Tropico 6 Review
“Viva la revolución, El Presidente!” These timeless words have been recorded throughout the ages, etched onto every stone on every island in the Caribbean and shouted into the watery mists since time immemorial…or since 2001. Poptop Software’s original title introduced us into the world of Tropico, where you play as a dictator who makes his own rules in a Caribbean paradise-turned-city-builder. The dynasty of El Presidente lives on in Tropico 6, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.
The newest Tropico game begins with a cutscene of the iconic leader himself tuning a radio, trying to coax it to work. It plays into all the stereotypes that Tropico plays with, and the player is lulled into a sense of security—“I know what I’ve gotten myself into”—until El Presidente picks up his smartphone and sends out a tweet.
That’s not to say that much of Tropico 6 isn’t familiar. If you’ve ever played a Tropico title before, you’ll recognize…pretty much all of it, although the beautiful visuals and updated cutscenes might trick you into actually thinking you’re in a tropical island for a while. I can’t call myself a Tropico expert (anyone who sees my gameplay will immediately notice the treasury that goes bankrupt on a whim), but I picked up Tropico 5 a few months ago as a fun city builder to play with a friend. The past and the present games are very similar and make picking up the newest title quite simple if you’ve played a past one. If you haven’t, strap into the long tutorial, because you’ll need it.
If you’re new to the Tropico franchise, it plays like a standard city builder in motion, but there are a few twists. First and foremost, Tropico is funny. When I described the plot to someone—managing a small Caribbean nation from the colonial era through to modern times, from negotiating with major foreign powers to keeping food and clothes on the backs of your citizens—they said the game must be depressing. Tropico is anything but! Even in your darkest moments (negative twenty thousand in the hole, or your people are rebelling, or the nuns are angry with you), the colorful visuals and fun musical score keep the game upbeat.
Why Has The Rum Gone?
The storyline adds to the atmosphere, which is carried out through individual missions with specific goals in mind, ranging from international piracy to declaring independence from the Crown. In my previous experiences with Tropico, I had only played the sandbox multiplayer, so I found the missions to be both completely new and very fun. They range wildly with the type of map and the era they take place in, and watching the story unfold with the typical Tropico tongue-in-cheek silliness is great fun.
Tropico’s greatest strength is presenting terrible situations as funny, and, in doing so, satirizing the events of our recent past. Every political faction is made fun of, and every global superpower is a target. Each faction, from the Crown you’re rebelling against to the Revolutionaries you side with, are represented by a specific person, and their voiceovers breathe life and humor into the Tropico universe. Penultimo, the eternal sidekick to El Presidente, was a personal favorite, but I thought everyone, from the Cold War generals to the nasally representative of the Crown, was fun to listen to.
The biggest change in Tropico 6 is the addition of the Pirate Cove. Later in the game, era-equivalent buildings can be added, but at its core, it’s a way to earn extra money or resources while you’re off doing other things, like frantically building fifteen country houses or trying to find a good spot for that new clinic. It also has the ability, in a nod to their competitor building simulator franchise, Sid Meier’s Civilization, to steal a major cultural landmark like Stonehenge or the Eiffel Tower and relocate it to your island. It’s cool, but it can be frustrating when it’s your only main quest left before you move onto something bigger, as it really just involves sitting around and waiting.
…But Really, Where Has My Rum Distillery Gone?
Another thing to note is that, while I was willing to accept that I was just bad at the game (still probable), many people have reported that the game, which is still in its beta at this time, seems to have some money balancing issues. Teamsters don’t seem to love doing their job, and the game is clearly going through the final cleanup that happens right before a new game is released. I’m just glad to have an excuse for why I’m so bad (and considering my performance in Tropico 5, it’s definitely an excuse).
There are a lot of small elements to the game that can seriously impact your enjoyment of the gameplay. Considering how much the game relies on bringing new, fun additions to an already established formula, it’s frustrating that I still can’t zoom in after I’ve selected a new building. It sounds minor, but trust me, you spend a lot of time selecting new buildings. I have a whole list of things—the new, fun entertainment buildings, the streamlined trading routes, the much-improved happiness overlays, the clearer directions for putting down the houses, the much better road mechanics, but listing out my minute likes and dislikes would not just be pedantic. It also helps me realize something: these features do not sound like a whole new game.
Tropico 6’s biggest strength (ignore that thing I said earlier about the humor, although that’s also very strong) is its biggest flaw. With the exception of a few features like the ability to give speeches as El Presidente, additional government buildings, and work modes (a great replacement for managers, who I hated it), Tropico 6 feels like a prettier, gussied up version of Tropico 5. Everything that I loved about this game was an improvement upon the last. Much of what I didn’t like was already an issue.
I liked Tropico 5, so that’s a great thing for me. For fans of Tropico 4 and earlier, they should be happy to see some of the older features reimplemented alongside gorgeous graphics and great visuals. Sure, the game isn’t wholly new, but that’s okay. Tropico 6 doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel—no matter what El Presidente claims—to be a great experience. There’s never been a better time to take a trip to the Caribbean.
***PC code was provided by the publisher***
- improvements on previous game
- great visuals
- iconic music
- fun, witty storytelling
- multi-faceted city builder
- retread of previous games
- overlooked simple issues