Tropico 629th March, 2019
PlatformPC (PlayStation 4 & Xbox One releases to come later)
Tropico 6, if you remember my preview from last year, is a game I've been looking forward to. As a part of a long-running series, one with its undeniable ups and downs, one of the biggest draws is the comedic setting that surprisingly helps to draw you into the game. You are El Presidente, building yourself up into the position of a Chavez, bringing a sort of Chavismo (Presidmo?) to your island nation following your revolution and departure from being a colony of 'the crown'
Naturally, building and managing this island nation keeps you invested too. That's for the best here because while you'll find yourself starting a revolution and taking control of your island nation pretty frequently, Limbic Entertainment hasn't exactly started a revolution while developing the game.
If there are two words that could best explain Tropico 6, they'd be "need" and "space" in the largest font, in bold, underlined and in bright fluorescent pink just to draw attention to them. If I wasn't being an absolute prat about it, they'd be "balance" and "freedom". Tropico 6 is fundamentally a game about letting you develop your land however you please. You can be a dictator, ruthlessly arresting - or killing - all who oppose you. Maybe you want to be a benevolent leader, offering your people total freedom, but keeping yourself in power by keeping them happy.
This is where the balance comes into play. As you may expect in a city-building game, you have many elements to keep balanced. From the base factor of your population's happiness, which is impacted directly by a myriad of other aspects you need to keep balanced. These are, but not limited to homelessness, employment levels, liberty, food variety & quality, entertainment variety & quality, crime safety, healthcare and pollution levels. All of these will be directly impacted by the buildings you build but also the layout of your city, with buildings having a limited area of effect as well as a max number of spaces for the Tropicans who may need to visit them.
In addition to keeping your Tropicans happy, you'll also find the need to keep a track of and balance the happiness of eight different factions, many of which can truly determine the path of your island nation. Particularly so when it comes to election times in later stages. Early on you only really have to balance between royalists and revolutionaries, where you'll always want to grow the revolutionaries and eventually declare yourself independent of the crown. Later on, you'll be having to choose between Capitalists, Communists, Industrialists or Religious folks to name just half of them.
All of this is done through the completion of requests given from these factions, directly impacting their relations, as well as your choice of ministers, the settings on buildings and generally how you develop. Naturally, you can't keep everybody happy, so maybe you'll want to use one of the many options in such as your newspapers or radio stations to slightly edge your people in a preferred direction. This is my preferred way because the requests, frankly, irritate me. All too often will a faction want you to build a building that you already have more than enough of, but if you reject it, you lose standing with them. At least you can cheat by building it and then just demolishing it right after.
If there is something that's an issue for Tropico 6, it's just that the tone doesn't work anymore. In a world where the absurdity of politics, the perverse intrusion of business and special interests in governmental decisions and the rise of populism are all real issues, seeing them satirised in a game doesn't really work now. It doesn't help that your decisions don't really have any major impacts, since, as in real life, it's so easy to just backtrack and placate the next group's fickle demands.
Thankfully you don't really need to balance your relations with the world's superpowers that much. War is always a risk unless you choose the policies that essentially act as the "stop the angry men" option. Even if you don't go for this though, there's no real issue. Attacks, for what they are, are easy to defend against and never really offer a challenge. For all Tropico's introduction of El Presidente having to come back because Britain has gone bonkers, the US has elected the human equivalent of a mutated pumpkin and all other nonsense, it never really pays more than lip service to the idea that there is actually an outside world.
For something that has a consequence, you have to look to the economics rather than the politics of this city-builder. Housing brings in rent, based on the wealth of the occupants, with stores, tourist attractions and other buildings bringing in revenue from the visitors, either tourists or locals. Even the major new feature of Tropico 6, raids, pays little more than lip service to the outside world. They do, in some cases, have a major impact on the development of your city.
Build the Hagia Sophia, your Tropicans will never die from a low healthcare rating - though they will still be somewhat irritated that your idea of a great doctor is that guy from Human Centipede. The Temple of Heaven is my favourite of the wonders, though only accessible in the fourth and final era - modern times. All plantations and hydroponic plantations have increased efficiency, hugely helping to alleviate any food concerns. Naturally, as you would expect, every wonder of the world increases tourism value.
Fortunately, you'll always find something different to challenge yourself with. The fifteen levels within the campaign aren't really linked by any narrative. To be frank, even in the levels the narrative is paper thin at best. Still, they all offer different rules and islands, with specific campaign aims. One will task you with building up to capture a crime lord while introducing and explaining your personal slush fund. A later campaign will make the building of houses impossible, though you can counter that unhappiness with increased fun, healthcare, food, etc. Honestly, the best time you'll have is on a skirmish map, with the total freedom that entails.
If I have any issues with Tropico 6, it's the aesthetical quality in both the UI and more the way the game forces you to lay everything out. Speaking of the quality of the models and textures, there's nothing to complain about here. It all works great with the crisp blue oceans, the palm trees and other features within the maps - either firey volcanos or old ruins. Still, one downside is the aforementioned UI. It's cluttered, far from user-friendly and does more than take a little away from the game.
As for the laying out of cities, due to the limited AI and the simulated travel times - something I had an issue during my preview - you'll still often find a necessity in replicating buildings and having workplace issues unless you essentially build houses right next to the workplaces. It doesn't really work for me as I like to create a city that is laid out at least somewhat realistically. Also, you can only have junctions on a right angle, with curved roads being notoriously fickle. A minor irritation, but one which can cut into what limited build space you have on some maps.
Tropico 6 is the best entry in the series, though not without its flaws. The repetition of random requests with no real direct relation to how your city is developing is always an irritation to me. The economics of the city is especially well developed, though areas like the superpowers feel tacked on at best. Fortunately, new features like raids help the game stand out from its predecessors. All things considered, If you want a good city builder with at least a different setting from the norm, Tropico 6 is the game for you.
PC version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher. Played on an ultrawide monitor running at 2560×1080 resolution from a PC with an Intel i7-6700 3.4GHz x4 CPU, an Asus Radeon RX480 GPU and 32GB of DDR4 2400MHz RAM. On max settings, the game ranged between 40 to 55FPS.
You can purchase the game digitally via Green Man Gaming.
Tropico 6 is the best entry in the series, though not without its flaws. The repetition of random requests with no real direct relation to how your city is developing is always an irritation to me. The economics of the city is especially well developed, though areas like the superpowers feel tacked on at best. Fortunately, new features like raids help the game stand out from its predecessors.
- Good visual design, with a game that looks great all around
- New features like raids add a new level of depth to the series
- A strong city building aspect helps to keep the game feeling strong as you balance the economics and population happiness
- The campaign has no real narrative at all, with single-hit missions offering little to follow or invest yourself in
- Some mechanics, such as superpowers, are underdeveloped at best.
- Cluttered and not user-friendly UI