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Sean D Knight Jun 10, 2014

Tropico 5

At A Glance

Satisfied

Multiplayer; time is divided into four Eras; Humor; Great Music; Game is easy to figure out.

Unsatisfied

Treading familiar ground; lackluster character customization; sometimes freezes during multiplayer.

A familiar experience, but still fun

When it comes to creating the greatest island nation in the world, we will stop at nothing to achieve this. What we can’t understand is why our denizens never seem to appreciate the measures we take to achieve this goal. Sure, child labor doesn't sound like the greatest thing in the world, but when jobs need filling, what are you going to do? After all, it is for the betterment and advancement of Tropico!

Despite our citizens’ ire, we still found it satisfying to step into the shoes of El Presidente once again and experience the game’s humorous approach to the simulation genre. Whether it was our advisors, well, advising us or foreign diplomats’ various demands, all of it is wrapped up in a very humorous package.

The Crown doesn't give us much to work with.

Aside from the humor, the game looks great. It still features the bright, vibrant colors of previous installments and the graphics are a step up. The water affects are good and you can zoom in and view little details on the buildings. However, character creation is lacking and is a step back from the previous game. There are nowhere near as many aesthetic choices for creating our avatar as we remembered from Tropico 4 (pre-DLC). And the music? It is just as lively and energetic as the other games, and makes us went to get up and dance.

But while we are disappointed with character customization, the new Dynasty feature partially makes up for it. As we progressed, opportunities were provided to add new family members. However, because of the limited options, we were often dissatisfied with how our offspring looked (we blame it all on the other side of the family). Despite that, having family members means there are new quests to undertake. While the Quest system itself is unchanged, there are some new tasks that can be undertaken. For example, we had one family member successfully kidnap the Pope because he wasn’t talking to us. And if there is one thing we don’t like, it's being ignored.

Those who are familiar with the franchise shouldn’t have too much trouble jumping right into the game. Construction is mostly the same as before, but thankfully it has been streamlined. We no longer found ourselves yelling at the construction workers to get back to work like we did in Tropico 4. For newcomers to the franchise, Tropico 5 is a simple game with a lot going in addition to construction, there is trading, politics both foreign and domestic, and the temptations of power you have as El Presidente.

Don’t like someone’s opinion of you? For a price you can banish them, have them killed, discredit them, or have them jailed.

Guess which option we kept using?

Having gained our independence, Tropico is thriving!

A new feature of the game is the division of time into four different eras. Rather than start off during the Cold War era, we found ourselves in the colonial era as the governor of Tropico under the rule of the British crown. Unlike the following three eras, we were given a period of four years to gain our island’s independence by either fending off a British invasion or simply buying our independence once we got popular support above 50 percent. When we finally freed ourselves from the British crown, we were able to do whatever we wanted so long as we didn’t upset the superpowers throughout the rest of the eras. Suffice to say, we found ourselves doing a balancing act between the Axis and Allies during the World War II era, the United States and Russia during the Cold War era, and the Modern era saw us currying favors from the U.S., Russia, China, European Union, and the Middle East so that we could receive better financial aid, have access to more trading routes, and keep them happy enough so that we wouldn’t be invaded.

As for the invasions themselves, while Tropico has combat, players are reduced to the role of an observer. Like previous installments, combat is directed by the AI. We faced attacks from pirates, foreign powers, and even rebels and all the time we wished we could control them and direct them towards the enemy. Still, it was fun to watch as our soldiers and tanks moved towards the threat as, simultaneously, our fighter jets bombarded the enemy. However, our jets bombardment did cause some minor collateral damage by destroying some buildings and killing off a few of our citizens.

But that is ok, because it was for the overall betterment of Tropico!

Ouch! Our fighters' bombs took out a building and a few of our citizens and soldiers...

Aside from fighting our enemies, there was another use for our troops. For the price of $1,000 in-game currency, we could set a waypoint down almost anywhere on the map and the unit would march towards it and explore the island. Why do this? Because the game features a Fog of War system that forced us to use our troops to explore if we wanted to expand our city and have access to all of the island’s resources. However, at times, the fog became an annoyance for us because there would be a sliver of fog that would prevent us from building a road or structure until we paid our troops to go “explore” that little section. Given that we were sometimes strapped for cash, dropping $1,000 to get rid of the tiny bit of fog wasn’t worth it. But exploration became obsolete when we researched the compass ability which reveals the entire island.

Speaking of research, the researching of new technologies and buildings is the latest feature to be included in Tropico 5. By building a library, and certain buildings such as an observatory, research points are generated that goes towards discovering new tech for each era. For example, researching the constitution tech would allow us to draft our own constitution once we had gained independence.

Personally, we think that there is too much importance being applied to such things. Why write a constitution when the will of El Presidente should be good enough for everyone?

Ah, the modern era! The city's architecture is a mixture of modern and colonial with a dash of World War II and a pinch of the Cold War.

Multiplayer is also a new feature to the franchise and one that we like. In Tropico 5 we found ourselves playing with our fellow despots to see who could create the better city. Sometimes we would cooperate with our fellow dictators but, at other times, find ourselves at each other’s throats for resources. However, on multiple occasions so far, the game inexplicably freezes and forces all the players to shut down the game. This results in having to start a new multiplayer game which is quite a hassle.

One of the drawbacks of the Tropico franchise is that, with each installment, it tends to be a refinement and fine-tuning of each game and Tropico 5 is no exception. It is a lot of fun to play and there is plenty of humor. But while the inclusion of eras and the multiplayer campaign are welcome additions, the gameplay is familiar territory. Gameplay, we might add, that is simplistic despite having many things to juggle in the game.

The game’s approach to resources, for example, is very simple. You build a structure like a farm, mine, or logging camp to collect resources and the excess is immediately sent off to the docks to be traded to other nations. However, we wish that there could be a stockpile option for some of these resources. So often we wished there was a warehouse that we could collect our excess resources.

Even the process of turning our raw resources into manufactured goods is automated. There is no indication of how much of each resource is needed to keep our factories producing these goods. All we can do is make sure that our farms, mines, and logging camps have workers to keep farming or mining them.

Tropico 5 is a game that newcomers should definitely pick up and play. For veterans, it is a familiar experience that is still enjoyable with just enough new things to make it interesting. However, the franchise needs its own revolution if it hopes to keep its citizens coming back for future installments rather than be a fine-tuning of the old regime.

Now excuse us while we go back to our island and siphon off some more money into our Swiss bank account.

What? A good dictator should always plan ahead!

THE VERDICT

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