Return once more to the sunny climes of the isles of Tropico, where you rule as absolute dictator! Well, so long as you can keep the citizen happy. And the various political factions with conflicting demands. And the outside nations that want to dominate you. And the tourists. And your trade partners.
And then there’s the small matter of that volcano.
Tropico 4: Gold Edition is the latest in a series of wonderfully complex and richly satirical games that poke fun at global politicking while dealing with the very real problems of city and nation management. As El Presidente of an island country, you get to decide what gets built, how your country makes money, and how its governed. You can become a paradise for Spring Breakers, build up your industry, side with the U.S. or the Soviets in the cold war, and have open elections, have your enemies quietly disposed of, or just shoot them in the street.
Half of the game is a city building game. Starting with just the bare minimum—your palace, a couple of corn farms, a shabby tenement building, and a dock—you have to build up your island according to the needs of the people (and the scenario).
Each faction wants different buildings to advance their goals; the Religious want churches, cathedrals, and parochial schools, the Military wants army bases and guard houses. The heck of it is, you can’t afford to ignore any of the factions because 1.) they’ll make your job easier if you pull it off (e.g. colleges will generate workers for high-tech jobs), and 2.) they all represent a segment of the people. And when the citizens get upset, they protest—shutting down services, or worse, running off to join the rebels in armed conflict against you.
Thus, you build your city according to the demands they make and what you can afford. You’ll get annual support payments from the U.S. and U.S.S.R. depending on how they feel about you, but eventually you’ll build your private sector (industry/tourism) until the country can support itself. The building portion of the game will look familiar to anyone who’s played a previous Tropico game or, really, any game of the genre: you select the building you want (assuming you can afford it), then place it on the map. You’ll also have to plan roads and other resources (like electricity or transportation), so you have to work with one eye on the future of what you want your island to look like in fifty years.
The other half the game, of course, is politics. You’ve got the local: The Communists want to take care of the needs of the people (food, shelter, and health care), while the Capitalists want low crime and high profits. The Environmentalists want low pollution and a lack of mining and lumber. The Religious and Education factions have obvious needs, as do the Military. The Nationalist don’t want any immigrants, and the Loyalists want you to rule with an iron fist. And then there’s the international: The U.S. wants free elections and canned coffee, the U.S.S.R. wants happy Communists and Spiced Rum. Less influential but useful as the OPEC nations, the Europeans, and China, who can all make valuable trade partners, provided they get what they want when they want it. Nobody’s above a bribe…not even you. Part of your job as Presidente is to line your Swiss Bank Account for the inevitable day when the mob comes calling and you have to beat a hasty retreat into retirement.
While working diligently at building your island and keeping everyone happy, you’ll also get several kinds of missions in Tropico 4. The first, marked in a sunburst, are missions that directly advance the plot of an episode. You usually (but not always) have to complete these to finish the chapter. The second are entirely optional missions, usually related to trade (send 500 units of lumber to the U.S., send canned fish to China). Ignore these, and eventually they’ll go away. Third are requests or demands from the various Tropican factions (notifying you of a crisis or need). And finally, there are random events like tsunamis, tornados, eruptions, or even the occasional bit of good news like an offering to build a free college.
Assisting you in all this are your ministers, chosen from the populace or hired from outside experts. At first, your ministers are likely to be incompetent (you’ll be told of their relative levels of Intelligence, Courage, and Leadership). But even if the only candidate is awful, you may want to hire him because having a minister lets you issue Edicts (laws that let you directly and quickly affect the political situation). Founding a Secret Police may sound distasteful, but they alert you to trouble with rebels and prevent further chaos. A literacy program will make the Education faction happy, while Prohibition will give you a quick boost with the church. Each Edict has a cash cost (in addition to any political backlash), and you better believe that no matter what you do, someone will find out about it.
The game itself is a joy to play. The commands are easy to grasp, the voice acting is top notch (though limited), and it has a wonderful sense of humor as you find yourself butting heads with caricatures of Tricky Dick Nixon and Maggie Thatcher. There are two campaigns included in the Gold edition, one of which takes you through a Rise and Fall then Rise Again (with chapters that have specific goals that essentially teach you the intricacies of the game), along with the free-form play of earlier games.
If you liked the earlier Tropico games, you’re going to love this one. They’ve included a build-your-own dictator function so you can customize your look and talents as your avatar strolls around the island. And, as with all good games, the new version is more of what you loved before. If you haven’t tried Tropico, it’s like Sim City except you can publicly execute the people who are ticking you off. And when you do, somebody is going to be on your side.
Category: City construction/management
Developer: Kalypso Media
Mac Publisher: Feral Interactive
System Requirements: OS X Snow Leopard 10.7.5, 2 GHZ processor, 4 GB RAM, 6GB Hard Drive Space, 256 MB of VRAM
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Availability: Out now