Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
City of Gangsters is a mafia management simulator that is simple in design and quite addicting. It is not to be confused with Omerta – City of Gangsters which is also a simulation game set in the same era. While there are similar elements, the combat system in this title is not part of the core experience. Overall, City of Gangsters has a solid foundation. It will be a great addition to the mafia simulation genre but it needs added features to knock it out of the part. Either way, I’m here for it.
Unlike Empire of Sin (reviewed here), which tried to fit into too many boxes, City of Gangsters is simple. As the new mafia boss in town, players begin building their reputation by buying and selling products. At first, the gameplay loop is a bit slow because players need to manually do this, but as time progresses, that task can be delegated. Either way, players need to supply their production. And without supply, production halts, causing players to scramble for money in the early game stages.
Reputation and Expansion
In City of Gangsters, players build their reputation through word of mouth. This is achieved through calling in favors as their reputation builds with a character. Favors are represented by tickets which are used for introductions to helpful characters or starting a front for your empire. Each of those actions uses one ticket. If players use a ticket for an introduction, then a new building will be revealed on the map. However, if players use the reputation to turn the person’s business into a front, then players will likely pay a monthly fee. This is how players begin to expand their empire.
Over time, players need to add members to their crew. This is so that automatic transactions can be set up, and the mafia boss can focus on bigger issues. And by bigger issues, I mean protecting their new empire from rival crews and pesky police. Thankfully, this hasn’t hindered my game too much. Perhaps they will be a nuisance later, but my empire will crumble from lack of supply before that happens!
Leveling and Maintenance
As players progress through the game, they are able to level skills like fast driving or dealing extra damage. Instead of bogging down the gameplay with too many elements, City of Gangsters keeps it simple. Players click on which skill they want to upgrade and it’s done. They don’t need to worry about outfitting armor and weapons to characters like in an RPG.
Another interesting feature that City of Gangsters has over others is vehicle maintenance. Most of the time, players pay a maintenance cost as part of their empire expenses. In City of Gangsters, as your car breaks down, players must head to a car shop for repairs. However, players aren’t told this until the car begins to breakdown. Thankfully, they are given the time to find a shop before significant damage is done. I believe it took about 15 turns to find a repair shop and the car was only at half health.
Other Gameplay Features
Unlike Empire of Sin where players can level individual crew members, City of Gangsters takes a simple approach to combat. Players start with a baseball bat as a weapon, but they can buy others to outfit their crew members with. Where most games have separate screens dedicated to combat actions, this one doesn’t. Everything can be seen and executed through the overhead map. And when players drive into the range of an enemy outfit, either they will take damage immediately, or they can initiate a fight through dialogue. Since City of Gangsters is not really meant to be a combat-focused game, I’m glad that this is how combat is managed. It doesn’t take away precious management time. After all, we’re mafia bosses, not common street thugs!
Graphics and UI:
Since we were given an early press version of City of Gangsters, I found that the graphics are not fantastic. It really has the indie impression down to a tee, and that isn’t a bad thing. City of Gangsters is a top-down management simulator where players need to delegate tasks more than anything. It gets the concept of management sim right. Sure, it would be great to have better graphics, but it’s not inherently required. Nor should it. Personally, I would just like a little bit more variety in this regard.
When driving around the city, I found that the vehicle pathing is strange. A player could click to move from one corner to another that is two blocks away. The game will sometimes take an indirect path, thereby wasting movement points. While this isn’t an issue at the outset, I can see this being complicated in late gameplay. It could potentially be an issue if players are evading pursuit from cops or enemy crews. In fact, there were a few times where my car drove through enemy territory, causing me to be attacked! Shesh.
Let’s talk about the clean UI for a bit. On the left side of the screen are buttons that display various useful overlays. Players can view information overlays like recent transactions, police precincts, and respect. Next are resource overlays that display the item and ingredient locations like hops, bottles, and weapons. Finally, players can review report dialogues. It contains data on their finances, crew list, fronts and territory, crew skills, rival outfits, notification history, and missions.
Along the top bar, players see total crew members, total vehicles, available parking spaces, and total cash. One thing to note about the cash is that the amount will display the total cash. This is important because some money has to stay at your safehouse for upgrades.
On the right of the screen, players see crew members out in the field, fronts they own, and scheduled deliveries. From the right display, players are able to add delivery routes so that their empire can run. I assume that over time, this display will grow as players add more crew members to their outfits.
Unfortunately, City of Gangsters has lackluster music and audio design. This isn’t really an issue but since the graphics aren’t amazing, I had hoped that players would get something out of the audio design. Not only is music and audio important for setting the tone of the game, but the only ways players know about the prohibition era are from trailers or the title screen! Beyond that, there is one core music loop that endlessly repeats and it gets tiresome after extended gameplay periods. In fact, the music doesn’t change when entering a rival crew’s territory nor when police are on high alert. To me, adding a little bit extra by changing the music up would be a tremendous addition to City of Gangsters.
If that wasn’t enough, there also lacks voice acting in the game, and City of Gangsters is strictly a text-based game, I suppose that is less important, but come on. Give us something! This would be less of an issue if the dialogue had more punch and was witty, but it isn’t. The writing is also generic and it is one element that Empire of Sin has over this title. And while the game isn’t focused on the audio, I’m disappointed that there isn’t more that lends itself to the 1920’s feel. Overall, this title could really use a bit of seasoning.
Pros and Cons:
- Simple UI
- The game has a simplistic design
- Doesn’t try to push too many gaming elements into one
- Empire expansion is done through introductions from people you know
- Doesn’t require a high-end gaming computer to run
- Combat is simple, allowing focus on empire management
- No tutorial
- Local Saving Only (for the time being)
- Music is Repetitive
- No Voice Acting
- The car pathing is odd
- Unsure of the barricade purpose since they don’t appear to hinder anything at this stage
- Pre-generated maps make the game a bit predictable
I really enjoy City of Gangsters because it doesn’t try to drown players with too much at once. However, it is missing some features that could really go a long way in making this title spectacular. Yes, it is still in the early stages of development as the retail version isn’t releasing until later this year, but right now it needs some more features and elements. Otherwise, it could fall into obscurity as ‘just another management simulator.’ I hope it doesn’t end up like that.