I hope this does not become a standard of mine, but today’s review is difficult for me because all the comparisons I must raise to another game, namely, the previous one in the series. However this time the comparisons are something to be critiqued, rather than praised.
But, as always, I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start with some background, shall we?
Tropico 4 is the sequel to 2009’s Tropico 3, both developed by Haemimont Games. The Tropico series of games (with the exception of 2, which was a fun deviation with pirates) puts you on the shoes of the ruler of a tropical island during the Cold War, between the 50s and leading right up to the 80s. While you’re not forced to do so, the game assumes you’ll probably be an autocratic dictator, though your exact political leaning is up to you.
Tropico 4 is something of a mix between SimCity and the Sims, being way closer to the former than the latter. You control the game from a birds-eye perspective that can be zoomed and rotated (as expected of a game of this nature nowadays). With a right click, you’ll summon the build menu and you’ll be able to order the construction of housing, infrastructure, and other miscellaneous buildings that will keep tropicans housed, employed and entertained.
And here is where the Sims-like part of the game come’s in, each Tropican has an attitude towards you, and this attitude depends on if you are satisfying their particular factions desires. The Militaristic faction wants more military bases and guard posts, the ecologists want you to make mandates that halt or downright forbid pollution, the Nationalist demand that you keep foreigners out and so on. Each faction is pretty much self explanatory and keeping them content is vital, since if you don’t do it they will become “rebels” and try to overthrow you.
All the different pieces click together and it’s easy to see what you need and when you need it. In fact it’s so obvious that, unless the mission you’re playing has a very tough handicap, the game is never particularly challenging, but that’s because of good design rather than a lack of proper difficulty.
The game has many different buildings catering to different necessities, and the art style is bright and colorful. You are constantly informed of the state of your island through radio messages from your most staunch supporter, Penultimo, and also from multiple characters that send you messages and missions. The whole game is tongue-in-cheek, which makes sense as I see it as the only way to properly build a game in which your avatar can be “Papa Doc” (if you don’t know who the guy is, check wikipedia, and you’ll understand what I mean) without causing discomfort, is to instill humour.
This being a management sim, story is not really important, however they decided to give it one, by making your character comment between missions how his achievements bring Tropico closer and closer to world power. However, this makes little sense as one of the missions could well take you 20 in-game years, and suddenly the next mission you’re back in 1960 again…
I must bring up a very black spot on this otherwise nice game. The game is a really, really lazy effort by the developers. Why do I say this? Simply put, there are very very few differences between Tropico 3 and Tropico 4.
If you’ve never played a Tropico game before, you can ignore pretty much all I have to say now and just go buy it because it’s good. However if you have played the previous title, hold your cash and let this one slide. To make a point, I literary had to fire up my copy of Tropico 3 to look for differences, because in my head I could have sworn I was playing the same game. Same graphics, same buildings, same political options… Sure, there are some new things here and there, there are actually around 20 new buildings, but most of these barely change the game. A few new buildings and missions is the purpose of an expansion pack, not of a full-fledged sequel. At least, not nowadays, and not after barely a year after the last expansion for Tropico 3 came out…
Gameplay – 4/5: Definitely a good management sim. It moves fast and it’s fun to build stuff and see your island come to life with bursting activity.
Graphics – 4/5: Even if they are the same as Tropico 3, the aesthetics fit and the graphics are still nice too look at.
Sound – 3/5: A bit of a mixed bag, on one hand the music and voice-acting is perfect for the game’s setting, but unfortunately it’s not too varied… there are only a handful of salsa songs, making the sound grate after a while…
Longevity – 3/5: There are 20 missions of increasing difficulty, which is actually a lot of gaming hours! Unfortunately, repetition set’s in very quickly, though some of the islands handicaps keep things interesting.
Overall: 4 out of 5 (2 out of 5 if you already own Tropico 3)
Tropico 4 is a good and fun management sim, however, the incredible laziness of rehashing assets from Tropico 3 as a full game makes me shake my fist in anger, especially since I really like the series. If you’ve never played a Tropico game before, go and grab it now, but If you own Tropico 3, stay away from it till it hits bargain-bin price, unless you really really love it and need more missions NOW.
- Jose Luis Perez Zapata