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Don’t Go Abusing The Product – Cartel Tycoon Early Access – PC Review

Time to sift through that bag of money and give it a good ol’ clean.. Cartel Tycoon Early Access now available on Steam.

Cartel Tycoon Early Access Review
Source: Steam

Since playing the Cartel Tycoon Early Access (pre-Early Access) (if that’s a thing), I spent a few dog years in the game, rising the ranks only to be topped for incompetence and allowing the filth to confiscate my dope. Ah, the life of a crim.

Now that Cartel Tycoon is available via Steam, nobody else has to go through that awful 90s like verification system to play the game. Instead, click play, choose your settings and begin. Only the buggers over at Moon Moose have gone and added a host of new stuff not in the first build. Monsieur, with these features, you are spoiling us.

The doomed campaign is good doomed as it’s inevitable you’ll die; there’s also a sandbox mode as before, with multiplayer and survival coming soon. But wait: even more! There are additional cutscenes with some wicked illustrations and a score that is the South American equivalent of The Sopranos. Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law.

You begin by replying to an ad in the paper. Not the ‘bubbly personality with a GSOH’ one, but the mysterious one looking for a different kind of partner. It’s a bit absurd to become initiated in the cartel that way, but better than Tinder, I guess. Still, that’s Cartel Tycoon’s MO, so let’s go with it.

Cartel Tycoon Early Access - Dead dirty
Dead dirty. Source: Steam

When starting, you’re tasked with managing a small percentage of the business and reaching out to more extensive networks and distribution. You’ll need a front to launder any of the dirty money you make, and believe me, it’s a lot. So, you set up legit businesses within the town to launder a percentage of it, running campaigns and speeding up the process.

Another way to expand your network is through bribing officials, taking over rival territories and building your army by hiring a hierarchy of soldiers, levelling up their skills and ranks. This, in turn, improves efficiency, but the downside is they demand more money for their services. One way to counter this is to place your higher ranking staff in charge, unlocking a few other options.

Cartel Tycoon Early Access is essentially a management game but has city building aspects, allowing you to place structures on the rather pretty maps. I may have mentioned it before, but it has a Tropico feel to it, accompanied with some great music, that when you aren’t being raided by the police or on lockdown, it’s quite a pleasant experience. Given that you’re working in organised crime. Don’t judge me.

Cartel Tycoon Early Access - It's over
It’s over… Source: Steam

Having played the pre-Early Access a while back, I invested a reasonable amount of time making cash. There is an abundance of it in the game, but you have to launder it into clean money to make it a lucrative business. Besides the new additions to the game, I’m already familiar with the key mechanics, so I was surprised at some of the comments while looking at the early reviews on Steam.

‘There’s too much cash!’. Well, that’s what happened with the cartel. The bulk of us have to rely on hearsay and movies for an insight into how the cartel operates, and Netflix can only educate so much. What has to be the understanding is that these families did have too much cash to deal with, constantly juggling how to filter it.

If we’re using the media as our thesis, you may have seen the academic piece starting Tom Cruise called American Made. Based on a true story (how much is accurate, you can take with a pinch of salt), there were scenes where they were filling any sort of container with cash as there was no place to hide it. There’s an element of truth to this, do your own research.

Cartel Tycoon Early Access - This could be yours
This could be yours. Source: Steam

Anyway, as a game, the strategic element is to manage your empire by keeping tabs on production and filtering the dirty money. When making too much money and the cops are raiding, why not shut down the operation? It’s a real-time strategy, so it happens in real-time. If sitting back and watching the spectacle from afar is more your thing, perhaps invest in an aquarium?

I’ve never slept with anyone at Moon Moose or tinyBuild (hey ladies – there’s a contact link in the navbar x), but I get Cartel Tycoon. Well, as much as I can comprehend. It’s a work of fiction, inspired by actual events and can be fun once you cut your teeth. Admittedly, starting is one of the best bits but equally demanding. If you’re thinking of fast-tracking to El Chappo and sitting back, again: aquarium.

Cartel Tycoon Early Access was pretty well polished the first time around. Recommending an Early Access game can be a bit iffy as they’re in the development stage, but for the price and the current discount, do a bit more research as it’s an enjoyable game. Weigh up the positive and negative and make your own mind up. I dare you. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a solid entry.


  • Live it up as a kingpin.
  • Minor city-building aspects.
  • RTS elements means no sitting back.
  • Lovely visuals.
  • Even better soundtrack.


  • Police raids a little too much at times.
  • What to do with all that cash?!
  • Easy to lose your best soldiers.
  • Can get into a bit of a slump, repeating the same thing.
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