Happy Birthday, Mr. Presidente
Tropico 2’s Pirate Cove theme was a startling departure for the Tropico series. Thankfully, Tropico 3 proved to be a refreshing return to the themes and elements that made the original so good. Haemimont Games has resisted the temptation to bring the fourth installment in the Tropico series back to Pirate Cove, so Tropico 4 should be familiar to long time fans of the series.
Tropico 4 is a city-building game. Think of it as Sim City set in a tropical paradise. However, this island has all the problems of a tropical paradise as well. Players step into the role of “El Presidente” and try to keep all these problems in check while ensuring the tourism industry continues to thrive.
There are a lot of politics involved in running a banana republic. You must make sure various factions on the island are happy. For example, the religious faction will get upset if you don’t build them enough churches. Yet at the same time, in order to ensure your financial stability, you’ll need to maintain a flourishing tourist economy. And this means you’ll want to make sure there is plenty of partying going on. You also might consider sweeping all your problems—like the guerilla rebel faction—under the rug, out of the view of these tourists. It’s a good thing you keep a tight control over the media on the island, since you can use radio programs to convince these ignorant vacationers of just about anything.
Of course, good relations with the superpowers of the world are essential to keeping the tourists coming, as well as preventing yourself from being cannon fodder. Each superpower nation has its own set of demands. The U.S.S.R., for example, wants you to make sure every islander has a job.
As we all know, politics is a dirty game, and the Tropico series lets you play that game as dirty as you’d like. Take bribes, assassinate rivals, rig the elections (or simply decide not to have them), push out pro-Presidente propaganda, and so on. Of course, you can try to be the kind and benevolent leader and consider your people, but that’s simply not as much fun. If you want to be the bad guy, though, it’s wise to build a hefty army to protect yourself. The islanders tend to get violent when oppressed.
Of course, Tropico 4 isn’t just a re-skinning of Tropico 3. Sure, the graphics have been updated. In fact, the screenshots we’ve seen so far have been gorgeous—a lot more colorful than previous entries in the series. But Tropico 4 adds some brand new game elements as well.
For example, there are the “ministers” you’ll appoint, who can help get tricky legislation passed in exchange for personal favors. Want to raise taxes? Fine. But you may have to hand over a building or two to one of these ministers. These guys even have their own political motivations, so it’s wise to always keep them in check. You can never be totally sure that the guy you just paid off isn’t going to turn around and assassinate you later.
A big feature of city simulation games is natural disasters. Tropico 4 is going to add some new ones into the mix, like volcanoes and tornadoes, but the ever-popular (or unpopular) hurricanes will be back as well. Be wary of fires, which can be started by volcanoes or merely the neglect of some lazy islander. You can prioritize which buildings the firefighters will try to save first, so you can hopefully hang onto that expensive casino you just put in.
There are also two new superpowers in the game. In Tropico 3, you were caught in a balancing act between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Tropico 4 adds Europe and the Middle East to the mix, meaning pleasing all the superpowers at the same time will be quite a bit more precarious. And if you upset one superpower too badly, they could fund the rebels who are determined to take you down. A rebel group backed by Europe or the Middle East could prove to be quite a bit more difficult to keep under your thumb than the standard broke and starving rebels you’re used to.
Another interesting new feature (for the PC version, anyway) is integration with Facebook and Twitter. You can keep your friends informed about how well (or badly) you are doing as El Presidente. Of course, this feature isn’t mandatory; you can turn it off whenever you like. And quite frankly, it’s probably going to just annoy people anyway. You might be excited that you were able to build that resort you were saving up for, but does your uncle in Florida care? Probably not.
Tropico 4 looks like it follows the formula set by its predecessors (besides that whole Pirate Cove thing) while bringing new elements to the table. And the visuals are quite pretty. Fans of the city simulation genre should definitely keep their eyes on this one. It should be landing for both PC and Xbox 360 this September.