Narcos: Rise of the Cartels Game Review

Judging by the vector of development of the genre of tactical strategies, the mindset of most developers working in this direction has recently narrowed down to a simple definition: “We say” tactical strategy “- we mean XCOM.” There are a lot of games that use the laconic rules of the last parts of this series, but the tactics that follow the sometimes confusing, but much more realistic principles of Jagged Alliance and 7.62, had to move.

Instead of whining once again on the topic “When will they make a normal “jaga”?” (the last attempt to return to Arulco, let me remind you, failed again), let’s take a better look at Narcos: Rise of the Cartels. There is also a Latin American jungle, a war with the government and mercenaries, but the game itself, following the fashion, is made in the image and likeness of the famous XCOM.

Medellin Robin Hood

Narcos didn’t have much publicity and excitement: those who are “not in the know” could well have missed the next development of Kuju. Previously, the British studio released unremarkable games like Risk: Urban Assault and Powerstar Golf. It’s a strange choice to leave the development of tactical strategy for a fairly well-known series to people who have no experience in the genre. But, apparently, the bosses of Netflix and the publisher Curve Digital knew better.

Rise of the Cartels tells about the beginning of truly epoch-making events for Colombia at the end of the last century: Pablo Escobar has not yet become one of the most influential people in Latin America and is only at the beginning of a long journey that will eventually lead him to the pinnacle of criminal fame and power. Everything will end, however, quite naturally: death in battle with special forces and a modest grave on the outskirts of Medellin.

It should be understood that the game is based on the series, and not on the real story: the appearance and replicas of the main characters, the plot, even the main musical theme – all this is taken straight from the first season of Narcos. This is done quite professionally – small videos between missions, illustrated with frames from the series.

are set in the right way, and the models of movie characters themselves are quite recognizable. However, sometimes the characters switch from luxurious Spanish to broken English with a deliberate accent, and instead of the real names and surnames of some of the main characters, their nicknames are used throughout the game. For example, Pablo himself is preferred to be called El Patron, and his right hand Gustavo is Cousin, although operative Steve Murphy remains himself. Apparently, this is due to some legal subtleties.

Narcos has two story campaigns: in addition to the Medellin cartel, the DEA did not ignore. The brave guys from the American drug control have their own tasks, which in the end come down to the capture or destruction of Escobar. For whom to play and in what order – the choice is yours, the campaigns are not related to each other in terms of gameplay, and you can go through them independently of each other.

The plot and “exterior” – from Netflix, the basis – from XCOM. What could be better for creating at least a good tactical strategy? As it turned out, even with such a handicap, you can spoil everything without having experience in the genre and not understanding what the players are waiting for.


As a rule, tactical strategy is characterized by the presence of two layers of gameplay: conditional base management and direct battles. A secret underground shelter, like in XCOM, or a modest stylization of working with a laptop from Jagged Alliance – regardless of the form, the essence of the global mode is the same: squad development, providing the necessary infrastructure for fighters and support staff, map overview, resource management, and much more.

In Narcos, this component is simplified as much as possible. There is only one resource – money that can be spent on hiring new fighters and access to tasks. Campaigns are a linear chain of a dozen missions, diluted with several “side” ones that open access to the next story chapter. The fighters do not have both visual customization and the ability to change equipment – it is strictly tied to the class, which is also just nothing here. It’s good that they left the leveling of skills and the final death of soldiers on a mission, which is already standard for the genre, otherwise everything would be completely sad.

The reasons for such primitiveness are unclear: laziness, lack of time, inability to clearly embody something deeper in the gameplay than this frankly poor set of features? But there are so many interesting things: dynamic missions that depend on the current state of affairs in the criminal business, wars with other cartels, managing coca plantations and drug factories; for the DEA – interception of powder supply channels to the United States, work with informants, the ability to pit cartels against each other with the help of undercover work …

There is nothing of this here: it is not interesting to follow the development of the detachment, there is no personal history of what is happening, with its heroes and dramas, unlike the same

Jagged Alliance or Xenonauts. The death of a veteran to whom you managed to become attached was a real tragedy there, but here it was just an annoying hindrance with the need to spend money on buying a new soldier, which already has nowhere to go (and if they run out, then the generous El Patron will throw more). There is simply nothing to “play in your head”: you can’t reward soldiers, give them nicknames or change equipment – just pump them.

We cling to the last straw: the fights themselves between narcos and DEA, probably, should be quite good, given the family ties of Narcos with XCOM? Relax – it’s even worse here.