Cartel Tycoon preview. Sad Escobar simulator from Russian studio

In the second of the trailer,  Cartel Tycoon  explains its genre as “a business simulation game with elements of survival.” After repeated training restarts, this inscription ceases to seem like a marketing slogan and turns into a warning. So developers from St. Petersburg are hinting that drugs are difficult, do you understand?

Cartel Tycoon is an early access game from a small St. Petersburg team Moon Moose . In February 2021, the team was acquired by TinyBuild , which generally treats young studios from Russia and the post-Soviet space well. Graveyard Keeper , F95Zone, Pathologic 2, and, of course, Hello Neighbor blasted the whole world. You can be sure that the full release of Cartel Tycoon will not go unnoticed.

But early access shows that the grand launch of the drug cartel simulator seems to be a long way off. Already, the project amazes not only with a large number of possibilities, but also with the problems that gamers will have to face, especially not very sophisticated experience of playing “tycoons”.

Events Cartel Tycoon occur in the 90s. These are the times when the forests, seaports and airports of Latin America literally drowned in the mood-enhancing powder of white. The player must take up this unusual branch of plant growing, starting with the opening of several farms for the cultivation of opium and its further sale. Over time, he will discover new “goods” and ways of marketing, as well as obstacles to overcome on the way to dominate the surprisingly large map with several regions. But the problems will begin much earlier than the new buildings become available for construction, and the drug business will cover the neighboring area.

Cartel Tycoon , like any other self-respecting representative of this genre, prefers that the player learns from his own mistakes. A clickable tutorial with illustrative examples and a training one, but disguised as a story mode, do not save the situation. Do not count on a mind-blowing Scarface-like story from a game in which the protagonist is given a villa with a giraffe and tens of thousands of dirty dollars just because he called the ad in the newspaper and seemed to be a “capable guy” by ear.

Cartel Tycoon’s biggest problem right now is Pablo Escobar’s harsh micromanagement. You should forget about switching to the third and even the second speed of the game for several (perhaps tens) hours, until the control over manual distribution of goods and delivery of money becomes muscle memory. Best grenade spots dust 2 is a simple example from the beginning of the game. Farms grow goods and are serviced by a warehouse. The warehouse sends the goods for sale to the airport and to the workshop, where the drug is stored in boxes of vegetables for customs clearance. All the work rests on the shoulders of two poor truck drivers. The author’s work in Paint illustrates this situation:

The artificial intelligence of the drivers, shocked by so many responsibilities, distributes the goods between the outlets incorrectly. Two boxes of opium can go to the warehouse when you need to take 14. A satisfied driver with four boxes leaves the airport when the plane can hold two dozen. Ten boxes are sent from the workshop to the port, which on a cargo ship not filled to the limit immediately set off on a sea voyage for several days. This results in less profit, driver hassle, sales mess and insufficient cash supply to various outlets.

The problem with the distribution of money is solved only manually with the help of lieutenants. They carry “dirty” money first to the residence, and then to “decent” buildings (church, casino) to clean it up. It is very difficult to set up these processes automatically due to the lack of trucks. More products, more points, more money – more problems. Developers from Russia, in which even weak narcotic substances are prohibited in the composition of medicines, seem to suggest to gamers that it is unprofitable and generally dangerous to engage in drug trafficking.

Lieutenants in the current version seem to be mechanics that artificially create problems for the player to maintain interest in Cartel Tycoon… They need to be kept in key points of sale of goods, as well as in cities, where they will most often just … sit. Hired assassins and kidnappers are not required until the fairly advanced stage of the game. Only a few have interesting abilities that help sell goods at a higher price or increase the production speed at 2-3 points within the radius of the lieutenant. The maintenance of the heroes is spent on “clean” money, which may not be enough due to problems with the delivery of “dirty” money, which will lead to discontent, theft and even the murder of the capo – the head of the cartel. It is possible to attach lieutenants with couriers that automatically transport products or money, but they are also required for the local combat system to work. From time to time, competitors will try to squeeze out points of sale. Then several lieutenants with “strength” parameters should go to war.


Trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, I watched the developer stream and difficult person test. Margarita, a sweet girl from the studio, dancing (by the way, to an excellent soundtrack), famously ran dozens of farms and played hundreds of thousands of dollars. All because she was in no hurry, knowing what tasks the game would throw in the future. Cartel Tycoon doesn’t like dashing construction and high speed gameplay at all. The business should grow naturally and slowly with careful manual management. Most of the time the player will spend in the state of Pablo Escobar from the popular meme from the TV series “Narco”. Because production has to be deferred before it can be developed. And money is accumulated before it can be spent. The player only has to wait.

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