PREVIEW: Cartel Tycoon Early Access

PREVIEW: Cartel Tycoon Early Access

Perhaps I will have more of a future as a drug lord. Jokes aside this is a nice RTS game!

Upcoming: Steam EA
Type: Singleplayer
Genre: RTS, City Builder,
Strategy, Economy
Developer: Moon Moose
Publisher: tinyBuild
Release date: Early 2021


This is an early access version of a game called Cartel Tycoon. The name basically already explains what it’s all about. It’s basically a new city builder/strategy game with a rather “illegal” setting as you’re the Boss of a cartel and with diplomatic and violent ideas you’re basically trying to grow your organization. Keep in mind that Cartel Tycoon is currently in Early Access and not available in the Steam store yet. a free Demo is available for Steam.

Gameplay of a new campaign basically showing the basics.

I am not the biggest fan of City building/Economy games but this one was a pleasant surprise!


As mentioned RTS games aren’t really my cup of coffee which means that I usually try to avoid them. But with this game, I had a sudden urge to play it, probably because I watched the entire Narcos series in one day and wanted to see how good of a drug lord I would be if I decided to lead a cartel. Jokes aside, this game looks and plays very nicely, let’s take a better look!


RTS and the tutorial:
I will actually with one small thing that I actually did not really like. The tutorial is pretty short and doesn’t really explain anything, for example building a warehouse is easy and that is what the tutorial asks you to do, it then proceeds to inform you that you do have to connect that specific warehouse with the road in order to make it work out. What the tutorial does not explain is the fact that you do have to monitor what farm supplies what warehouse and what type of goods you’re producing. In all honesty, this does more harm than good in an RTS game. You are on your own when it comes to farming and upgrading, or perhaps delivery of the goods. Truth be told, the devs could have done a better job at helping the player out at first. Now other than that it feels like a good old, yet effective RTS game experience. The map is divided by many cities and each city does have a Mayor/ Leader. Your main goal is to earn their respect by doing various tasks that will be presented on your lower left side of your screen. Lastly, I should note that violence isn’t really the main theme of the game. It does not glorify the violent aspect of that lifestyle. Obviously, you do have some options. You can send a specialized member of your cartel to burn some buildings from the other cartels, you can even command another one of your members to assassinate an enemy. These are the main options when it comes to violence. One last occasion of violence occurs when you’re out of legal money which means that you cannot pay anything. The result comes with the game over screen where the game explains that you tried to flee the country but got shot close to the border.

You can constantly hire new members and level them up for the to climb the ranks.

Economy and Efficiency:
The statistical aspects of the game are definitely the strong point of the game. I really loved the multiple options when it comes to illegal money laundry. There are quite a lot of buildings that do get the job done, going from placebo Taxi offices to Jewelry stores. To go from raw cannabis to legal cash is a long journey. First up you have to grow raw product on a cannabis farm, then a warehouse takes the raw hemp and stores it. If a lab is within reach the warehouse will then bring the cannabis to the lab to dry it. You can then theoretically ship it via plane, however, not other means (land yes but not sea) as the police might confiscate the products and you cannot transport very much. So then you have to hide the product somewhere between vegetables, coffee, or spices which I do consider a very deep and interesting aspect of the game. Basically hiding a small amount of drugs in a box with coffee and smart things like that. These act as storage multipliers with 3, 5, and 6 units respectively. After completing a tour the drug money will be stored at the airport, harbor, or border post. You then have to transport the money to a bank to launder it. Then it is yours to do with as you please. Keep in mind that in each area you do get highlighted efficiency areas and combined with the efficiency ratings from the buildings you can achieve a pretty tactical system of production.

Other aspects:

  • Hiring multiple members with different key abilities will help you a lot in the long run!
  • I loved the fact that you’re allowed to rotate buildings to your preference.
  • Another nice addition is the fact that you can buy activities in order to boost your social status. For example, a small Church activity dedicated to you.


The story begins with Hector Alejandro Vijo coming to you the boss called Felix Vijo. He reports that they have been attacked by the enemy cartel, many of your available members didn’t survive and only he and Vanessa Diaz Venji were able to avoid death. These are the only things that occur. Everything else just feels like a sandbox RTS game and I am totally fine with that. Your goal is basically to become the strongest cartel in the country, simple as that.

The Vijo family having a discussion!

Graphics / Audio:

The Visuals aren’t anything new. It looks like a traditional RTS/City building game. On the contrary, it does look like a nice and tropical Latin country.


Here is a view of the starting area on the map.

Once your Boss dies due to financial problems you have the choice of continuing with another member as your boss!

Audio / Soundtrack:
The audio is pretty basic and very little as well. The explosions do have a nice punch to them and the cars do sound like traditional high-revving 80’s vehicles but other than that it’s nothing new. On the other hand gentlemen, the soundtrack is truly magnificent. There were moments where I wanted to stand up and try my dancing skills and dance some SALSA! Well…I guess I made my point, the soundtrack is a fresh breath of air.


The minimum/ recommended specs were pretty impressive in my opinion. Let’s be honest, a GTX 960 is a bare minimum? That’s pretty high. Despite all of that the game worked flawlessly with my computer.


  • AMD Ryzen 7 3700 X, 32GB Ram, Nvidia RTX 2070 Super:

    I was running the game with Maxed settings on 1080p resolution while constantly hitting close to 100fps.


  • AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32GB Ram, Nvidia RTX 2070 Super:

    CartelTycoon benchmark completed, 32360 frames rendered in 318.719 s
    Average framerate : 101.5 FPS
    Minimum framerate : 0.2 FPS
    Maximum framerate : 135.9 FPS
    1% low framerate : 0.2 FPS
    0.1% low framerate : 0.2 FPS

Bugs / Glitches / Crashes:
In around 7 hours of building my FLAWLESS drug empire in Latin America, I experienced no bugs, glitches or game-ending crashes at all. Truly a stable game considering it is still in Early Access.


Despite the game being in Early Access I will have to say that the stability and performance are pretty solid. I hope the dev team works on making the game work with slower CPUs/ GPUs and obviously tackle the entire tutorial thing by adding small text-boxes that explain what each action/ change does to your financial/ production eco-system. Personally, I would keep this game on my wishlist as it surely does have a lot of potential.

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December 2020

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