Posted: April 21
Tropico is a brilliant spin on the classic city builder genre. Instead of the old Sim City formula, you have to build each and every building on your small island nation. This is fine since in many cases, space is limited since your island is, after all, surrounded by water. The goal of the game is to build a successful Banana Republic and remain in power as "El Presidente." You can remain in power through a variety of ways. You have to keep all of the people of Tropico satisfied with your job as "Presidente" but be warned that keeping everybody happy all the time is impossible. You have to please different factions such as the Capitalists, Communists, Militarists, Religious, Environmentalists, Intellectuals, Nationalists, and Loyalists to keep them willing to vote for you whenever (or if ever) elections come up.
Plus you have to keep the foreign powers satisfied. The biggest threats in terms of foreigners are the US and the USSR (The game starts in the 1950s so Cold War politics come into play here). The Europian Union, Chinese Empire, and Middle Eastern countries won't pose a threat but pissing them off can put you under a trade embargo from them. To make things more interesting, you have access to a variety of Edicts that you can issue such as instituting prohibition or a contraception ban. You can praise either the US or USSR and invite them to build a military base on your island (for a yearly rent of $2000 of course). You can order literary courses for all students, declare martial law and forbid elections, permit free housing for all citizens, establish the secret police (piece of advice, use a Cabaret for the Secret Police station, then all your secret agents look like showgirls), invite the Pope to visit your island, and many more fun options that will determine how you rule Tropico.
This is a rundown of my typical playstyle.
I've never played the campaign since I'm more interested in Sandbox mode but in my sandbox mode games I've largely stuck with a Capitalist playstyle. I tend to run the country by refusing to allow free housing, using a "You do not work, you do not eat" ideology.
Whenever I see a shack and I know that there's ample housing availible, I demolish it. (Shacks pop up whenever there's not enough housing availible and/or whenever the occupant(s) can't afford even so much as a monthly rent of $1.00). All must work and pay rent. No exceptions. If there's too many unemployed, time to build some new farms or lumber camps (which offers the most jobs for uneducated Tropicans).
Criminals are arrested and sent to work in the labor camps, producing cash crops such as tobacco, sugar, or coffee. There are no free meals in Tropico (which, ironically, allows for free food via a marketplace provided there's enough produced domestically or imported via the dock).
Environmentalists only serve to stifle and choke our progress by demanding the removal of all logging and mining operations and unfairly taxing businesses that happen to release pollutive elements into the air. Therefore Environmentlists are shunned in Tropico.
Recommended DLC for this game would be the Vigilante DLC for certain as it gives you the Labor Camp building which is superior to the Prison as it functions as both a farm and a prison which you can use to produce cash crops or even produce food for the citizens of Tropico while using prisoner labor. All you need is to spend a few thousand dollars to arrest a few people to send to the camp. Advisable that you just arrest criminals and the leaders of any political factions you disapprove of. :)
The Propaganda DLC is also advisable since you can build Propaganda Towers which turn citizens into loyalists (who are loyal to you and will vote for you every time). This DLC also provides the grey ushanka (Russian hat) and coat of the steriotypical Soviet Union garb. I might play with a capitalist agenda, but I do like me an ushanka.
A few things I'd like to see added to Tropico (granted this is Tropico 4 and Tropico 5 has been out for some time by now so I don't know what is and is not an option)...
1: Customizable flags. Being able to create my country's flag would be an interesting if not fun immersive feeling. FPS games allow us to create personalized tags, why not RTS games like Tropico?
2: More in depth control over what is and is not provided for free. Food, healthcare, and religion are the big three things that are provided for free to Tropican citizens, no matter how you choose to play. Being able to decide whether or not you have "Presidentecare" or requiring a monthly offering from all of Tropico's faithful churchgoers, or truly instituting a "no free meals" rule would allow players to experiment with different styles of governance.
3: More female avatar options. The Male Custom Avatar has the lion's share of customization options while the female Presidente is limited to only a few. A little equality in the customization would be nice. The ability to choose what voice El Presidente uses would also be a great idea.
4: Establish relations with foreign nations. Being able to forbid specific imports from certain countries like forbidding all trade between Tropico and the Middle East, allowing a foreign embassy onto Tropican soil, forbidding the importing of weapons or the exporting of specific goods to specific countries would be a nice touch.
5: Name the Nation! Tropico isn't just the name of the game but it's also the name of the nation too. In game tips and other aspects refer to the nation as Tropico. Not really a complaint but I'd like to be able to name my country instead of just having to go with the generic "Tropico."
6: Legality. Being able to determine what is and is not legal is an idea. I'm mostly just asking for the ability or edict to enact a law that cracks down on the people living in shacks and forces them to move into proper housing. Cruel? Perhaps but then again, that's what this game is about, being as nice or as cruel as you want to be.
To summarize: Tropico 4 is a great spin on city builders and is an interesting medium in which to test differing styles of government. It has plenty of campy and commedic elements to give the game a lighthearted feeling. I mean when you select someone who works as a lumberjack and their thoughts read "I'm a lumberjack...and I'm OK!" you know you're not playing a game that takes itself too seriously. Definately give this game a try if you want a good feel for the Tropico series.