Mobsters: Criminal Empire is a new Facebook game from Disney Playdom — the third entry in the organized crime series from the developer. The game seeks to court the growing “hardcore” social gamer market with its combination of resource management, real-time strategy and a massively multiplayer competitive element.
While the game makes use of the common “criminal underworld” theme, “mature” content is kept to a minimum, with small, cartoonish characters leaving bloodstains on the floor when defeated in battle and the occasional female character showing up in stereotypically suggestive poses clearly designed to appeal to adolescent male players. That said, the game makes little effort to sugar-coat its theme, which is essentially about nothing more than gangs of thugs taking things that do not belong to them and killing people with no justification beyond “because we can.”
In terms of mechanics, Criminal Empire is actually a very well-disguised clone of titles such as Kixeye’s Backyard Monsters, Kabam’s Edgeworld and the numerous other self-proclaimed “hardcore” titles on the social network. Players build up a network of production buildings to generate resources over time, use these resources to construct static defenses and troops for attacking rival criminal empires, and then send these troops out to raid locations, destroy buildings and steal resources. Rather than building freely, however, players acquire new facilities by taking them over on a static city map that gradually expands as their influence increases. Once a facility is under a player’s control, they are able to post gun-toting defenders atop the building to fend off attacks, and are also able to freely build defensive structures such as mines and dumpsters on the city streets to try and shepherd attacking forces into the most heavily-defended areas.
One key difference between Criminal Empire and the titles it apes is the fact that the player gets to play a more active role in battles than usual. Instead of simply deploying troops and then hoping that the game’s (usually rather rudimentary) artificial intelligence routines don’t do anything overly stupid, the player has the opportunity to control their own avatar and attack enemy forces directly. During the game’s initial tutorial, the player is able to use their avatar in attacks on rival empires, but once play begins “proper” this ability is locked until the player reaches experience level 7 — though they may still use their avatar to assist in defending against attacks on their own empire, which occur at predetermined points throughout the game’s sequence of missions.
Despite this addition, however, there is still relatively little strategy to the combat segments. It is mostly a numbers game, with higher numbers (preferably of more expensive troops) inevitably winning out through a simple “zerg rush” approach. Similarly, there is relatively little consequence for failure to defend one’s own base against attack from computer- or player-controlled opponents, since buildings can simply be repaired by expending hard currency or waiting a short period of time for them to become active again.
The game monetizes primarily through its hard currency of “Empire Bucks,” which may be used to speed up production or upgrade jobs and purchase special, more effective items. Empire Bucks may also be used to purchase premium weapons and aesthetic items for the player avatar, allowing them to customize their appearance and give them a significant advantage in battle scenes.
Criminal Empire is a competent game that makes use of established “hardcore” strategy mechanics well to produce a game that will be immediately familiar to fans of the genre. It does not, however, push the genre significantly forward to any great degree. While the addition of a controllable player avatar is a nice touch, it would be even better to see players able to take full control over their attacking forces like a more traditional standalone real-time strategy game — but few Facebook titles have taken this bold step as yet. As such, Criminal Empire finds itself in a position where it is likely to enjoy a modest degree of success for at least a short period, but also one where its inherent unremarkableness and unoriginality in its core mechanics may well see it fade into obscurity before very long.
As a new release, Mobsters: Criminal Empire has not yet recorded any user numbers on our traffic tracking service AppData, but check back shortly to follow its progress according to MAU, DAU and user retention figures.
A competent game at its core, but one that sticks to proven, well-worn mechanics and drab thematic content rather than trying anything new and original.