‘Empire of Sin’ is a Bloody, Strategic Take on the Criminal Underworld of 1920s Chicago

When Paradox Interactive and Romero Games announced their new strategy game, “Empire of Sin,” some fans may have been disappointed. They could have wanted another intensely violent and fast-paced game from John Romero, one of the original creators of “Doom.”

They shouldn’t be though as ‘Empire of Sin’ is a deep, violent take on criminal management and X-COM like strategy that looks absolutely riveting. It’s a combination of a high-level management sim where you lead a criminal organization and low level strategic, turn-based combat that occurs when you need to get your hands dirty.

“‘Empire of Sin’ is a single player strategy game where you play one of 14 gangsters trying to take over Chicago,” John Romero tells Variety in a private showing at E3. “What you do is take over rackets from other bosses and build rackets from the ground up while you recruit playable characters to fight for you. You’re basically trying to manage people while you’re trying to take over the city.”

“Empire of Sin” has been an idea in Brenda Romero’s head for 20 years and now she’s finally getting the chance to make the project a reality. She’s leading the team as the game director for both Romero Games and Paradox Interactive. They’re bringing “Empire of Sin” to PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in Spring 2020.

The combat in “Empire of Sin” will be familiar to fans of X-COM as the mechanics are mostly the same. Characters move around on a stylish grid-based map (usually in a speakeasy or brothel) and exchange grenades and bullet fire one turn at a time. Everything from overwatch to the likelihood that a shot hits or misses is included.

“If you’re a fan of X-COM you’re gonna feel right at home,” said Romero Games game designer Ian O’Neill. “There are two things that make us stand out though. Obviously, there is the thematic difference with the gangster weapons and there are the dynamic character personalities. One of the guys is actually down right now so we’re going to execute him.”

O’Neill then had his character, Al Capone, take out his knife and brutally slash a thug’s throat, killing him instantly with a nice splash of blood across the screen. Those executions, which vary based on the characters in your squad, have other effects on the battle. They can intimidate enemies and help you build a reputation. “Executions are brutal and they’re designed to really give a nod to the 1920s gangster” O’Neill added. Outside those changes, the combat is fairly approachable if you’ve played X-COM or another game like it.

That’s just the surface of “Empire of Sin” though. The crime management system where you run brothels, casinos, speakeasy’s and other types of rackets to bring in money and take out the competition, is shaping up to be incredibly deep.

Outside of simply managing all the factors that usually come with a management sim like the flow of money or the status of your individual business, “Empire of Sin” has a complicated personality system. Characters you recruit have backgrounds. They have friendships and rivalries, preferences and weaknesses, both of which can spread to other people they work with. Your gang members can become numb to violence and turn into serial killers, they can hit the drink and become alcoholics, or they can fall madly in love with someone else.

“These are their dynamic behaviors,” O’Neill said. ” Their relationships can change and evolve over time, their trades can change and evolve over time. Depending on what they are exposed to and what actions you perform and what actions they perform themselves.”

All those traits affect each character and the characters around them, making for a difficult challenge in managing and an unruly bunch of hooligans.

“Empire of Sin” feels a lot like an incredibly advanced spiritual success to 1998’s “Gangsters: Organized Crime.” I was impressed by what I watched in the hands-off demo, although some of the promises made seem far fetched. I’ve yet to see if the cause and effect of these systems will be as realized as they need to be in the full game, but for now, I’m interested.

More Gaming

  • BTS World

    BTS World Mobile Game From K-Pop Group Rockets to No. 1 Spot on App Charts Worldwide

    BTS, the biggest K-pop group in the world, now has the biggest app in the world. “BTS World,” a mobile simulation game that lets fans virtually become the South Korean pop stars’ manager, quickly rose to the top of Apple’s App Store charts in multiple countries just hours after its release on Wednesday, June 26. [...]

  • Myst Computer Game

    'Myst' Film and TV Rights Sell to Village Roadshow

    “Myst,” the influential video game that helped usher in the CD-ROM era, may inspire an ambitious multi-platform film and television universe. Village Roadshow Entertainment Group, the co-producer and co-financier of the “Matrix” and “Sherlock Holmes” franchises, has acquired the rights to the first-person graphic adventure. For those born post-90s, “Myst” was wildly popular and hailed [...]

  • Joyride

    With Joyride, Everyone Can Host Their Own HQ Trivia

    When mobile game developer Kiwi first released Joyride, the app looked familiar: Similar to wildly popular HQ Trivia, Joyride offered players the ability to win quiz shows in live broadcasts. The key difference: Joyride’s app wasn’t home to just one trivia show, but multiple shows around topics like music, dating, fandom, and yes, trivia, all [...]

  • Etika-Desmond-Amofah

    Gaming YouTuber Desmond 'Etika' Amofah Found Dead, NYPD Says

    Desmond Amofah, a YouTube gaming vlogger known online as “Etika,” was found dead by New York police on Tuesday after he was reported missing last week. He was 29. Amofah posted YouTube videos and live-streams focused on Nintendo games and other titles. A body later confirmed to be Amofah’s was found in the East River on [...]

  • harry potter wizards unite

    'Harry Potter: Wizards Unite' Off to Slower Start Than 'Pokemon Go'

    Niantic’s new location-based augmented reality game “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” is off to a solid start — but it doesn’t seem to have quite the same momentum as “Pokemon Go” did when it launched 3 years ago. That’s according to initial estimates from app analytics specialist Sensor Tower. “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” first became available [...]

  • survios at the linq

    Not Just Gambling: Las Vegas Is Becoming a Virtual Reality Hub

    Walk into the Linq on the Las Vegas strip these days, and you might not immediately realize you just stepped into a casino. Instead, you’ll stumble across a series of living-room-like lounge setups, complete with leather couches, big-screen TVs, Xbox Ones and Oculus Go VR headsets. There’s also a bar with a massive wrap-around touch [...]

  • Netflix HQ LA

    Netflix Engineers Developed a Rumble Pack Feature During Latest Hack Day

    A duo of Netflix employees had a unique idea for making the service’s shows even more stirring: They added a rumble pack option to the Netflix app as part of the company’s latest hack day. When watching shows like “Voltron,” the feature makes phones vibrate in sync with the action on the screen, similar to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content