by Anthony Maynard
reviewed on PC
Criminal vs Cop
Company of Crime is a criminal empire-builder with an emphasis on tactical turn-based melee combat. Set in 1960's London, where culture is plentiful and is the epitome of all things cool. Beginning in the tutorial mission, players are introduced to the Clearwater Twins, Allie and Nate. They've had a rough life, but now they want the respect and fortune they think they deserve. These two characters act as the heads of this new criminal empire, and we take control of them for their first job with the goal of amassing wealth and respect by building up your empire, taking control of businesses, extortion, bribery, and more typical crime mob tactics.
However, players can also choose to take control of the chief inspector of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad. Choosing between cops or criminals may be a small feature, but it's not something we get very often in gaming. Everyone wants to be the criminal, destroying everything in their wake. Being on the "right side of the law" provides a different play style that is most welcomed. The Flying Squads' goal is to dismantle the criminal empire, which offers different gameplay mechanics from their criminal counterparts. Investigating, talking to informants, applying for search warrants, and raids are examples of what the police side has to offer.
Leave the Gun, Use Your Fists
Company of Crime features a melee heavy combat system centered around tight spaces. Fans of other tactical turn-based games (I’m looking at you, XCOM) will feel right at home; but there are some aspects to help set this game apart. Firstly, each unit has two action points per turn; any action taken consumes your action points. Managing these actions adds to the strategy and planning required in each move, making sure to make the most of your turns. Furthermore, each unit has a health and stamina bar to manage. Unsurprisingly, if one's health runs out, that unit dies. If a crew member runs out of stamina, instead, they become knocked out and remain such until killed or helped by a friendly unit. New characters can be recruited should an untimely death arise.
There are four classes featured in the game on the criminal side - Bouncers, Smugglers, Torturers, and Brain. These classes fill different roles that can be suited to your preferred methods by leveling up, which provides skill options. One class is better at a distance, one is suited for crowd control, another is a straight-up fighter, and lastly, you have the balanced type that works in any situation. Critical to combat is the direction you choose to face your units. Characters have a zone of control, meaning tiles in front or on the side fall under that zone. Control zones can be used to block enemy movements or gain flanking bonuses for attacking from behind. Entering a zone of control locks you in combat and moving within or away will result in a free melee attack for the character in control.
Getting hit while escaping a zone of control, you will be interrupted and stopped in your tracks. The combat system is varied enough to keep things fun and makes you contemplate each move ahead of time. Company of Crime benefits significantly from that added layer of strategy involved with each movement and action.
When you aren't out smacking people around, players are greeted with the over-world map. This map serves as your means to take over London. While viewing the map, players will notice multiple districts to take over, but are locked to Newham until progressing further. Newham is scattered with businesses ripe for the taking. Different locations offer different services to your crew members. Sending them to your HQ can heal a wounded unit, owning multiple pubs increases the number of gang members you can have in total. While the map seems pretty simple at first, there's a lot of information to take in. Each location has different types of missions that offer various rewards or a combination of a few.
On top of the map screen, you'll notice four different logos: respect, fear, money, and influence. Each one is used to buy or acquire services that aid your empire. Choosing an assignment will have your crew scout the location for several days before going in. The layers of strategy don't end with combat, they carry over to deciding what assignment you want, and if you'd rather own a business for a legal front or stay with extorting the current owners. Owning locations unlocks more items, features, and elements, but exposes you to potential surprise attacks from police or rival families.
Can You Feel the Heat?
While in the combat portion of a mission, there are objectives to complete that add more challenge. Sometimes it's just knocking out a target, others you must take down multiple targets. The challenge comes from trying to complete these objectives before the police arrive. After the cops get called in, it takes a few turns before they appear, so escaping before then is essential. Exchanging blows with London's finest can lead to units being arrested, which then requires influence to release them from custody.
Having run-ins with the law or killing people will raise the heat bar, which can be seen on the over-world map. Loud gunfire or shooting enemies attract more attention, and that only brings more heat. There are five heat thresholds; reaching one can potentially trigger raids on your businesses, making things more difficult. Now in my playtime, I had some issues with the heat mechanic. There were times where I did everything correctly, left no evidence, no witnesses, and escaped, yet my heat still raised. While there are locations to own that reduce your heat for a price, reaching those higher thresholds may turn out to be more of a nuisance than anything else. The heat feature adds a dash of realism and consequence to your criminal acts but does feel somewhat overwhelming early on.
Company of Crime sets itself apart from other tactical turn-based games with a focus on melee combat. Offering the option to play on both sides of the law is a great feature that also helps this title stand apart. The combat mechanics provide a deep, rewarding strategy that makes each mission feel different and fresh. Facing up against the law is intense and challenging, but if your heat builds up too much early on, it may be tough to reduce, which could be troublesome. Altogether Company of Crime offers just enough to differentiate from similar games but doesn't break ground on anything we haven't seen. Despite that, it's still a fun, intense, and strategic title for turn-based combat fans.
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Deep strategic combat, can play as cops or criminals, fun and challenging.
Cops can be overwhelming during early game, selecting an enemy can bug out at times.