Narcos Rise of the Cartels for Nintendo Switch | Review

Narcos Rise of the Cartels

Warning: Not for children.

Now that that’s out the way, Narcos Rise of the Cartels is a tactical turn-based game based on Narcos, the multi-award-winning Netflix series from Gaumont. Developed by Kuju, Narcos Rise of the Cartels follows the first season of the TV series through two distinct campaigns that offer vastly different perspectives on the infamous 80s drug war. Should you help build the Medellin Cartel’s rapidly expanding narcotics empire under the watchful gaze of El Patrón, or fight against them tooth and nail alongside Agent Murphy as the DEA?

I’ll start this off by saying I’ve never watched the TV show at all, but the game itself looked rather interesting based on the premise that this is a real time, turn-based strategy game in which you don’t have to play as the good guys. Of course the story will probably be familiar to anyone who has watched the show, but since I haven’t, I’m not sure how accurate the game follows it. I will say though that the whole war on drugs is quite familiar to me though especially since I grew up in Miami during the 80’s. I remember how you couldn’t go a day without hearing something about drugs on the news back then. The story in the game ain’t bad though and seems to be your typical story about the war on drugs.

My main focus however will be on gameplay and just how good this game is considering that a lot of movie and television based games aren’t exactly what I would call great most of the time. However, Narcos Rise of the Cartels looks to be an exception with some solid gamepaly elements that require strategy and planning. The game isn’t easy though and you’ll probably die a whole bunch before you get a handle on the mechanics.

The game consists of multiple missions with mission objectives you must complete. Missions require that you choose a squad of five or less and also require that you have enough funds to begin the operation. Of course you will need to choose soldiers and agents from your roster to join your squad and if you don’t have anyone, you’ll have to hire them. Hiring them takes money and you’ll gain money as you complete operations and earn funding from the government. You gain money with each mission you complete.

Narcos Rise of the Cartels

Speaking of missions, this is where the meat and potatoes of the game are. The game works like this, the start of the game begins with you placing  your agents in a deployment zone. Once that’s done, you start off by moving one of your agents. Depending on what kind of agent or soldier it is, they can move a certain amount of spaces on the field. This is shows as a series of blocks. You can only move one agent each turn and when you’re done, it’s the enemies turn. They move around the same way. You keep doing this until you get close to an enemy and then have the option to try and shoot them. The enemy takes damage and depending on what happens, you also have the option to reload, revive some health, or even move if your first action was to shoot. Basically it’s back and forth until one of the teams gets wiped out.

Narcos Rise of the Cartels

This is basically a strategy game so you have to take into consideration stuff like what spaces can give you cover, how much ammo you have, what weapon your agent of soldier is using, and also what the enemy is using. It’s hard to explain in words, but this is all turn based and you really need to think about each move. Think of it like a game of chess, but deadlier. Also, did I mention that if one of your players on the squad dies, you can’t use them anymore? You’ll have to hire new soldiers and agents to replace the ones that are gone.

That’s pretty much the gist of Narcos Rise of the Cartels. This game is not for the faint of heart and isn’t your run of the mill action shooter. Again, it requires a tremendous amount of skill and a tiny bit of luck because you don’t really know how the enemy is going to move. You can only hope the moves you make are the right ones.

Narcos Rise of the Cartels

By the way, I did mention that you can choose either the side of the DEA or the Cartel, and you can. You just have to complete some DEA only missions first before it gives you that choice.

With that said, I’m really enjoying Narcos Rise of the Cartels even though I’ve never watched a single episode of the show. The game does a good job of telling a compelling story so I don’t think you even need to watch the show if you haven’t. Narcos Rise of the Cartels is the perfect game for anyone who loves challenges and strategy based games, just keep your kids away from it until they’re old enough.


Received game from developer and/or publisher for coverage purposes.

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