Omerta: City of Gangsters’ mix of mob management and turn-based strategy fails to capture the dangerous excitement of its subject matter.

The Good

  • Interesting premise
  • Colourful cast of characters
  • Jaunty musical score.

The Bad

  • Slow-paced, restrictive, and dull
  • Bare-bones multiplayer and sandbox modes
  • Underdeveloped UI and insufficient feedback mechanics
  • Fails to deliver on its potential in any area.

Part management sim, part turn-based strategy game, Omerta: City of Gangsters attempts to offer the illicit thrill of building a nefarious empire from scratch. Sadly, some inexplicable design decisions and poor execution undermine its potential, while its glacial pace makes sleeping with the fishes sound like an extreme sport.

 While the city-management element shows promise, its disposable and repetitive nature means boredom quickly sets in.

While the city-management element shows promise, its disposable and repetitive nature means boredom quickly sets in.

It all starts promisingly enough. Choosing an avatar from a handful of rakishly handsome rogues, you set about establishing the backstory for your character and thus determining his stats. Load points into your character’s muscle statistic, and he can move farther and hit harder with melee weapons. Opt for higher smarts, and he acts more often during the turn-based combat, while an impressive guts stat makes him less likely to panic if his buddies start biting the dust. Unfortunately, all of the stats are tied to combat performance, and as you soon learn, combat is so dull that you actively avoid it where possible.

After creating the persona of your would-be crime lord, you’re introduced to the management mechanics with which you take over Atlantic City, one block at a time. On the face of it, this element of Omerta has intriguing possibilities: you squeeze the locals for information, recruit new goons, set up establishments to generate dirty cash and clean money, and choose whether to run established business owners out of town or persuade them to operate under your auspices. Unfortunately, it sounds better on paper than it is in practice. Many of Omerta’s failings in this area of the game come down to a lack of space and competition, a severely restricted set of goals, and most crucially, the disposable nature of each level.

It’s this last fault that does the most damage to Omerta’s coherence and leaves you feeling disconnected and dissatisfied. For every region of the city that you move into, you’re charged with fulfilling a goal, such as clearing out an area for a local mob boss or setting up a gambling racket and laundering the resulting profits to earn a certain amount of clean money. These goals often require the acquisition of various types of premises, the investment of money, and a great deal of idle time as you wait for things to tick over.

 Bland environments, reused assets, and a lack of any real risk and reward make combat a tiresome grind.

Bland environments, reused assets, and a lack of any real risk and reward make combat a tiresome grind.

There’s a hint of freedom in the type of infrastructure you choose to invest in and the businesses you establish while in any given area. However, after achieving a level’s goal, you’re immediately moved to a new map, leaving behind your carefully tailored locale, never to return again. In this way, each level is played in isolation, and the illusion of building an empire is shattered because you’re constantly starting from scratch. Over time, this results in a rush to the end in the most direct way possible. There’s little reason to experiment with the various ways that the locals can be made to love or loathe you through your choice of approach. When everything is disposable, you simply stop caring.

Omerta: City of Gangsters’ mix of mob management and turn-based strategy fails to capture the dangerous excitement of its subject matter.

By Stace Harman, GameSpot UK