Empire of Sin (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Athanasios 28.12.2020

Review for Empire of Sin on Nintendo Switch

Is John Romero a victim of the enormous success of Doom? Hmm… no! Doom's popularity is actually responsible for the fact that he still creates video games that people care about, although most, if not all of his post-id Software creations were decent at best. Sneak peeks at Empire of Sin convinced many among those who have been following his work all these years (critic included) that this would be different; the title that would finally show Romero's talent once more. The concept was fantastic and quite ambitious in scope: an XCOM-esque turn-based strategy/management sim, where '20s Chicago would be your playground, and guns, booze, diplomacy, and many more, would be your toys. Sadly, this has left one more bad mark on Romero's record, with the end result being unpolished, and not that enjoyable as it could, and should be.

It seems that the vast majority of initial looks on Empire of Sin were highly critical of its many technical flaws - so this critic waited, and after one or two weeks (and a couple of fixes), finally decided to give this another chance. The outcome? Well, maybe he should have waited a couple of months. Sadly, this is one more title published by Paradox Interactive that feels as if it hasn't even been tested before getting its (pretty high) price-tag. Let this start with the more "innocent" issues…

Upon starting a game, players must pick amongst an impressively varied selection of mobsters (real and fictional), all with their own stats, abilities, perks and traits, as well as their own unique backstories. The adventure begins, and you see a small cut-scene showing the boss of your liking talk to someone else. The lip syncing is laughably bad, textures are missing or blurry, there's a noticeable lack of anti-aliasing, the animation is wooden… and yet, it's actually very easy to stomach all that.

Screenshot for Empire of Sin on Nintendo Switch

The first steps into the dog-eat-dog USA of Empire of Sin captures the vibe of the roaring '20s, with its swinging jazz tunes, the brick-paved driveways that reflect the surrounding lights, and with the people and cars that move around being strikingly… old-school. Lastly, this is a heaven for gangster movie nerds, with its roster of bosses including pretty much all kinds of flavours, and the voice-acting being - mostly - spot on. So, yeah, a few dirty spots here and there aren't a problem.

Unfortunately, visual blemishes put aside, there are more problems at hand. Long (and frequent) loading screens, crashes, lots of glitches and bugs when it comes to combat (in a game that has permadeath), and last but not least, some severe frame-rate drops, stutters, and freezes, in a console that has recently managed to run freaking DOOM Eternal! Are all these easy to fix with a couple of patches. Probably, but it's been some time already, and most issues are still here.

As for the actual gameplay, this is divided between the managerial side and the actual combat. When it comes to the first, Empire of Sin revolves around acquiring buildings that can be turned into speakeasies, brothels, hotels, and so on, which generate your profit; profit that can then be used to increase the quality of the booze, or the security level of an establishment, and also as payment for whoever is hired to join you on the battlefront, bribes for cops, and more.

Screenshot for Empire of Sin on Nintendo Switch

Sadly, management fails to be engaging. Running a criminal enterprise forces one to spend time in tons of menus that lack streamlining, are hard to navigate, and are unnecessarily detailed, quickly making this whole thing feel like busywork - especially since the game is so freaking easy that you won't even have to pay attention to most of the info. In the end, why bother with micro-management via boring spreadsheets, when one can simply drown his or her enemies in their own blood?

Without any exaggeration, it's easy to go from rival property to property, and capture them for your own gain, throwing all acquired money into your own stuff, and then move on. It's also surprisingly easy to head straight to the big cheese of family 'A,' 'B,' or 'C' (no difference between them in turns of difficulty), and destroy them after a simple gunfight. Sure you can use the 'sit down' mechanic, and persuade, threaten, or strike a deal with a mobster, but the easiest solution always seems to be bullets.

Screenshot for Empire of Sin on Nintendo Switch

So, you've equipped your goons and thugs, carefully chosen people from the black book, where you actually have to pay attention to who they have a relationship with (and what kind of relationship), tactically picked your next target, and like the great chess player you are, positioned your troops in the best possible way. Unfortunately, Empire of Sin fails at combat, as well, with the first reason being how the opposition is made out of bumbling fools that one has to wonder how they became gang members.

The AI is subpar at best, with foes constantly missing their chance to punish players for their own mistakes. This means that, although it has all the things that turn-based strategy games the likes of XCOM need, you won't really need any of them. Yes, there's a nice variety of skills to unlock, tons of weapons, as well as helpful items to equip, but one can simply aim, shoot, and be done with it all, wiping the tension from every single battle, and making them feel repetitive rather than thrilling.

No, Empire of Sin isn't a good game. Whether the fault of Romero, Romero Games, or Paradox, this is nothing but a disappointing mess. The idea behind it is great: a mesh of resource management, tactical combat, and some role-playing - but what should be one of the best crime syndicate sims, turns out to be too ambitious for its own sake, with a severe lack of polish and balancing everywhere you look at. A real shame that its developer threw all these years of hard work out of the window…

Freaking Tropico from 2001 is actually a better crime game!

Screenshot for Empire of Sin on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 3 out of 10


A strategy game taking place in prohibition-era roaring '20s, which has players role-playing as a bigtime gangster, slowly building their enterprise, and doing anything expected in such a line of work, whether that's selling alcohol, running whorehouses, striking deals with other crooks, "renting" guns for hire, looting or ransacking establishments, bribing the boys in blue, and many, many, many more. Quite an ambitious title, right? Sadly, an assortment of technical issues, an annoyingly busy UI, a total lack of balance, as well as a lack of challenge, has led to something that just isn't fun. Potential, thy name is Empire of Sin… but potential is great only when met.


Romero Games


Paradox Interactive





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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