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Cartel Tycoon Review

Cartel Tycoon

Release: March 13, 2024
Publisher: tinybuild
Developer: Moon Moose
Genre: Reviews, XBox One ReviewsXbox Series X Reviews
PEGI: 18


Worth a Play About Rating
8 - Gameplay
7 - Video
6 - Audio

Cartel Tycoon, now available on Xbox Series X/S, invites players on a morally dubious yet undeniably captivating journey to the top of the drug cartel hierarchy. Channeling the gritty essence of 80s and 90s narco culture, this management sim offers a complex and often challenging experience. While the subject matter may raise ethical concerns, Cartel Tycoon injects a unique twist into the genre, but with some caveats for Xbox players.

Cartel Tycoon throws you headfirst into the heart of a complex strategy game, demanding mastery over resource management, intricate production chains, and navigating the treacherous world of rival cartels. Your ascent begins in humble fields, cultivating coca crops and establishing refineries to process cocaine. From these unassuming origins, you’ll orchestrate a vast distribution network, engage in the delicate art of bribing officials, and inevitably clash with other cartels vying for dominance. The complexity ramps up steadily as you delve into researching new technologies, meticulously manage finances, and maintain a carefully crafted public image.

One of the game’s strengths lies in its surprisingly smooth transition to the Xbox controller. Menus are designed for intuitive navigation, and crucial information remains readily accessible at all times. An unexpected benefit of the console version is the fantastic visual presentation. Witnessing your burgeoning cocaine empire come to life – with a steady stream of trucks transporting product and planes taking off for distant lands – offers a strangely satisfying sense of accomplishment.


Cartel Tycoon goes beyond the simple pursuit of wealth. Reputation plays a critical role in your success. You can either be a ruthless tyrant, crushing dissent with an iron fist, or a charismatic leader who invests in the local community, winning their support. Each approach carries its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Maintaining good relations with local authorities is paramount, as raids and crackdowns can cripple your operations. The game boasts a branching narrative with consequences tied directly to your choices. However, the narrative itself feels somewhat shallow. The story campaigns function more like extended tutorials, and the characters lack the depth needed to truly resonate with the player. The real thrill lies in building your empire from the ground up and overcoming challenges in the sandbox or survival modes.

While the core gameplay translates effectively to Xbox, there are areas where the console version feels like a direct port from PC. The text can be quite small, especially on TVs that aren’t 4K. While the menus are navigable with a controller, some require more scrolling than feels ideal. Additionally, some players might find the tutorial lacking in crucial information, especially for newcomers to the genre. These shortcomings can create a steeper learning curve for console players compared to their PC counterparts.


The controversial subject matter is a crucial element to consider. Cartel Tycoon doesn’t shy away from the violence and devastating societal impact of the drug trade. While it doesn’t glorify these aspects, some players might find the theme inherently distasteful.

Cartel Tycoon goes beyond the traditional management sim formula by incorporating elements of social management and reputation building. Your leadership style impacts your relationship with the local populace, law enforcement, and even rival cartels. Investing in communities can generate goodwill, leading to reduced police scrutiny and a more reliable workforce. However, neglecting the needs of the people can lead to unrest and potentially attract the attention of law enforcement. This interplay between social responsibility and ruthless ambition adds a layer of complexity that keeps gameplay fresh.

The game also features a research system that allows you to unlock new technologies and production methods. This includes advancements in agriculture, refining techniques, and transportation logistics. Investing in research is crucial for remaining competitive in the global drug trade. Researching new weapons and security measures plays a vital role in fending off attacks from rivals and law enforcement.

Cartel Tycoon boasts significant replay ability thanks to its multiple game modes.

Cartel Tycoon offers a compelling and intricate management experience on Xbox. Building a drug empire is surprisingly engaging, and the game’s strategic depth keeps you hooked for hours on end. The console port is functional but could benefit from some UI tweaks and a more robust tutorial. If you’re seeking a unique and challenging management sim and are comfortable with the mature themes, Cartel Tycoon is worth checking out. However, if you’re new to the genre or find the subject matter off-putting, you might be better off exploring a different strategy game.



Article By

blank Kevin Austin has been in gaming journalism in one way or another since the launch of the Nintendo Gamecube. Married and father of 3 children he has been gaming since the ripe age of 6 when he got his first NES system and over 30 years later he is still gaming almost daily. Kevin is also co-founder of the Play Some Video Games (PSVG) Podcast network which was founded over five years ago and is still going strong. Some of his favorite gaming series includes Fallout and Far Cry, he is a sucker for single player adventure games (hence his big reviews for Playstation), and can frequently be found getting down in one battle royale or another. If it's an oddball game, odds are he's all about it.

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