Not A Review – Tropico 4

It’s not exactly a new release but I’ve got something of a soft sport for Haemimont Games’ Tropico series.

Tropico 4 sees the return of ‘el presidente’. Find out what I think about it by clicking on.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game’s 3 predecessors, here’s the pitch;

You play as ‘el presidente’, the ruler of a banana republic, and it’s your job to turn your tiny island into a tropical power-house. How you do this is up to you. Become an industrious island producing weapons and jewellery, a haven for tourists or a financial centre built on banks and stock exchanges.

If you’ve played Sim City or anything similar, you have a good idea of how the game plays, with buildings popping up wherever you click. The version I played was on the 360 and as a result the classic issue of games designed for a keyboard and mouse being ported to a controller pop up. It can be fiddly to place buildings close together and you often get a lot of ‘snapping’ occurring, making it tricky to be precise with the placement of your structures.

Of course, it’s not easy as just plopping a bunch buildings down.  With everything you build and do costing money, it’s important to create means of income for your island. Starting off with simple farms and fishing wharfs, you’ll soon be developing, if you choose, factories to produce more expensive goods. Natural resources can be found around your island and are there to be exploited. Natural beauty spots could make a mint if you encourage tourists to visit your land, oil is there to be drilled and mining for gold is not such a bad idea either. Nature doesn’t just sit idly by though. Random events such as earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunamis are there to add another layer of difficulty and strategy.

As well as fighting mother nature, you’ve got to fight the people. Perhaps fight’s the wrong word as I’m sure some of you will play in a manner where you ‘convince’ and liberate the locals. Not me though. Prisons and the military are there to keep protesters off the streets and the worse offenders often mysteriously ‘disappear’.

Not everyone’s a rebel though. You’ve got several ‘types’ of civilian, each of whom have their own particular needs. Some people want to see the island maintain its natural beauty, so get upset whenever you build factories. Others want to keep ‘Tropico for Tropicans’ and will be enraged when foreigners flood in and take the well paid jobs. This balancing act is the main crux of your presidency as there comes a point where you have to commit to a way of dealing with your people. Luckily there’s more than just buildings at your disposal as ‘edicts’ are laws that you can pass to appease the masses. If you find people are starving, announce (and pay for) the ‘Food for the People’ edict to ensure you don’t have starving Tropicans marching towards your palace.

Keeping your people happy isn’t enough as ‘no island is an island’. Is that how the saying goes?

The US and USSR are the two main powers of the Cold War era in which the game is set. Again it’s up to you if you want to support one over the other, though it is possible to keep them both happy and it’s something that’s highly recommended. Pleasing the foreigners allows you to receive ‘care packages’ and discounts on their relevant building types. Export and import rates of goods are also affected by the relationship you have with the rest of the world and whilst the two main powers are the USSR and the USA, the Middle East, Europe and China are available to trade with. Yet more balancing needs to take place as favouring one trade partner over another could lead you into trouble.

The game itself has two main modes. The first being a classic sandbox style game where you’re left to do what you want. Pretty standard fare. The other mode consists of a more structured game where you have 20 scenarios to complete. These scenarios all have their own specially designed map and have a story built around them to give the tasks you’re set some context. These scenarios are pretty enjoyable and do a good job of forcing you out of your comfort zone. For example, one map had me making a lot of money on a relatively nice island.  The map had plenty of oil and gold, so I breezed through it. The following scenario gave me a barren wasteland on which to create an industrious island.

This forced me to get my head around the importing of goods.

This led to me getting into debt repeatedly.

This led to  my trade partners getting angry.

This led to them not wanting to send me their raw materials

This led to me having a barren wasteland full of factories that had no raw materials to work with.

Tricky. Yet satisfying.

It’d be hard to write about Tropico 4 without mentioning Tropico 3. The biggest problem I have with the game is that I don’t see much, if any, difference between the two games. A few new buildings, some new trading partners, but t’s not really enough.

It’s got the air of ‘Tropico3 – Version 2’ about it.

This makes the game difficult to recommend to people who have played Tropico 3 but for everyone else, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re into the Sim City genre and enjoy a good sense of humour within your game, then ‘Tropico 4′ is a pretty good shout.

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