Written by Mike Deneen Saturday, 05 November 2011 11:00
The beauty of simulation and construction management games is that they allow you to play the role of a God-like entity, who, with a bird’s eye view, can build and rule over a city or an empire any way that you see fit. Games such as Civilzation, Alpha Centauri and SimCity allow the player to use their creativity in a way like no other game allows. Cities are constructed, the needs of citizens are attended to, empires rise, and sometimes there is even a bit of silliness.
However, these games never seem to be terribly specific. Sometimes, you may find yourself wandering aimlessly through a session, without having a clear cut goal to achieve. A game like Tropico 4, however, is a completely different story.
In the Tropico universe, the player takes the role of "El Presidente," the leader of a fictional tropical island, presumably in the Caribbean. (Think Cuba.) The game is set around the Cold War onwards, with your rule beginning in 1950, and features many motifs such as totalitarianism, worker’s rights, economics, and political fraud. Despite these rather hardline issues, the game never really takes itself too seriously, often employing tongue-in-cheek humor to deal with heavy political topics.
Since this was my first experience with any of the Tropico games, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am a big fan of the city/empire building genre, ranging from Sim City, to Civilization, to Ceaser. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. Tropico 4 offers a wide range of options but doesn’t get bogged down with super complex tasks or choices, which can happen in Civilization and SimCity. Likewise, it doesn’t pretend to be serious at all, which can offer some comic relief that other city building simulation games lack.
While it may be easier than other city building games, there are many options to be mindful of when playing Tropico 4. Although you are a totalitarian ruler of a 3rd world tropical nation, you must be mindful of the needs, wants, and desires of your citizens or else you will be dealing with constant rebellions. These citizens are divided into multiple factions, each with their own demands. Structures, foreign policy, and edicts will affect how each of these factions perceives El Presidente during your rule. Additionally, you can attempt to bribe, arrest, kidnap or assassinate any of your citizens, including those leading groups who are beginning to cause alarm on your tropical paradise.
Tropico makes it a lot easier to make money, as opposed to Civilization or SimCity. You can build specific buildings to harvest the raw resources of your island, such as lumber, bananas, fish, corn, cattle, and much more. Excess resources can be traded to foreign powers such as the USA, the USSR, the Middle East, Europe, and China. These goods can also be refined at canning factories or other buildings, to create jobs for your citizens, as well as more profit for your island nation.
Tropico 4 is best suited for the 20 scenarios that the game offers. In each map, a player is given an island country to complete mission goals, such as bringing in more trade money, increasing the population, or just attempting to make the island a better place. All of these situations offer unique challenges and are an extremely fun way to play the game!
Because this is supposed to take place in a Cuba-like country, there are also under-the-table, "shady" political things to do. As mentioned before, you are able to imprison, kill, or bribe citizens. In addition, you can select edicts, which will take some funds, and put them into your Swiss Bank account. Deals with foreign powers will also benefit El Presidente directly and not so much the nation. Likewise, players can find their own creative ways to impose their will upon their citizens.
Tropico 4 is not a game that will offer you the depth that Civilization V will, but that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, you just need a game to not bog you down with a plethora of tasks, or a game to offer you a little bit of laughs. For those looking for a game that offers a lighter, yet challenging experience, Tropico 4 is worth a look. This game is perfect for those wannabe dictators out there who don’t want to go through the trouble of actually becoming a totalitarian head of state.
You can pick up Tropico 4 for the PC this weekend on Steam on a very special sale, or the recently released version on Xbox 360 for $49.99 at Amazon.