Tropico 4 [Review]
Tropico 4 is the latest installment of the Tropico series and those who are not familiar with the Tropico series – like myself – players take on the role of “El Presidente,” ruler of the Caribbean island nation known as Tropico during the Cold War era. It becomes the player’s job to make sure their island nation develops, grows and that their citizens are happy. In Tropico 4 you are able to control all aspects of your nation, well except for the forces of nature. At first I was thrown off by the loading screen of a hot air balloon floating over a city. It made me think that the game was going to more like creating a vacation spot then ruling a nation. However, once you start playing the missions you quickly see that isn’t the case.
First off, you have the main menu with the opinions to play missions, sandbox, or challenges. The sandbox is just like any other simulation; go into a certain map and just play around with things on your own. The challenges are kind of like another variation of the sandbox. Other players can take and customize a map,then upload it so that other people can play it. However the challenges, well didn’t seem challenging at all. The few that I did try really just seemed like a sandboxes. Perhaps this is just because people don’t understand how to use the challenge creator.
I say this because when I tried to create my own, a sandbox was really all I could create myself. There is a button to create sequences which, when I clicked on it, didn’t do anything at all. As well as a mission description editor that didn’t work either. I was only able to alter the terrain, and add special buildings, resources and crops. Perhaps you have to play through all the missions before you are able to unlock these buttons, but I’m really not sure. If that is the case there should have been some why to relay this information to the player. It would have also been nice if Haemimont Games would have at least created some of their own challenge, but I couldn’t find any if they did.
As for the missions, there are 20 you can play that will help you grow your island nation. Each mission is full of quests that help guide you to your ultimate goal for that mission. The goal, however, isn’t normally all that clear until you get the quest that says complete this and win. The number of available quests also seems to be a bit much, seeing as you can only work on five quests at any given time. The quests also hold your hand through missions, telling you what to do next. This combined with the tips (which can be turned off) take away from the fun and make things more like a chore.
You also get quests from factions and foreign nations. Factions are your citizens groups such as loyalists, nationalists, and environmentalists. When certain factions are not happy with the way things you are running things they will have their leader talk to you and request that you do something. For example, the environmentalists are always wanting you to reduce pollution and when you do something about it like build a dump, they then complain that you put it over their “favorite meadow.” As for the foreign nations they tend to just ask for goods or money; if you help them out then your relations with them will improve. If you keep on good terms with the superpowers US or the USSR they might even give you some funding.
You can keep track of how all your relations are doing with the factions or the foreign nations by looking at your Almanac. You can also track your economy, import, exports, and citizens happiness here too. I have to say that the Almanac is the best way I have seen all this information laid out. All too often games have the statistics buried in tabs that are hard to follow and understand. In the Almanac each category has a tab at the top that when you open it will show you in two pages all the information. You can click on the lines on the left page and then get a breakdown on the right page; there are even graphs!
The Almanac is also where you can control what imports you want to allow (you can also control them at the building level). So if your island doesn’t have the raw materials need to create processed goods then you can import them and then export out a more expensive good; such as taking sugar and processing it into rum. You can also set a limit on how much you want to spend on import, but you do this at the dock.
Another great tool in Tropico 4 is the layered mapping. When you build a farm or ranch you need to know that the land will be able to support the production, otherwise it is a waste of money. With the layered mapping you can see what areas will be best for each crop. You can also map population density, pollution, projected pollution, humidity and many others. There is also the ability to see which of your buildings have the highest income and highest expenses; this is helpful to manage your money.
If you find some place is costing you more money then it is bringing in, you might want to decrease the number of employees, their wages, or if possible increase the cost of their services. You are only able to control the cost of services and entertainment such as restaurants and museums; as opposed to building like churches, apartments, and hospitals. In terms of other buildings, you have the power to build whatever your people need; schools, fire departments, police stations, or even a mall. After all, you are “El Presidente”.
And let’s not forget about the edicts. Edicts are policies that you can issue to improve certain aspects of the game. For example, if you’re consistently being told your people are starving then you might consider issuing the “Food for the People” edict. This edict will increase the quality of the food but also double food consumption as well as cost you $500. There are also edicts for foreign affairs, economy/tourism, interior and defense, but to use them you must have a diplomatic ministry and the required council member. Council members can either be one of your citizens or a foreigner you hire. Don’t forget that “El Presidente” also has some power to help improve the game. If you can send out your avatar, he or she will help improve the productivity of which ever building they are visiting.
Another nice feature is that you have a list of various avatars you can play as or you can chose to design your own. You could play as the charismatic, man of the people Fidel Castro, or perhaps the pop singer Eva “Evita” Peron, or maybe as Voodoo Pizzaman. Personally, I liked creating my own pirate president. When you chose to create your own avatar you are able to customize how they look as well as their background, traits, and their rise to power. I was a little disappointed that my custom avatar still sounded the same as Fidel Castro, it would have been nice if they had some different voices.
You will also find yourself laugh at the very stereotypical leaders that come talk you such as Sunny Flowers, the leader of the environmentalist, asking you to take a flower as thank you for cleaning up the city. I also ran into the Chinese who sell you a drill to free your miners that got trapped after an earthquake, and it only ended up causing another earthquake. I have to say that I like that there are natural disasters too. You never know when a fleet of tornado or a tsunami is going to go through your city and what it might destroy, they help to keep the game interesting as well as keep you on your toes.
Overall, I would have to say Tropico 4 is a pretty good simulation game. The system they have created for all tools and information is every clear, easy to follow, and easy to understand. All the quests and tips do tend to hold the players hand through the missions, but you can turn off the tips and then chose to just ignore all the additional quests that pop up. However, if you are new to simulation games then maybe Tropico 4 is a good game to start with.