Time to embrace your inner criminal mastermind in Empire of Sin, the new turn-based tactics game from John Romero. Drawing on its roots from more recent turn-based games such as XCOM, Empire of Sin really hits home with massive amounts of depth and variety for each playthrough by its multitude of customization options. Even with all these options, Empire of Sin has by far one of the best tutorials and onboarding experiences to familiarize new players with all the options at their disposal.
You will be given an opportunity to first select your mob boss, ranging from Daniel McKee Jackson, a funeral home director, to Maggie Dyer a circus lion tamer. Each character comes with a number of perks and special abilities that will make each time you play a unique experience from beginning to end. The sheer vastness of what you can do with each character, combat options, and overall customization and progression makes Empire of Sin a fantastic game with tons of replayability.
Welcome to the Life
Empire of Sin begins relatively small, with your mob boss attempting to take over just a few local rackets. These different rackets can be breweries, which fuel other businesses like casinos and speakeasies. Eventually, you can take over buildings from thugs or buy them outright to add hotels or brothels to keep up your ultimate goal of stacking cash. Buildings, once acquired by dubious means or otherwise, can then go through a series of upgrades to increase anything from security to profitability. Deciding which businesses to focus on and how to upgrade is a critical component to Empire of Sin that allows flexibility each time you play through it.
If you’re unfamiliar with turn-based tactic games, combat largely comes down to percentage chances of whether attacks will hit or miss. Characters can take cover to reduce their chances of being hit, or they can utilize flanking on offense to boost their chances of success when attacking. Special abilities for each class and mob bosses add a ton of variety to combat by opening up different tactics. However, one of the noticeable issues within combat is the lackluster polish when executing numerous combat maneuvers. This is particularly true in battles, where animations feel half-completed or sometimes just seem to skip by completely at times.
Each character you can play comes equipped with a variety of unique abilities. Likewise, gang members are separated into a variety of different categories ranging from Enforcer to Doctor. Different classes come with unique abilities and skill trees, such as the Doctor’s ability to drop impressive heals on friendly units. Each class adds a bit of unique flavor, and I found myself feeling bonded to these characters after playing with them for so long. They’re more than the generic and replaceable characters in a lot of turn-based games. One of my characters, Maria Rodriguez wanted me to help her get back at an ex-boyfriend who mistreated her, while another of my gangsters ended up falling in love with her. When she died in combat, he went wild over the loss. It’s a fun little twist that really helps to endear your gang members to you and keeps them just from being expendable.
King of Customization
From weapon rarity to custom skill trees for each class, Empire of Sin does a stellar job of layering in massive amounts of depth and providing you with incredible opportunity to vary and make your own playstyle over the course of the game.
The appeal of Empire of Sin really kicks in when you start to zoom out and get a big picture of the different neighborhoods in the area. Eventually, through alliances or kicking down doors, your goal is to take over neighborhoods building by building. Where Empire of Sin really excels, compared to many other games in the genre, is a feeling of openness to the world. XCOM and other games are somewhat compartmentalized in the economy or building aspect, but Empire of Sin is expansive and free to roam in neighborhoods of Chicago. It’s exhilarating to begin to pinpoint where you should begin expanding your criminal empire.
Additionally, character loadouts are completely customizable. Each class has only certain access to different gun types, which all vary in their rarity. Guns can be acquired either by buying them on the black market or by looting your enemies after each combat scenario. As an added layer, there’s a number of items that can be equipped such as grenades, first aid kits, armor, or even bullet type that can alter your playstyle and strategy.
Watch the Pacing
The core formula of Empire of Sin is abundantly solid, but in the later stages, it does lose its glossy sheen. When you’re engrossed in a multitude of wars with other gangs, it begins to bog down with the number of attacks that are thrown against you. Pacing is a big issue at this stage, and it detracts from a solid experience up until this point.
Generally, a large number of attacks are unavoidable as starting a war against one gang means any of their allies can be dragged in with them. This isn’t so much of a problem as it is time-consuming. Many of your businesses will come under attack, which results in having to defend them all individually for your best chance to keep the businesses intact. What makes this a tedious chore is the sheer number of defenses required. What slows this process down is that each defense requires two stages of combat, of both the exterior and interior of a building, which really causes it to drag on.
This leads into one of my bigger concerns toward the end game, where it became trivial to expedite the process of “winning” or taking over the neighborhood with a good squad by simply finding each gang leader’s hideout and killing them outright. Rather than having to assault individual rackets, you could “skip to the end,” take out the gang leader and then automatically absorb all their rackets at once. It did help alleviate some of the pacing issues, but it felt a bit cheap to take advantage of toward the end.
Empire of Sin Review | Final Thoughts
Empire of Sin is a grandiose lesson in the turn-based tactics genre. Where it emerges is the variety of customization afforded to the player, as well as an almost open-world playstyle through the conquering of each neighborhood. Attention to detail is big, with real-life gangsters and “alternative entrepreneurs” making up a large cast in Empire of Sin. Sit downs, or the ability to have a dialogue between these main characters, adds a fun twist and opens up diplomacy options to the genre as well. While it can chug to a slower pace at times because of trivial combat, Empire of Sin really delivers big with a customizable and unique experience that should have you putting tons of hours into it.
TechRaptor reviewed Empire of Sin on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4.
- Fantastic Character Customization Options
- Economy and World Building is an Enjoyable Process
- Open-World Style Allows Much More Freedom and Decision Making
- Polish Seems Lacking During Combat
- Large Wars Can Feel Sluggish Due to Forced Combat