The name "John Romero" is synonymous with old-school, hardcore shooters like Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, and more recently, SIGIL. When Paradox announced a partnership with Romero Games, one could hastily guess a new FPS was in development. The product of this partnership is Empire of Sin, a strategy title where you play as a gangster during the Prohibition Era. This game is the brainchild of acclaimed developer Brenda Romero, (John's wife), and with the two industry veterans at the helm of their studio, Empire of Sin certainly looks as good as their past work.
I also had the chance to sit down with John Romero and talk more about the game. Check it out in the video below!
I watched a hands-off demo of Empire of Sin at E3, and it is undeniably a Paradox-published title. Paradox is known for its grand strategy titles and turn-based combat, and Empire of Sin fits the bill. The demo begins with the player as the legendary gangster Al Capone. He's the new guy in town but that doesn't get in the way of his lofty ambitions. The demo shows Capone visiting a rival crime lord's establishment and causing some mayhem. We get a first look at Empire of Sin's combat here, and fans of XCOM- styled gameplay will be right at home.
Empire of Sin features a grid-based movement system. Capone can seek cover to mitigate damage or cause an enemy to miss; meanwhile, he also has different abilities and weapons to use. You can sprint to cover longer distances or, if you have one, lob a grenade at some unlucky gangsters. In this instance, the demo shows Capone sweeping the room with his Thompson - it's a classic gangster move, after all.
After a short firefight, one enemy remains on the ground fighting for his life. Players might be required to execute an enemy on the ground to finish them off. Capone grabs this unlucky fellow by the throat and slashes it, and blood splatters on the screen. The animation was charmingly violent and seemed satisfying to pull off, even from a hands-off perspective. Still, combat is just the tip of the iceberg in Empire of Sin. John Romero tells me you can play with only one section Chicago, or multiple. Game time will vary, but a larger game can take around 15 hours to complete, give or take. There is no story campaign, so it's up to the player's ambitions to decide how they want to play. Sections don't seem overly large and overwhelming. By looking at the demo, Romero Games strikes a nice balance between deep strategy mechanics and accessibility.
Players can run different establishments to expand their criminal empire. The demo shows that Capone has a large supply of booze, which I can assume is used to fund his efforts to be the top dog in Chicago. But, you'll need some help, and apparently there are dozens of different characters you can recruit for your mob. These characters are handcrafted, have various perks and specialties, and even have different allegiances and lovers. One of your lackey's lovers might convince them to become a turncoat and betray you - or, they might convince your goon to run away with them and give up on their life of crime. Empire of Sin also has a hierarchy system. Assigning a lieutenant hated by the rest of your crew can cause a rift in the ranks. I'm excited to see the possibilities and intricacies of this system.
Player choice also appears to have a large spotlight in Empire of Sin. Capone is invited to a safehouse to settle a dispute with a rival crime lord. This initiates a sequence where players can choose various dialogue options that have different implications and outcomes. The crime lord tried to cut Capone a deal, but instead the demo opted for a more violent route. The writing in this instance seemed very immersive and I felt like I was reading the script to an old mafia movie. In the end, Capone emerged victorious with the help of his mafioso pals.
Lastly, Empire of Sin is exceptional visually. The lighting of Chicago's crime-ridden streets cast a somber, noir-esque mood. The attention to detail inside the buildings and on the cars show that a lot of love, care, and research went into the creation of Empire of Sin. This game likely flew under a lot of people's radars, but if you like strategy and tactics, or anything about old-school gangsters, you'll want to look out for Empire of Sin when it launches next year on all platforms.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2019 Coverage Hub.