Crime documentaries have always been very popular things to watch on TV—particularly the ones that cover the exploits of the multitude of criminal cartels south of the border. There have also been some films that portray dangerous men up to dastardly drug dealings, the most famous one being “Scarface,” with Al Pacino.
But many folks have wondered, or dare I say, even fantasized about what it would be like to step into the shoes of these types of unsavory characters. Well, TinyBuild Games wants to give people the opportunity to do so, while not having to actually risk their necks in the process. Their new Early Access title, Cartel Tycoon, certainly looks promising for those who don’t mind the game’s controversial theme.
In Cartel Tycoon, you’re in charge of making a burgeoning drug empire prosper and control every single aspect of the operation—from growing the illegal crops to shipping them off to foreign countries. The concept of “farm-to-table” here has been twisted and perverted into “farm-to-streets.”
The setting is a fictional Latin American-inspired country during the ’80s, which is considered by many to be the golden age of drug trafficking with that region. In this early access build, you get access to a good amount of the plot in its story mode, which will not be spoiled for you in this review, as well as a sandbox mode, the bread, and butter of Tycoon games—and even a new survival mode.
The main difference is that story mode is driven by objectives that also teach you the basics of the game but let’s not delve into details regarding the game’s story. Instead, let’s focus on its gameplay.
You are the head of the operation, the capo. As the head of the cartel, you’ll need to start getting some cash flow going. To do so, you’ll have to hire lieutenants. Hopefully, these are people you trust because you’ll have to delegate parts of the various aspects of your criminal empire to them.
Choose carefully and closely monitor their needs and levels of discomfort at all times, because if one of your lieutenants falls out of line may, they may act out, fail to comply, sabotage your operation, or even put a hit on you. If you, as the capo, die, you can choose to promote one of your remaining lieutenants to be the head of the cartel.
One thing I appreciate about Cartel Tycoon is that you get to see the drug business just as any other enterprise—it’s a business. You have the product that you’ll need to plant, so you have to build a plantation. Once your crops are ready, you’ll need to process them to refine them into consumable drugs, so you build a refinery. Then you’ll need to transport them, so you’ll have to establish a supply line. And just like any business, you’re going to have to meet the demand of your customer base and sell your product to them, which involves bribing the authorities at land checkpoints, airports, and marine ports, to get your drugs through to them.
Also, these are drugs we’re talking about so you can’t just ship them off as is. You’ll have to cleverly smuggle them in with other goods used as camouflage. So, you’ll want to build or buy up farms to grow vegetables or factories to make appliances in which your drugs can travel.
Of course, we’ve all heard about the front businesses that cartels always use to cover their illicit activities. That’s where investing in legit businesses comes in—you can provide goods and services for communities, such Taxi Stations, Salsa Clubs, Churches, etc. Everything is interconnected with many moving parts—if any of those parts become compromised, everything else will tumble likes dominoes. Therefore, you’ll have to manage your resources wisely.
Cartel Tycoon is a nice addition to the crime organization management genre and for those who don’t mind (or indeed, relish) its controversial setting, an immersive and “fun” way to see how operating an illegal business might look, at least digitally. I’ll be back later to post a full review on this promising title.
Cartel Tycoon has great graphics so you’ll need a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. Therefore, you may just want to invest in a superior gaming rig:
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