Ushering in a New Era
When it comes to the biggest name in the city-building genre, the Sim City franchise undoubtedly takes the cake. Of course, devout followers of the Tropico series would spit on that cake, smash it, then blow it up, all while sipping Daiquiris and basking in the beach villa they just erected. El Presidente is storming back onto the scene with his unique blend of tourism attraction and dictatorship in Tropico 5 . After criticisms of Tropico 4 being too similar to its predecessors, developer Haemimont Games is making sure players get a whole new experience this time around.
There are two major new features in your freshly created island paradise adventure. First is the timeline. Instead of a simple, modern template that became very easy to exploit with proper building production and resource acquisition, Tropico 5 spans over two-hundred years, starting at the turn of the 19th century and ending in the not too distant future. This calendar will take you through colonial times, the World Wars, the Cold War era, and into the modern age. Each period provides new challenges and requires you to adjust your political decisions. Resources and buildings may provide a financial boon in the early 1800s, only to be made obsolete with technological advances. There are also major objectives that must be met in order to advance to the next era, such as satisfying the motherland with exports or inciting a revolution against them to obtain independence. Once these major goals are met, you will immediately transition to the next era, therefore strategy will come into play as to how soon or how late you complete these objectives, and what sort of consequences could arise from it.
The other big change is the break from the traditional single-player formula. In Tropico 5 you can share an island with up to three other players, each claiming a slice of the paradise. You can all work in harmony and strive towards a utopian society, or subvert the plans of your island compatriots, stealing resources and amassing military might to blow them into the ocean. A fog of war will cloud the islands entirety, forcing you to choose whether to lighten the defenses of your city in order to explore for useful resources and areas to expand. The Tropico series has always sustained itself without necessarily needing a multiplayer aspect, so I’m curious as to whether this will actually provide a substantial change in how you build your empire, or whether it is a tacked on feature to counteract the latest Sim City design.
Whether in multiplayer or going solo, you will always have your hands full with maintaining a healthy balance of squeezing income from residents and tourists while keeping morale up to maintain production. Trading with other nearby islands and global powers will help keep the funds rolling in, but pirates and criminals may invade your paradise, creating additional challenges. There are various factions within the population that will continuously monitor your progress and seize opportunities through dissatisfaction when you do not uphold their values. Communist groups want a pro-Soviet regime, while the smaller but influential Capitalist group focuses on personal gains. You also have more choices on how elections will be held, whether through a democratic process, an iron fist dictatorship, or some middle area, perhaps only allowing a certain gender to vote. All of these decisions have short term impacts, but it will be the unforeseeable long term implications that we hope will deter from finding that comfortable coast to victory.
El Presidente also has an extended family to take care of. There are big questions on whether this lightly touched upon feature will drastically change how you govern, but what we do know is that family member can be assigned roles such as general, business manager, ambassador, and a handful of others, which will provide a statistical boost. These members can then be selected to succeed you when your legacy is ready to be passed on. It would be interesting to see family members have their own agendas, influences, and displeasures with your brand of governing to add a little family feud, rather than simply being bodies packed with upgrades.
Tropico 5 also has completely overhauled visuals to separate itself from its predecessors. Every angle and distance of the island can be scrutinized as your leisure, although zoomed in examinations still yield a lack of detailing. However, thanks to the new era system, we’ll be able to see architecture that matches the period and changes in design throughout the decades and centuries. The purpose of many buildings can also change if properly supervised. For example, a military fort used for a colonial revolution could become a historic tourist attraction in the modern era.
The era system, multiplayer support, and other new features of Tropico 5 have the potential to quell the complaints of the series becoming redundant. It will, however, take hands on action by all of us as critics and fans to determine whether these are substantial improvements or mere glossy touch-ups. With the release just over a month away, we’ll know soon enough.