The satirical tropical Bannana-Republic-em-up series Tropico has been roaring along for five entries now. With the exception of the piratical Tropico 2, each game in the series has cast the player as El Presidente, the ruler of a tiny caribbean island in the midst of great conflicts between superpowers, such as the Cold War between the USA and USSR. You’re required to manage your island nation’s survival by managing its economy in some Sim City style building management, staying on the good side of your island’s populace and keeping the competing superpowers appeased.
My first impressions of Tropico 6 were that it was – as the last few games have been – a glacial evolution on what has come before. Every person on your little island has their own thoughts, desires and political beliefs. Enjoyably, I also noticed that now when you click on one of your subjects, they’ll give a line of dialogue that reflects their current mood. The micromanagement in the game feels so incredibly intuitive precisely because everything is so visual. You can see them all walking around, going to work, going to church, popping down to the restaurant or scurrying off into the jungle to take up arms against their repressive government!
As such, it’s easy to see when one of your industrial buildings is barely getting any work done because its workers have to commute on foot across the entire island to get there! This means you might have to put down a bus stop so employees can more smoothly get between where they work and where they live. Similarly, if you’re not seeing an armada of little boats between islands in your archipelego, it’s a sign you’ve forgotten to build landings where your people can row out across the waters.
Likewise, it’s also pretty clear, without even having to go into the exhaustive almanac (which details everything you need to know about your citizens and economy) when people are disassatisfied with how things are going. Your citizens will stand on street corners to hold up placards, protesting your rule. When elections roll around, you can make a speech acknowledging your shortcomings and promising to do better. For example, if people are a bit miffed your island is a little dull, you can promise to raise their fun happiness by building circuses, taverns, restuarants and even funfair piers! But if you fail to meet your election promises though, people won’t believe you when the next one rolls around.
If democracy is a little too frustrating and the people are just determined not to like you, you can have malcontents jailed (and forced to generate income for you as convict labour if you like!), bribed or even shot in the streets (which will have repercussions for family members and witnesses who will see it as just not cricket!) Your advisor, the ever-sycophantic Penultimo, will helpfully suggest fiddling with the election results gently in your favour. If popular discontent is far too high however, the only option may be to declare martial law, which will results in a dramatic uptick of wannabe Che Guevaras running off into the jungles to overthrow your fascist regime!
Overall, it’s up to you to strike the balance between being a benevolent ruler and being a cruel dictator.
New additions I noticed to previous games were such buildings as the pirate cove. The pirate cove will send out privateers on missions. These can include scavenging for resources amongst the floatsam of wrecked ships, rescuing seabound survivors (and bringing them back as new Tropican subjects) and even stealing world wonders! I was particularly baffled and delighted when my crew of scurvy pirates managed to pilfer the Hagia Sophia for me. The beautiful Turkish basilica not only provided happiness for my visiting people, but also gained me some income form visitors. It even stopped anyone on the island dying from poor healthcare! (God’s grace, I suppose?) This comes along with other welcome improvements to previous Tropico titles, such as the streamlining of budgeting for buildings and the need to research technologies rather then having them simply dumped in your lap.
There’s also the mysterious “broker” who will make shady backroom deals in exchange for some covert cash. Beforehand, you could pad out your swiss bank account with such nefarious schemes as having banks launder state money, or taking a percentage of all building expenses. In previous games, it was more of an occasional requirement for campaign missions or a score which tallied towards a victory condition. With the broker it’s now much more of an interesting separate currency to be used judiciously. In particular – during the world wars era – the broker really saved my bacon in one of the missions. Relations with the Axis powers were diminishing rapidly because I’d refused to help them extract Inca gold from under an active volcano (don’t ask) threatening my island with imminent invasion, but the broker handily did some backroom dealings to keep relations stable and invasion off the cards.
It’s a nice reminder, of course, that Nazis are thoroughly unpleasant people (a fact more presidents should openly acknowledge!)
Looking Forward to a Sunny Holiday!
It was still a closed Beta I played so there was certainly no shortage of bugs or other niggling issues. On several occasions I found that some building’s workers were – instead of entering their place of employment – simply standing nearby and walking in place. This also happened rather annoyingly when my island was periodically suffering from fires caused by the spewing of an active volcano – meaning firefighters would mill uselessly around buildings they were meant to be extinguishing. Likewise, random crashes were periodic but the autosave meant they were not too devastating. I’m nigh-on positive Kalypso will get these issues sorted out by release. The two scenarios provided in the beta certainly made me want to play more.
Overall, my enthusiasm for Kalypso’s long running series has remained thoroughly undiminished. With plenty of cool new features – while keeping the fundamental gameplay and quirky humour intact – there’s plenty to make you hanker for some fun in the sun with the full release of Tropico 6, slated for release in January 2019 for PC and Summer 2019 for consoles.