El Presidente is back! For those of you who are not accustomed to our esteemed leader, fear not… because El Presidente is you! And as the ruler/president/tyrant of Tropico, it is your job to see your island paradise grow, as well as your Swiss bank account (wink). Tropico 5 is very much related to its predecessor, but for better or for worse?
I will begin by telling you that I am no stranger to the Tropico franchise. Tropico 4 was by far my favorite is the series up to this point (Tropico 3 is a close second!). But playing through the series reveals much of how Kalypso has approached its development. Each game is an improvement over the last, which not only means graphics (not that this is a huge pull to the game) but also the gameplay. Tropico 5 is simply the next game in this series of thinking. But I am sure we are familiar with the old saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Tropico 5 is a Caribbean city builder simulator that incorporates a little strategy along the lines of Civ. Did you say Civ? As in Sid Meier’s Civilization? Yes I did, and I will explain why. After you build yourself a library, you can begins researching technologies. These technologies are crucial for your advancement in the game, so you will have to approach this strategically to maximize its benefits I related to your objective. There are no elaborate tech trees, but these technologies do factor in to what type of island nation you want to focus on. Honestly, you will eventually fill all these out, but in the early game, it pays to pay attention to what benefits you will receive through the research during the era in which you are playing.
The newest approach to this version of Tropico is the Eras system. You will be guiding your island through the recent Eras, from Colonial times to Modern times. Each Era presents its own challenges, such as winning your independence from your colonial superiors to dealing with the hot potato of the Cold War between the US and the Soviets. This adds a great twist to the Tropico formula, and is the driving force behind establishing your Tropico island as the premiere power in the Caribbean.
What the new Era system sacrifices though is that you only play a couple maps for the single player campaign. It makes sense, because you have to progress each map through each Era, expanding on your small colony up to your modern metropolis. Buildings change over time, but its laughable when your corn plantation is still in an effective area surrounded by modern apartments. Make a mistake in your previous map, like building a really expensive building next to that active volcano? It’s going to be there for the entire single player campaign. Your only choice is to demolish and rebuild it somewhere else to avoid the inevitable disaster-induced rebuild rage.
I’ll admit that I was disappointed with this recurring level play at first, but I eventually warmed up to the idea of really maxing out the map. This is something that really wasn’t viable in the previous iterations. It makes city planning that much more important, which wasn’t too great of a focus in previous versions. This is a city builder in reality. You will still miss being able to start fresh for every mission, so be wary of this.
In comparison to its predecessors, Tropico 5 has all the bells and whistles of the past iterations. You will be playing the balancing game between industrialization and tourism, mixed with keeping your own citizens happy and tolerable. Oddly enough, I felt that some of the data that is provided about your citizens, buildings, and overall status of the island was remiss from what I could study in Tropico 4. The budget slider, which you could adjust to reflect how much you wanted to invest in a particular building to affect its quality, has been replaced with just 1/5 increments, meaning there are only 5 choices. If I am trying to maximize my budget, this doesn’t help. I generally found myself keeping it at 3/5’s funding, and only changed it if something was amiss or people complained.
All in all, Tropico 5 is a fine entry into the Tropico series. There are many improvements on the series formulas, but there are a few steps backwards, which may have been necessary for the Eras mechanic. If there is a Tropico 6, I would like it to be more along the lines of Tropico 4. These remarks are coming from a fan, so take it with a grain of salt. Overall, the game is still a fun and unique city builder with a great sense of humor. Fans of the series should enjoy this iteration, and first time players will probably not know what the hell I am quipping about.