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  • Writer's pictureLaura Collins

Early Access Review: Cartel Tycoon

By: Laura Collins (Blu3Rizing)

Developer: Moon Moose

Publisher: tinyBuild

Available on: Steam Early Access

If you have ever wanted the chance to be a rich and powerful Drug and Crime Lord, then Cartel Tycoon might be the game that you have been waiting for.

My first impression of Cartel Tycoon was that of Tropico on Drugs, and with having a deep love for most things Simulator or Tycoon related, this was quite appealing for me.

Cartel Tycoon starts you out with a call from a mysterious stranger who then bestows on you a sum of dirty money and instructions to use it to build your first opium farms. The tutorial walks you through this and teaches you how to transport the product to the warehouse and then onwards towards the airport for exporting and bringing in your first bit of “earned” dirty money.

There’s only so much that can be done with the dirty money, though, and it’s honestly more expensive to use dirty money in some instances, and further instructions have you transporting the dirty money off to be laundered in the cities with taxi companies, casinos, churches, etc., to get the more viable resource, clean money. Then, to elevate the level of immersion into the Drug Cartel world, you find yourself building vegetable farms so that you can hide more drugs in the produce and ship it out by way of the seaport to further increase revenue and profits.

I personally found the tutorial for Cartel Tycoon to be nearly the perfect ratio of instructing, enough to teach you the mechanics of gameplay, but not so much that it was overbearing or left a feeling of not being in control of how you chose to play the game. The only real gap I was able to find is that gaining reputation was far easier than the tutorial and game dialogue led it to be, and I wasted quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to raise reputation in one region, not realizing that reputation was not based on each region, but rather as a whole.

This could be gained simply by building new features in the city or sometimes with monetary incentives to the leaders of the new features you had previously built. You can also use these same kinds of incentives and reputation to curry favor with the local mayor and urge him to lower terror in the region to decrease attention placed on your activities. From here, you have to find the balance between enough reputation to get things done, but without massive amounts of terror and stars drawing attention to your little slice of Cartel Tycoon paradise.

My only other real hang-up has been that dirty money has to be physically transported to where you need it to be, which would make sense from a logical standpoint, but tends to lead to you devoting a lot of time and resources to making sure that your hired lieutenants are transporting the goods and dirty funding to where it needs to be and less time watching for the police, only to realize that they have come in and killed off two of your lieutenants or for the DEA to shut down the most profitable side of the drug empire you are building.

The one slight upside to this is that even if your controlling character dies, one of the other hired lieutenants will take their place, so death does not necessarily mean Game Over in Cartel Tycoon.

I appreciated that there was a storyline regarding the mysterious stranger who is only too willing to help you get on your feet in the beginning. It was enough to add intrigue to Cartel Tycoon without taking away from the gameplay itself.

All this being said, Cartel Tycoon shows a lot of promise in Early Access, and I am excited to see what new features and updates come along as it reaches maturity and the game’s full release.

Cartel Tycoon Early Access Review Key courtesy of Stride PR.

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