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Narcos: Rise of the Cartels is based on the TV show Narcos, which in turn is based on the conflict between Pablo Escobar’s drug empire and the American DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration).
Narcos: Rise of the Cartels takes a top down approach and has you controlling a squad in a turn based fashion, moving based on a grid and attacking based on range and unit placement.
When the game begins you go through a short tutorial in which you control a DEA squad, though it doesn’t take long before you’re able to unlock the Narcos campaign and see how the missions play out from a different perspective. While there are different teams they do have the same rules in that each squad is made up of characters with certain weapons and abilities, like a class type and you still control them the same regardless of which team you might be using. The more you use members of a squad the more experience they gain and you’ll be able to unlock new skills for them but initially any troop will be subject to a level cap until you’ve made it to the next tier, this means that you can keep a team of your favourites and have them become more effective as you play, rather than having to hire new characters with better stats to take their place.
Since Narcos: Rise of the Cartels is turned based you have to have some forethought on where you want to move your people and keep in mind what your opponents may do on their next turn if you want your whole squad to come out alive. If any of your squad members do happen to die and the mission is successful then they will be gone for good and you’ll have to go to recruitment to hire someone new though you can always restart the mission if things aren’t going the way you want. Each time you take a turn the character you pick will have an action point and a movement point, the action point is used for attacking while the movement point can be used to move your character within their range or heal up, the problem with the way it’s implemented is that you can’t attack an enemy with one character and then choose another to move with, you have to stick with the one you picked. I found that because I couldn’t control more than one person per turn, I would just pick the most effective member of the team and singularly control that one until they were killed, though often if you damaged your opponent they would retreat to heal allowing you to do the same and depending on where you move to, they don’t move again until you do.
When it comes to attacking, your characters have different ranges and weapons based on their class types and they become more effective as you level them up and learn more skills but how well they perform on the field is still largely down to their placement and range from their enemies. Each turn that you take, the character that you just used gets an awareness bonus that makes them more likely to land shots, as well as that you can also attack them on occasion when they move and you can even sometimes perform counter attacks but they can do the same to you and often with deadly effect. Some characters, like those with sub machine guns and shotguns, are able to attack multiple enemies at once if they’re close enough to each other and clever use of this can allow you take out more than one at the same time, alternatively you can always see how much damage your attack might do and can you could use it to gain a kill shot which is a freebie move granted if the enemy is left with a single health segment and you still have some ammo left.
There’s quite a few things to do in Narcos: Rise of the Cartels, especially given that there are the two opposing campaigns. You have a map that your missions are listed on and at first glance it doesn’t seem like there’s all that much but each story mission has several side missions to do before you can tackle the story and each one costs money to attempt with the exception of one that you can play for free to earn money to grant you access to the ones that require it. There’s a few different mission types as you play through the game but the basic core of it doesn’t really change, especially considering you could just take out your enemies and then complete the objective, such as intel gathering, there is a move counter to be aware of though that helps keep you focused instead of using up turns to constantly buff and heal your people.
Narcos: Rise of the Cartels is an okay game and takes a very obvious leaf out of X-Com’s book but there are several differences that mean that while it’s not a bad game on its own, if you have played an X-Com title you may not enjoy this one as much since you’d always be comparing the two and thinking about the things that X-Com does better. While overall I liked the game, there were a few things I didn’t like about it with the worst offender being that your characters don’t properly take cover, if you’re behind something that grants half cover they will shoot over it but if you take cover at a wall or something else with full cover, they won’t lean out to shoot which means that you have to put your person at risk of being killed if you want to attack the enemy.
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