Welcome back to Tropico friends! The smash hit series developed by Limbic Entertainment and published by Kalypso Media releases their sixth installment into the series. While I’m very late to the series, only having gotten into with their previous installment, I was immediately hooked by the city builder planner as well as the very tongue in cheek dialogue of the various characters. What’s best of all is that you get to be the leader of your very own island nation, full of totally loyal (not true) and trusting (because they don’t have a choice) citizens. So what’s new for longtime fans and the hooks for newcomers alike, much like in Tropico, El Presidente [that’s me in this instance] will give you all the answers you need!
At it’s core Tropico is a city planner and builder, but unlike other city builders which generally have all of their resources revealed at the start of the game to allow you to plan out your city to utmost efficiency. However, that’s not the case for this game as you must not only deal with making certain that everyone is happy, or so oppressed they can’t tell the difference, so you remain in power. In addition, you also need to somehow build a functional city on a resource strangled island or archipelago, with uneven terrain and just enough room to swing a cat…provided you can pay the cat swinging tax.
To add an extra layer of difficulty, there are hidden resources on the island. Unlike similar games like City Builder where you can see where the bulk of resources are to mine for later, in this one resources aren’t revealed until the appropriate age is unlocked. Meaning if you’re looking for a pile of uranium and it’s under an idealic community then you have a problem, well your people also have a problem, but that’s no concern for El Presidente. His concern is the mountain of radioactive money rocks that his people are blocking with their annoying houses. Now he must choose between either making his people unhappy and homeless or having money. There are similar situations that also occur especially as you progress through the different ages and unlock new and more advanced resources. Actually forcing you into harder choices like making food for your island or resource production.
A final important aspect of gameplay is dealing with the various factions, both on and off the island. While the different off island factions are mostly used to advance from one era to the next, they still offer useful cash influxes for when you overstretch your construction budget. The on island factions are key to properly playing the game. In the previous version, there wasn’t as many options to increase your standing with them despite using edicts or building some buildings that made one happy while the other would lower their standing. There are now a slough of new missions that can increase the standing with certain factions by building certain buildings. Other times however, you’ll have the option of accepting a quest from two different groups and suffer relations by denying one or even both of their requests. Planning ahead will secure your election…if you want to do it the hard way that is. You could always arrest them making it hard to run the company from a deep dark cell, nothing is off limits for El Presidente!
There are other nuances to the game, but these are the biggest interactions for the game. Plus I need to leave something for you to discover on your own as you play.
Graphics and Art
When I first got into Tropico I was impressed by the high rendered graphics and the attention to detail in that you could select individual citizens. That trend remains unbroken in the new game as well. Many of the assets from the previous games have been reused and fans are no doubt going to recognize the country house and plantations. They have gotten newer progression assets this time around though, with a player able to zoom in and see some highly rendered plants as opposed to green blobs representing the plants. The Palace, the center piece of your island paradise has the most noticeable upgrade with various frescoes and attachments rather than just being a large block building at the center of your starting town.
Even the photos of the various advisors and party leaders haven’t seen much of an upgrade, maybe the photos are slightly clearer than they were in the past, but I can’t see it on my monitor. So it’s not something that I’m able to comment on for the game. But apart from the palace, there hasn’t been too many changes giving a recognizable feel to veteran Tropico players letting them slide back into familiar picturesque scenes.
Something that the previous game struggled with, in my opinion was a lack of replayability. Especially outside of the single player campaign. In Tropico 5, the only real difference between the story and the sandbox, was a lack of any real direction to the game. Either could be made harder or easier with a few simple clicks either making economics harder or just having more natural disasters hit the island causing resources to be funneled into rebuilding infrastructure.
In the new game, there is still the single player campaign where the player gets to advance through the different eras and build up their island. However, this only applies to the first map available for play. The other 15 come with different rules and challenges for beating the map. My favorite one to play thus far is the chocolate island campaign, if only because it was the first one that I noticed and tried out. With 16 different maps and multiple ways to modify existing strategy, the lifespan of the game will last quite a while, even without adding extra DLC or mods from the community.
I actually found it really hard to have a complaint about this game, that was actually not something designed as part of it. The game does have a pretty steep learning curve for first time players with everything that a player needs to juggle to keep the game just going. But that’s less of an issue and something I know several players find appealing to the game as it separates it from other games in the same genre. While there weren’t as many changes from this game and the previous iteration, I’d argue that the game actually doesn’t need it. After all, what hasn’t burned down from a fire doesn’t need to be fixed. A stable game, and a great experience for building management players or just anyone looking for a fun replayable game.
It’s available through brick and mortar vendors, as well as Steam and directly from the Kalypso store and will go live on March 29th. But I’ve gotta get back to my own game. Giant money swimming pools don’t fill themselves after all, you also need a little bit of human rights violations too. Until next time.