The strategy game’s combat designer details how some of its Bosses were created.
Hey Gangsters! I’m Ian O’Neill, the Principal Combat Designer on Empire of Sin. We at Romero Games are really excited for all of you to get to grips with Empire of Sin when it releases tomorrow on PS4.
Set in 1920’s Chicago, Empire of Sin takes place at the start of US Prohibition, a time when mobsters and organized crime began to take root and thrive. As you set out to build and manage your criminal empire in Chicago’s legendary Prohibition era, you’ll play as one of 14 bosses. Each boss comes with their own unique diplomatic bonus, empire bonus, and a powerful unique ability that they can use in combat. I’m going to select a few of the bosses and dive into the unique boss abilities you’ll be using to fight your way to the top and become the King or Queen of Chicago.
Daniel McKee Jackson & Last Rites
A renowned gentleman of the times, Daniel McKee Jackson came from a family of Undertakers and ran an illegal casino out of the basement of the funeral parlor. Coupled with a college education and a penchant for gentlemanly manners and diplomatic tact, Last Rites is Jackson’s signature to the world of Empire of Sin; an elegant action in a brutal environment.
When triggered, we see Jackson take a unique stance, a pistol dueling stance, while he takes aim at his target. Once triggered, Jackson will begin to unload his pistol into the target. If the target is killed and rounds remain in the pistol’s clip, then he will focus on another target until the clip is empty. A true and final Last Rites for anyone unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end.
Maggie Dyer & Lion Tamer
As the name suggests, Maggie is no stranger to dangerous environments and hostile characters out for her blood. Using her ringmaster’s whip, Maggie can snare her target and yank them towards her. This allows Maggie to dislodge troublesome, stubborn opponents or draw tougher enemies away from their group and into the open, making them vulnerable.
Before they can gather their bearings, Maggie delivers a vicious uppercut that will leave them staring at the lights. The melee attack at the end of Lion Tamer has a guaranteed knockout effect that will leave the target vulnerable and unable to move or use actions for one round.
Dean O’Banion & Blastphemy
Dean’s combat ability is an attack known as Blastphemy. There were many accounts of his brutal attacks during the Chicago newspaper wars. O’Banion and his crew were known as “Sluggers” and they would beat-up the competition for rival newspapers. This often resulted in close-range gunfights. This was where I drew inspiration for Blastphemy. Using this move, Dean fires a custom shotgun slug from his short-barreled shotgun at his target, once the slug hits the target, it explodes in a shower of fragments.
But I really wanted to add something extra, something that would really give this ability a bang. That’s when I decided that Dean’s boss ability would be devastating to heavily armored foes. I wanted to shred their armor completely, and not just one target, but on multiple targets! And as a final piece to the puzzle… the name. An awful, brutal attack delivered by a foe that saw himself as a saint. “Blastphemy” was a most fitting title.
Mabel Ryley & Swindler’s Shot
Have you ever wanted to shoot that enemy in the room around the corner but you just didn’t have the right position or couldn’t get the right line of sight? Me too. I really wanted to explore this problem in-depth and see what we could do with it.
I had seen trick shots performed before, both in the movies and in real-life and was always fascinated by the skill involved when trying to ricochet a bullet. Taking some liberties with the idea, I started to work out the mechanics for an ability that would allow the player to ricochet a bullet off an enemy. With each subsequent ricochet target becoming the origin point for the next ricochet. What this means is, you select a target to mark them as your first ricochet point, then select any target that they can see and have line of sight on, and then you do it again with the second target.
This results in some truly insane trick shots. Being able to ricochet a bullet around a room or around corners is one of my favorite things to do in the game. Oh, and did I mention that it’ll deal damage to anyone caught in its path? And it’ll apply a unique status effect called “Deep Wounds” which will deal a significant amount of damage to the target if they move. It’s one of the most unique and technical actions you’ll encounter in Empire of Sin.
Elvira Duarte & Devil’s Breath
Being set in 1920’s Chicago, Empire of Sin posed some unique challenges when designing abilities bosses. There’s a number of game mechanics that fans of turn-based combat games have become familiar with over the years that wouldn’t translate very well into this historical setting. Elvira Duarte posed her own unique, but fun challenge. Elvira is a self-made woman who built her empire from the ground up with nothing but her own will and determination. But she is also a 65-year-old petite Mexican woman. So giving her a brutal physical attack or a heavy machine gun and letting her go “Rambo” felt… well, it felt great, but wrong. (Note: You can totally do that by the way— give her a machine gun and go nuts! There’s nothing stopping you.) But it broke the context of who she was as a character. And I wanted to stay true to that.
I came across an article about a drug called Scopolamine or “Devil’s Breath.” This substance was supposedly being used by criminals in Columbia to drug and rob their clients. These reports indicated that the drug caused the victims to become open to suggestion, mentally pliable. In this state they would get the victim to hand over their money and other valuables. The actual effects of the drug are incomprehensive at best, and it’s difficult to know if it actually has such capabilities. But in that moment I knew I had a tangible means to create a unique Boss ability that would fit the context of our character, Elvira.
After some more research, I found that knowledge and use of this drug was much older than the articles suggested and that it had been used for years in various other medical treatments. So it fit the timeframe. I now had a means to create a 1920s version of mind control. Or, well, a very short-lived and fatal version of mind control. One thing you’ll come across a lot in Empire of Sin is just how fatal the world is. There’s no room for half measures. It’s kill or be killed. So I made the effects of Devil’s Breath fatal. You gain control of the target character, but they’re also slowly dying. It helps to balance the ability and adds a nice dash of sinister finality to its effect. Oh! And one last thing: it’s not just Gangsters and Thugs that can fall victim to the effects of Devil’s Breath, but Bosses too!
And that’s not even half the bosses!
Phew! And that’s not even half of the bosses covered! There’s still nine more to choose from. Whether you prefer the close and personal approach or like to resolve your conflicts from afar, there’s something here for everyone. And the whole team at Romero Games can’t wait for all of you to get to grips with Empire of Sin tomorrow. We’re looking forward to seeing how you build your own criminal empire.
See ya on the streets, Boss!