Oh look, another perfectly good city management simulator based on a popular TV franchise. But while Breaking Bad: Empire Business changes nothing of the formula in its repackaging of this product, that won't stop it being addictive for fans of the show and genre.
Your first hit is free
Free-to-play gaming's tactics are sometimes likened to those of drug dealers but - while I usually avoid such obvious use of the metaphor - with Breaking Bad: Empire Business it seems a fitting theme.
So yes, your first hit is free - just see if you like it. Everything is easy, quick, and free at first. You can enjoy starting your business empire, building your cook houses and chemical plants on one side of the city, while managing with your car wash business fronts and security firms on the other.
Here in lies a problem however, as in this current soft launch version of the game you can’t destroy buildings. Thus, if you build the wrong structure, you can find your supply chain throttled until you unlock extra territory.
The early game also lets you get a free start on building your team of specialists. This crew of skilled individuals prove the backbone of your action activities. Tapping on their icons in your city allows them to run missions to net you extra bonuses, you can place them in buildings to improve output, and assign them to cars so you can send them out in raiding parties to attack other players.
Here again the game is showing teething issues, with some character icons appearing off the map and locations on the world map proving unresponsive.
Once you’re hooked
Once you are used to building your infrastructure quickly and getting a steady stream of specialists coming in, everything starts to slow down. Whereas previously buildings and upgrades would take ten minutes, suddenly taking 30, 90, 120 minutes just to upgrade.
But waiting for timers to tick down is the least of your problems. First you may find that you need to have other buildings at a certain level before you can start to upgrade. Want your compound at level 7? Then you better hope your junkyard and security office are also at the required level… leaving you with a chain of three or four hours of upgrades before you can even start on the building you want. Plus you need the right resources, if not you have to wait while your production line converts supply to product, sells it for dirty cash, and then launders it for clean cash.
Or you could just pay and make all of those painful withdrawal symptoms go away. The overriding currency is Wealth, and while you can slowly earn this through play, it is far easier to buy it. And when you are itching to retaliate against an attack from a neighboring empire, the temptation to pay can be unbearable.
Not quite the hard stuff
Okay, don’t get me wrong, in its current soft launch state, Breaking Bad: Empire Business is not as insidious as the drug metaphor may make it sound – providing you are patient. And it looks like a nice little distraction to play while you re-watch your favorite show. However, all that could still go wrong if its bugs aren’t ironed out and if the developer, Phase One, decide to further increase the game's dependence on in-app purchases.