If you’ve played Tropico 3, you’ll know all about this, skip to the conclusion. If not, it’s a city building game based in what might impolitically be called a Banana Republic – a chain of islands loosely known as “Tropico”. You are El Presidente and one island at a time you take on the challenges of running the place in the style you see fit. That can be as a Che Guevara, Augusto Pinochet, François Duvalier or even (while not specifically modelled, but referenced in the game) a Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot or Imelda Marcos. It’s okay because it’s fantasy, you understand.
You build the city providing for the needs of your citizens (or not) while all the while trying to make a profit, siphon off a large chunk of that profit to your Swiss bank account and stay in power by any means necessary.
Ensure the people are fed just enough to be able to work 14-hour days in your sweat shops, have enough medical care that they last at least until they retire and give them somewhere to pray that it’ll all get better someday. Let the people have a modicum of liberty via a state-run TV station and a few pubs, appease the communists by building hovels for the workers, the environmentals by planting prettifying gardens next to your large-scale uranium mines, the militarists by having the biggest army and the eggheads by building a school or something. Crack down on rebel incursions with a secret police force, execute any troublemaking protestors and throw any dissidents, criminals, unemployed or pensioners in the dungeon. Decree all manner of crazy shit, mostly because you can.
If by some miracle, the people do not love you, give them a rousing speech, bribe or eliminate leaders of opposing factions, fix the elections entirely, or even better refuse to hold elections at all. At the same time, strip the island bare of natural resources while leaving a few bits untouched where you can make a load more money off the tourist trade. Everybody* wins!
Or, you can be nice. If you like..want.
Sights and Sounds
Cheery salsa music accompanies your machinations, edicts and murderings – it’s like the end of Dawn of the Dead. Graphics are good but have glitches when you zoom tight in – nothing functionally game-breaking though. Occasional natural disasters have little cut-scenes, but no great special effects.
Stuff that sucks
It’s reasonably easy to get into a cycle of debt you can never recover from, but it’s usually your own stupid fault for building things like colleges and hospitals instead of cigar factories and coffee farms.
Okay, all great so far but…it’s not really that different to Tropico 3. In fact it doesn’t even qualify as a reskin – only a handful of new buildings are added over what you got in Tropico 3: Absolute Power and while it’s only £20.09 in the current Steam sale, it’s hard to recommend it over Tropico 3 Gold for £5.09.
It’s graphically the same (few tweaks) and it does fix some bugs which could mess up a game, but it really is the same game underneath. I think the natural disasters are new. Having said that, I own both and I’m glad I’ve got the latter – the campaign mode, which is what I play it for, is much more entertaining and the in-game hints and missions just make it much more fun to play and easy to get into. It’s just a more cohesive whole, but whether the price difference is worth it is up to you – with a Tropico 3 or 4 demo for free, or the older base game for £3.39 – you can get a taste yourself and decide without spending big.