Xbox version tested
Review code provided
If paradise is half as nice
Club Tropico drinks are… reasonably priced, fun and dungeons there’s adequate supplies for everyone! Although I do have to export the bulk of it to keep this fragile infrastructure running, and will you stop building SHACKS EVERYWHERE!!!
I, like many people, would like to think that if I was the ruler of a country I’d be wise, benevolent, make great decisions, be loved by my people and be the envy of the entire universe. Then I remembered what I was like when I played The Sims for the first time.
While my intentions were always initially pure, to build an architecturally amazing neighbourhood with a strong sense of community, it often descended into incest, in-fighting, and almost daily kitchen fires. Once I discovered you could remove doors and brick Sims in and if you took away their free will they peed their pants, I started to think that maybe I was a horrible person.
Perfect candidate for El Presidente then!
I’ll admit my love of simulation games began and died with The Sims 19 years ago and construction and management simulators like Tropico felt like some sort of terrifying science in comparison. But after doing an incredible job in Car Mechanic Simulator where I only went disastrously bankrupt once, I figured how hard can it be running an island nation with a few hundred citizens and competing factions demanding their every whim be met?
Well after being booted out of office quite a few times for failing to secure a majority, or getting the country spectacularly in debt, and that one time when I got invaded; pretty bloody hard.
As Presidente in training I decided to play it safe and go for the Tutorial mission first, and I’m glad I did so I could wrap my head around the building radial menus and what I can only describe as a dashboard of political and socio-economical madness!!
These menus are not as complex as they initially seem, but with menus on literally every aspect of island life, you can get bogged down in some serious micromanaging. While some people are really into this type of gameplay, I tend to crumble into mild confusion. There are so many elements to control and keep an eye on in Tropico and I admit I didn’t always fully understand or bother with some of the settings, which probably contributed to a number of my downfalls.
What I loved most about this game was its humour. It winks and nudges at you with its gentle satirical comments about building bridges not walls. It’s littered with pop culture references, my favourite being Wizard Wonkmeister in the chocolate factory mission, and it’s also brilliantly self-aware, with Penultimo your right-hand man saying you’re not a child in a sandbox, when that’s exactly what you are.
This is where Tropico 6 differs from its predecessors, there’s no overarching campaign, instead you choose from a series of missions covering the different eras of Colonial, World War, Cold War, and Modern. Each mission also has its own story goals, from being a legally flexible rum-runner during the prohibition, to cornering the global market in the production and supply of dubious chocolate.
The Colonial era missions are by far the most restrictive as you’re limited to a small selection of housing and ways of harvesting the resources on your island. Because there’s such a small array of structures to choose from in this era, I did start to get bored of all the bunkhouses I had to put everywhere as the cheapest form of accommodation. Oh how I longed for the ability to build tenements for variety!
Progressing through the eras and opening up more building choices is rewarding and keeps the gameplay interesting as you develop industries and manufacture new items to export. The problem is you also open up a population that is ludicrously demanding with more factions to keep happy, not to mention the horror that is international politics.
While you can definitely ignore these demands you do so at the cost of losing standing with a faction or international power. You can earn approval back by completing trade routes or meeting their demands and once you move into the world war era you make a new “friend” called The Broker who will sell you opportunities to either sweet talk your way out of trouble, stage a distraction or buy reputation points. These perks are all charged from your, totally legal I expect, Swiss bank account.
My preferred strategy was to ignore the optional quests and faction demands and focus on the main mission quests, but this strategy started to fall through fairly quickly as you need those sweet faction points to stand a chance at re-election.
The demands do get very repetitive especially when the request is for a building you’ve just built. With produce or manufacturing buildings, factions would recognise that you already had a corn plantation or rum distillery so the demand would be to produce a certain amount of units. However if it was a non-production building, like a chapel or a tavern, it didn’t matter if you already had an entire drunken nun district of church bells and cocktails you had to build another. Yes you can demolish them after you meet the demand but the constant requests for yet another chapel that I automatically declined meant that I had few friends in the religious faction.
For their sixth instalment Limbic Entertainment and Kalypso Media introduced a number of new features including over 150 buildings to choose from, cooperative and competitive multiplayer for up to four players, and my personal favourite, sending pirates, spies and other agents out on raids to foreign lands to steal money, produce and famous monuments. Stonehenge, the Brandenburg Gate and the Great Sphinx are now mine!!
You can also customise your appearance, and the moment I found out I could pimp my crib I went for a full on homage to the Addams Family mansion, especially since the Halloween update was released, which means my island is now a veritable shrine to pumpkins!
I did enjoy the game but this was more for its humour as the more complex it became, the less it felt like a game. I’ve always embraced a well-defined difficulty curve otherwise games lack challenge and become tedious, but with Tropico the increasing complexity started to turn me off and I would sit back in mild confusion as my island haemorrhaged money and my popularity rate plummeted. To be honest the more eras I made it through the more I started to long for my bunkhouse riddled colonial days where all I had to worry about was making enough rum.
Overall I’ve quite enjoyed my time as El Presidente and I’ve sunk in more hours than I expected. But after numerous defeats I’m going to do the honourable thing, unlike some other actual world leaders I don’t care to mention, and retire. I might do a swift return to the island at Christmas, especially if there’s likely to be reindeer everywhere, but that’s more for novelty than fun.
TBG Score 7/10
The Halloween update for Tropico 6 is available on PC, PlayStation®4 and Xbox One, and will run until 7th November 2019. The new content includes a themed main menu, autumn foliage, pumpkins and Halloween palace customisation.
Platform: Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: 27/09/2019
No. of Players: 1-4
Category: Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Limbic Entertainment
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Download link: Microsoft Store