|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Haemimont Games AD||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Kalypso Media||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
City building games have been a staple of PC gaming since the beginning. It is a subset of the RTS genre that helped to pioneer both sandbox gameplay and the concept of nearly limitless replayability. Fastforward to the present and the genre remains very much alive and well in Tropico 3; a game that takes the foundation of the genre, adds a great deal of social and economic depth, and finally puts a Latin twist on it for good measure.
Developed by the relatively unknown Haemimont Games and published by the equally unknown Kalypso Media, Tropico 3 has all the features of a city-building game developed by the mainstream likes of Electronic Arts.
The first thing that will grab your attention is the visual quality. Tropico 3 brings the beauty of tropical islands to life very similar to the way Far Cry did. From lush forests to arid deserts, the varying environments on a single island help to break up any visual monotony that would normally be a problem. Of course, this isn't to say that the random map generator can't and doesn't create maps with little variation. Thankfully, the game does allow you to preview the landscape before starting on a new island.
If the visuals aren't impressive enough, the soundtrack will get certainly get your attention. The music attempts to capture the authentic Caribbean style and does a fairly good job of it. In fact, the only real downside to the soundtrack is that there doesn't seem to be enough tracks. You will hear the same tracks many, many times during one game, which can last for hours depending on whether you're playing in sandbox mode or a campaign.
In order to maintain the game's authenticity, the majority of the voice acting is Spanish. Moreover, any immigrants or workers hired from other countries will mostly speak English. Only the voice acting that the player needs to understand is done in English with a decent Latin American accent. For example, there is a radio announcer that provides regular updates on the situation of the island.
The gameplay isn't the standard city building players have come to expect from games like Sim City. Instead, Tropico 3's focus is on the social, political, and economic development of the island nation. The game introduces a few factions that the people align themselves with such as Capitalists, Communists, Nationalists, Militarists, Environmentalists, Intellectuals, and the Religious. And, the player is tasked with appeasing these factions whether by building structures such as churches or military bases, signing edicts that reduce pollution or ban contraceptives, or signing treaties with either the U.S. or the U.S.S.R.
The faction system brings a lot of depth to Tropico 3, and it isn't just about increasing the happiness of the overall population. Every couple years an election is held on the island that the player must win. Appeasing a majority of the factions helps secure votes, but it's based on more than making all the factions happy. For example, a majority of the population may belong to a single faction, thus making that faction the most important focus. Knowing which factions to appease and when is crucial to getting reelected. The player can choose to give political speeches during each election, and even pick what topics to address, which can have an effect on the voters.
The elections aren't the only thing to worry about it. There is also the potential for members of a faction to become rebels. If the player makes a faction angry enough, it will increase the number of rebels. Then, those rebels will attempt to sabotage infrastructure, take hostages, spread propaganda, and even assassinate El Presidente. Of course, being in good standing with the Militarists (the army) allows the player to fend off against rebel attacks, which even play out on the streets when they occur.
Economically, Tropico 3 is based entirely around three major sources of revenue: industry, agriculture, and tourism. The player can use farms, which can be set to harvest a variety of crops from food to tobacco; industrial buildings, which take those crops and produce products; and/or tourism attractions, which bring people to the island who will spend money.
Based on the map the player is given, some economic resources such as oil wells and mining deposits, may not be available, forcing the player to rely on other ways of growing the economy. Economic progression in Tropico 3 is a slow process, even using the 3x speed feature that's available. Moreover, it needs to be closely watched by the player because of random events that may occur. For example, throughout the game, the state of the world economy may fluctuate, causing an increase or decrease in the price of your exported goods. These events will impact the player's economy dramatically, forcing the player to take action.