Cartel Tycoon Early Access PC Preview

Cartel Tycoon is a nice addition to the genre, and albeit with its controversial setting, it does manage to capture the essence of a superb business simulation.

By RON, Posted 04 Jul 2021

Tycoon games have been making a steady and significant resurgence for the last couple of years; from Two-Point Hospital to Jurassic World Evolution. However, Cartel Tycoon stands out for its very particular and controversial setting. After all, talking about drug trafficking is always risky and tends to raise some brows. Let alone you being the one in charge of making a drug empire prosper and controlling every single aspect of the operation, from growing the illegal crops to shipping them to foreign countries. The concept of “farm-to-table” was never so twisted and literal.

Cartel Tycoon, Early Access, Steam, Preview, Moon Moose, TinyBuild, Indie Game, Action Game, Business Simulation Game, Strategy Video Game, Early Access

First things first, the setting. Cartel Tycoon puts you in charge of a drug operation in a fictional Latin American-inspired country during the ’80s, the golden age of drug trafficking in the region. In this early access build, you get a chunk of the plot in story mode, which will not be spoiled for you in this review, as well as a sandbox mode, the bread, and butter of Tycoon games. Whichever the case, the game tends to behave pretty similar in both instances. The main difference is that story mode is driven by objectives that also teach you the basics of the game but let’s not delve into details regarding the game’s story. Instead, let’s focus on gameplay.

You are the capo, the head of the cartel, and you need to start the cashflow, soon. To do so, you will need to hire lieutenants, people you trust, and whom you will delegate parts of the operation. Although choose carefully and mind their needs and levels of discomfort at all times, because if one of your lieutenants falls out of the line may act out, fail to comply, sabotage your operation, or even put a hit on you, well, on the capo. In the event the main capo dies, that is to say, the character you’ve been controlling so far, the game does not end. Instead, you can choose to promote the remnant lieutenants to be the head of the cartel. The show must go on.

Although the core gameplay is not so different from other tycoon games, the fact is Cartel Tycoon is one of the first games that does not take the cartel theme tongue in cheek or goes to the other extreme, with gritty ultra-violence. Instead, the game sees the drug business as precisely that, a business, and goes into extreme detail to present a realistic way of how money is made in this world. It’s all a process. You see, to have the product, you need to plant it, so you build a plantation. Once your crops are ready, you’ll need to process them to refine them into consumable drugs, so you build a refinery. Then you’ll need to transport them, so you establish a supply line. After that, you’ll need to sell it, so you’ll need to either bribe the authorities at land checkpoints, airports, and marine ports.

Cartel Tycoon, Early Access, Steam, Preview, Moon Moose, TinyBuild, Indie Game, Action Game, Business Simulation Game, Strategy Video Game, Early Access

But you can’t just ship drugs as they are, so you’ll need to smuggle them into other goods; therefore, you’ll need to build or buy a farm to grow vegetables, or a factory to make television in which your drugs will fit perfectly. But that’s not nearly it; after all, dirty money is no good for a large-scale operation. You’ll need to launder it and, to do so, you’ll need to invest in legit businesses, build something good for the community, like Taxi Station, Salsa Club, Churches, etc. You see, it’s all a big wheel with several moving parts in it, and if one of those parts fails everything comes tumbling down like dominoes. In that sense, Cartel Tycoon is an excellent game for resource management enthusiasts.

As in the real world, your cartel will not act with impunity. Aside from establishing and securing efficient and reliable supply lines, you need to deal with three main opposing forces at all times: rival cartels, law enforcement, and politicians. First, the rival cartels. These gangs want the same as you do and have the same resources at their disposal. The problem is there is not nearly enough land or clients for you to cohabitate peacefully, so firefights and feuds over territory are inevitable. If your operation grows big enough it will draw the attention of law enforcement agencies, starting from the ground up with local police to the top, the US Army. For this, Cartel tycoon uses an interesting mechanic based on two gauges: loyalty, which represents how much the public sees your cartel as a source of good, and terror, which is the exact opposite. The more terror you produce, you’ll be facing the police more often. Not only in the form of firefights and raids but with more subtle ways, like investigations and asset seizing. Finally, to help make your life easier, you need to get the mayors of the cities in your pocket. Build desirable buildings, have a good image, perhaps give the mayor a cash tip, and the city will be your new playground.


Cartel Tycoon is a nice addition to the genre, and albeit with its controversial setting, it does manage to capture the essence of how an illegal business, like drug trafficking, might work, at least on the paper. The game is still in early access and, while it still lacks a proper release date, it might be fully released later this year.

Also, check the Cartel Tycoon Tips & Tricks.

Sarwar Ron, NoobFeed
Twitter | GamesCreed

comments powered by Disqus


General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): TinyBuild
Developer(s): Moon Moose
Genres: Simulation
Themes: Business Simulation, Strategy
Release Date: 2021-12-31

View All

Popular Articles