Should I Buy? – Tropico


Now how many times have you been conquering Japan, stopping terrorists, slaying dragons or engaged in an epic space battle in a game and thought to yourself ‘Boy, what I really want is a ledger of economical statistics right now’. Yeah, I thought so. Still, the genre of city-building games like Sim City has found a home on the PC for decades. Tropico is a rather unique entry into this niche, as it puts you in the role of ‘El Presidente’, ruler of a tiny Caribbean island.

You can bring a whole new meaning to the term 'Banana Republic'

The point is to effectively manage the limited resources of your small domain to build a thriving economy and fulfil your chosen victory conditions. Unlike Sim City where your major concerns are zoning and a proper road layout, Tropico allows a lot of customisation and flexibility in your economy without making such micromanagement necessary.

Even before you begin the game, you’ll need to make some very important choices. There’s deciding the size, oceanic coverage, humidity, hilliness (why isn’t there a real word for that?) and foliage density of your island. This will help decide the general difficulty of your island, as well as specific things like how different crops will grow, how rich in minerals your island is etc.

There’s also changing how the people will react to like their tendency to rebel and start civil wars. Finally, there’s creating your ruler. You get to choose your background, strengths and weaknesses. All of this is incredibly important in determining how easy a time you’ll have, and lets you get a head start on forging a government structure in tune with what you want.

And there’s more than a few options there too. Through various edicts you can issue and issues like pay or housing you can craft either a capitalist or communist economy and pursue friendship with either Soviet Russia or the USA. You can also use propaganda to influence the people’s minds, take a firmly religious stance, create a police state or an oppressive military government etc.

The thing is, you’ll have to work hard to do it. Your citizens start with nothing more than shacks and a construction yard. You have to provide all the food, housing, entertainment and industry from scratch. But your limited finds and workforce mean that you have to prioritise, you can’t just do order everything done or you’ll quickly go bankrupt.

One of the problems with taking it so slow is that you might not realise it’s time to step up the number of houses, or your main source of revenue. Also, it takes quite a while to get anything done. If you want to sell rum, you need to grow the sugar cane and then build a rum factory, or you’ll just have a farm selling sugar and not producing the food you need.

Still, this is the type of challenge that some people want. And it really does deliver an engaging experience if you get caught up in it. Through methods like increasing wages or upping standards, you can control who works where and who uses what places. Say your rum factory is really far away from the houses, and everybody’s working the farms because it’s closer and pays the same. Build a place with cheap rent nearby and change the working conditions or raise the wages and watch your people flock to it.

Your rule as El Preisdente can be threatened in several ways. One is election. If you’re not some revolutionary-cum-dictator your people will want elections from time to time. You’ll have to keep the people happy to avoid it. The other way is revolution. If your people get unhappy enough they’ll take to the forests and start a guerilla campaign against you. If you lose power either way, it’s game over. Whether these are bothersome or a nice change of pace will be up to you.

The other major consideration is the factions. Every citizen will be members of one of these groups, with each one wanting different things. For example, the intellectuals are mainly your college graduates, who’re a small group but without them you have no power, no hospitals, no TV or radio.

The tongue in cheek humour, bright visuals and pleasant music may just be what keeps you around long enough to get into the game’s trickier systems. This is a game with a real challenge that will truly engage those who want it and put in the work.

Price: (Steam) Tropico Reloaded (Includes official expansion & Tropico 2: Pirate’s Cove) £6.99
(gog.com) Tropico Reloaded $9.99
(CEX) Tropico Reloaded £4

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