeasies, casinos, and more. When the going gets rough and blood needs spilling, you zoom into street level for turn-based combat.
But what really makes the game stand out isn’t its distinctive setting or criminal flavour, its the depth of its randomly-generated characters. Every mobster you recruit comes with their own personality and quirks. Over time, depending on how you treat them and what jobs you send them out to do, they’ll adapt and change.
“A character that performs a few executions can become cruel,” says game designer Ian O’Neill, offering an example. “Now other members of your crew might not want to work with cruel characters, or over time, if a cruel character continues to perform executions, they might turn into something even worse, they might actually turn into a serial killer. It’s really difficult to tell a serial killer what to do, and it can be pretty dangerous to leave them alone with other members of your crew.”
Characters even have pre-existing relationships with other people in the world. Your new hired gun might have a few friends living nearby – with a good word from her, they’ll be easier to recruit. She might have a lover who wants her to leave her life of crime, doing whatever he can to protect her from your influence. Or maybe she’s going out with someone from a rival gang – if they meet in battle, they might refuse to fire on one another… or perhaps her loyalty to you will win out, and she’ll betray him, leaving her forever changed by the experience.
“They’re not the same characters at the end of the game that you started with when you recruited them,” says John Romero – yes, the co-creator of Doom – who’s working on the project alongside its lead, his wife Brenda. “All the interactions, I think, make it way more interesting and complex than just a pure strategy game.”
It’s a clever approach, recreating the power fantasy of building your own criminal enterprise while at the same time focusing on the human drama that is the heart of every great mafia tale. Looks like Empire Of Sin is making us an offer we can’t refuse.
Below Most of the playable bosses in the game are real mobsters from the era.