Years ago a little game named Dope Wars was the rage at my high school. You’d buy and sell drugs all while evading the police. It was crude, simple and fun, with the added taboo value of playing a game about narcotics. Dope Wars was a variant of the original Drugwars model made back in 1984, and it was a massive hit among my friends and a major annoyance to my teachers.
Fast forward to 2009 and GTA: Chinatown Wars hit our consoles with its own version of this drug tycoon minigame. I found myself slinging pills and powders a lot more than I was actually playing the story. It made me wonder why no-one has really capitalised on this niche market of the tycoon genre. Is it because of the subject? Drugs are a reality of life as much as death, but with every ten thousand games released that contain violence we’d see only a flicker of a mention of weed, cocaine, heroin, and high-fructose corn syrup. It’s not like it’s a subject people hate. We all love Trainspotting, Scarface, and lately the wildly popular Breaking Bad. It’s an interest people have, so why not take a shot at it?
Basement, by HalfBus studios has decided to take that shot. With a drug manufacture and distribute tycoon. You play as an invisible man in charge, hiring ‘cooks’ and ‘heavies’ to both make and protect your drugs. Labs are built in an ant-farm style way as you dig through the earth to expand your illegal enterprise. Once the goods are made trucks will travel across the map delivering your hard-made narcotics to local dealers. But the fuzz are onto you, with raids on both your base and your dealer’s buildings you need to take action and send your strongmen over to defend or attack. Spreading out your business will require you to occupy empty warehouses and gas stations, but rival gangs and corrupt police need to be dealt with before that can happen.
The game is in Early Access and so far so good with the current build. You are rather limited with your options of rooms and drugs, and the game is heavily unbalanced in favour of the AI police who will raid you constantly and ruin your perfect little criminal world. It’s not super expensive, but gameplay resembles more of a demo than an Early Access game. I recommend keeping an eye on it and waiting for the release in 6-8 months unless you want to be actively part of the Beta community. The finished game promises a lot more features and events, so hopefully we can see a ‘breakfast mode‘.