My love for Tropico is rather difficult for me to hide, after blurting it out on a podcast a few months back. So when it came time to review Tropico 4, I was the obvious choice.
Having entered into world of tropical island politics via Tropico 3, my initial thought was why Kalypso even bothered with a sequel. Tropico 3 was a real blast and, although it did have a few annoyances, the game stood up extremely well. After thirty minutes into the game, things became incredible clear.
The aim of the game is to run a small collection of islands (named Tropico), located in the Caribbean. This is done one campaign at a time, with each different island needing a different style of management. There are 20 campaign missions in total, each with their own set of goals. These range from exporting a certain amount of produce to becoming the UN’s most interesting country. There is even a campaign that requires you, El Presidente, to reach 1,000,000 followers on Twitter! There are various factions (religious, communist, environmentalists, etc) that need to be appeased in order to create a harmony amongst your subjects. Failing to keep them all relatively happy may result in you losing an election, or even getting assassinated.
Things start off quite relaxed, with the goals being relatively easy. But as you move through the campaigns, they become more complex and varied. The great thing about Tropico 4 is that the game will guide you each step of the way. In Tropico 3, some of the missions became almost impossible, as you never quite knew what needed your attention the most. Here, things are explained to you in a way that is easy to understand and implement. As you progress through the level, you will be given tasks to perform; such as export a certain amount of tobacco, or get 50 rich tourists to visit the island.
The game will also let you know the best way to achieve them. This means that you are never left wondering what you need to do to in order to complete the level. During each level, you will also have icons appear in different locations across the map; these are additional quests that will boost your bank balance or your standing with another country or faction. These can be accepted, or ignored, depending on whether you think you have the facilities to complete them or not. However, you can only have up to five quests running at any one time.
As with previous Tropico games, you are in control of all of the aspects of the islands (except weather). You control what to build and where to build it, what farms to have, how much rent is, whether to allow imports, etc. The micro management part of the game is very detailed and used to be a bit of nightmare juggling all of the nuances that go in to being a tropical land baron. Tropico 4, however, takes a lot of emphasis away from the micro management part of the game. It is still there in all its glory, for you to mess about with; but there just isn’t as much focus on it.
This was one of my problems with Tropico 3, and it is great that they have shaken things up a bit. They have also ironed out a lot of the issues I had with the last game; things like never being able to hit the right mark when it comes to wages, or paying to hire in educated foreign workers for your clinics, armies or churches, only to find them leave a few months later. They have tidied all of the little annoyances up and left an almost perfect approach to game micro management.
With all the help that the game gives you, you would think that all the challenge from the game has gone; that isn’t the case. You still have all of the same sorts of setbacks to deal with, managing your money correctly being one of the main challenges in the game. Spend too much in the wrong area and it could mean the difference between winning and losing. There are also natural disasters to think about as well. You may think running a tropical island would be considered as living the dream, but only if your island doesn’t get hit by a tornado or a volcano eruption. Getting through these events can sometimes be a challenge in itself, but as long as you have money (and a fire station built), the reconstruction of damaged buildings should go smoothly.
As ever, there is a wide range of buildings to construct to increase your citizens’ standard of living, from simple farms to blimp rides. All of them have their place, but not all will be required to advance your society. Learning to exploit your islands resources is critical; it’s no good building a load of farms on soil that won’t sustain any kind of growth. If you have an island like that, it is best to concentrate on tourism for your dollars. Again, the game makes sure you are pointed in the right direction, so that you don’t waste time and money.
Another thing that is played down a little from previous games is re-election. It used to be a quest in itself to get re-elected, even with most of the factions on your side, it was such a struggle. Now it seems like the game really takes into consideration all that you have done for your public. So, as long as you are developing your island with your citizens in mind, it is a lot easier to win them over come election day. Of course, you can still attempt to buy the elections if things aren’t looking too good for you. Everything Kalypso have done to Tropico 4 has been done to benefit the player, making it as smooth and glitch free as possible. It is also to their credit that they have managed to create a learning curve that is spot on, meaning that the game welcomes those of you who may not be familiar to the franchise, or even the genre.
The game now supports Steam achievements and also Facebook and Twitter integration. At the time of writing this the social network options didn’t seem to work; crashing the game any time I tried to post to FB or Twitter, something that will no doubt be fixed soon. Another issue I cam across was with the controls. You have all the options there to move the camera any which way you want, but when it comes to panning the camera in any direction, I found it to be far too sensitive. Seeing as these are the only problems I found with the game, they can be forgiven.
Tropico 4 may not look massively different from the previous game, but the improvements made under the hood make this game a must for anybody that loved Tropico 3, or anyone that loves management sims.
Review copy provided by publisher.