I study Journalism at uni. So naturally the thought of blending journalism and gaming together is incredibly intriguing to me. That is exactly what GameTheNews does - using its games as a platform to teach players a little something about the real world. NarcoGuerra aims to educate us about the war on drugs that is ongoing right now in Mexico. So just how successful was GameTheNews in their mission?
I'll start by explaining the game. We play as the Chief of Police - apparently our jurisdiction is all of Mexico - as we try to force the various drug cartels out of existence.
The police controlled regions are in blue. Any other colour represent another cartel. The number in each region specifies how much units are currently situated there. There are two stages of play - the first is the Support Stage. The menu on the right shows what you can do in this stage - (from top to bottom) Recruit more units, transfer units to another region, Internal Affairs (which will lower corruption in the force) and Intel which you can use on any cartel region with a question mark.
The Attack Phase is where you unleash your attacks. You click on one of your regions which will inform you of where you can attack. Once you've chose your target, just click it and then a battle will commence.
This is what a battle looks like. Three units from the attacker against up to two units from the defender. The attacks are decided by dice rolls - which leads me to my first issue with the game. Battles are luck-based. Whoever rolls the highest wins, unless it's a draw in which case the defence wins. I'm not a big fan of games in which luck is the major obstacle to success - though I can understand that this game is clearly influenced by board games such as Risk so perhaps board game fans could forgive them a little more for this.
Once your attack phase is over it's time for the Cartel to do their thing. They will recruit units and attack other regions just like anyone else. This represents the very real violence that happens in the Mexican Drug Wars - at least 60,000 people have died since December 2006 when the military joined in an attempt to break up the major cartels.
At the end of some turns there are these reports. Some are story based - such as updates on the elections that take place every five turns.
Some are random reports that can have benefits - such as a cash boost or a boost to attack power - or have a negative impact as shown in the image. We can even get optional missions for some extra cash.
As mentioned, every five turns there is an election. Herrera starts the game in charge and is in full support of the war on drugs. Moralas would rather reduce the street price of drugs by legalising them. You can pledge money to either candidate which will sway the votes.
So, the question remains...was GameTheNews successful in blending news with games? To be honest - yes! Yes they were. The game, although not to my particular tastes, is rather fun - though brutally hard in my experience (which again can be pinned on the fact I don't normally play games like this). The main success of the game however came after I stopped playing. The first thing I did was to look up more information about the war on drugs in Mexico - it will also be the first thing I do once I finish writing this review. GameTheNews apparently mirrored real life events within the story and random events in the game and I'm interested to see the parallels.
It's definitely a unique way of delivering the news. Would I recommend to everyone? Nope. If you are interested in world events, journalism or even just want a fun Risk-style game to play - then this would be a game you'd be interested in.
NarcoGuerra is available on both iOS and Android devices (for 69p) as well as a few digital distributors (cheapest I see is Gamersgate where it's 59p). If you are reading this before the 27th of November 2013 - NarcoGuerra is also available in the current Indie Royale bundle.