Developer GameTheNews.net is looking to make people think about world issues in a unique way: by making games about them. NarcoGuerra is the most recent game developed by GameTheNews.net and tasks the player in taking on the Mexican drug trade, numerous cartels, and corruption in the police force. NarcoGuerra is set in Mexico during a massive drug war between cartels and the police. The player takes command as the chief of police and is tasked in stopping all drug trafficking by eliminating the drug cartel, which is achieved by taking over the land controlled by the cartels.
By borrowing from the popular board game Risk, NarcoGuerra’s gameplay should be fairly familiar to most gamers. The player must place forces in police territories, and by using limited funds to buy units, the player must disperse these units to territories and attack neighboring cartel-controlled territories, the overall goal being to gain their land and eradicate all cartels. The first stage is called the “Support Phase,” in which the player can recruit new units, redeploy already placed units, detect corruption in the police force, and collect intel on cartel strength in areas that have a question mark. Money can be earned from controlling territories which can change depending on if territories are gained or lost during gameplay. Special territories are found in the game that offer bonuses for controlling the area; for instance, some areas have dollar signs, which increase cash income at a faster rate, while some areas have bullet proof vests to add additional defense when attacked.
The second stage is called the “Attack Phase.” In this phase, players can attack cartel territories adjacent to any of the police controlled territories. Each territory shows the number of forces in each area, and if the area has a bonus, what that bonus does. Much like Risk, the attacking force gets a maximum of three dice (or in this game, three soldiers), while the defending area only gets a maximum of two. The attacker takes the two highest rolled numbers and pits it against the top two numbers of the defending force; if a tie occurs, the defender will win the battle.
Perhaps NarcoGuerra‘s most glaring issue is its insane difficulty. Tomas Rawlings (developer of NarcoGuerra), has stated that he wants people to understand how difficult the war on drugs is and why it hasn’t been stopped. While this is a great idea, the actual presentation of the issue is done poorly. While a challenge is more than welcome, an impossibility is not. It seems that with every roll of the virtual die, the odds are stacked against the player no matter the situation. There are instances in the game where, when attacking a cartel controlled territory that only has three units, the attacking police force of twenty would actually lose. This isn’t just a occurrence of bad luck; improbable events like this happened multiple times, and it seemed no matter the number of units, the “house always wins.” Sure, this may get NarcoGuerra’s intended message across, but it comes at the cost of harming the overall level of fun and desire to continue playing the game.
NarcoGuerra throws in random events that try and change up the pace and gameplay, but they seem irrelevant or just tedious. After some turns, the game may say an event occurred and the police lost a large sum of money, or that the police can pledge money to opposing politicians to help them get elected. While this was an interesting idea, it never seemed substantial enough to be too important a decision.
Surprisingly, NarcoGuerra‘s greatest strength lies in its multiplayer. Up to five players can go head to head in taking over the most land and becoming the top cartel in Mexico. This is achieved by having one player take their turn, dropping or moving soldiers in their territories and attacking the other players. After one player is done, the game will prompt that it’s the next players turn, which allows them to coordinate their attacks as well. Passing around the mobile device to each player and their respective cartel and witnessing how much can change in one round of turns was a blast to play and was a great social experience, but it eventually lost its charm from the little abilities and strategies. NarcoGuerra only features local mulitplayer, and while it is the best part of the game, online matchmaking, leaderboards, or even being able to play with friends on multiple devices would have been a welcome addition.
NarcoGuerra seems more focused on making the player frustrated than by giving a satisfying challenge. There’s nothing wrong with trying to provide a message in a game – many welcome deep messaging – but by making the game’s sole purpose to make winning a near impossibility, it’s a wonder why they even bothered making a game in the first place. GameTheNews.net gets its point across about the real war on drugs being a never-ending struggle, but it could have been portrayed in a better fashion to allow some fun to be had, or by scaling the difficulties appropriately in a challenging way. NarcoGuerra‘s multiplayer is one of the only enjoyable experiences, but the lack of gameplay depth doesn’t keep the interest level high enough to warrant continuous play.
This review is based off a retail copy of the iOS version of Narco Guerra developed by GameTheNews.net and distributed by Auroch Digital Ltd.
- Great Local Multiplayer
- Worried More About Message Than Gameplay
- Shallow, Unsatisfying Gameplay
- Atrocious Difficulty