The original tropic was wonderful, could not fault it as you played a dictator of an island. You had to balance the economy and deal with not annoying Russia, the USA or your citizens too much to make it to the end of the game. Tropico 3 is a long awaited instalment, after the original game company went bust (PopTop) it was finally done by a new company. But rather than improve the game, I feel that many of the things that made Tropico great have just been missed. The new game just isn’t as good as the original and here’s why, I’ll start with installation then talk about the gameplay itself:
INSTALLATION: The game installed fine without the need for a code and it doesn’t even need the disc in the drive to play, but it didn’t work on my old graphics card and only played smoothly when I installed a 1GB graphics card on my vista pc. So be aware of this.
The game itself starts with a rather long video which is nice but the minute you get into the game you notice what’s different. The game has a long campaign mode but NO pre-installed scenarios. This was a great feature of the original game, boosted by its own expansion pack ‘Paradise Island’ but is missing in this game, instead the game invites you to connect online and download player created scenarios. This is a problem for me who doesn’t connect their gaming PC online.
The game lets you start creating your own game by selecting a pre-made island map or creating your own, and by choosing a dictator or creating a custom dictator. But again something about this feature (as I like to pick specific traits for dictators) took some fun away. I don’t mind the individual changing of how they look, but the whole process felt like it took too long. There are new traits/ flaws, etc which are good additions but it still felt time consuming somehow. The map creator also felt limited. You could customize the height, greenery, water by 10% at a time in the orginal game, here the slider to adjust these moved drastically with little input from me and it didn’t feel I had much say in how I wanted the island to be. I also noticed that all the islands that load are always very circular, whereas the original game gave very different shaped islands, sometimes in an almost C shaped ring or an S shaped island and often with areas of water inside the island, but all of these are very round without the chance of many lagoons inland.
The characters in game are all still there and are all still wearing the same clothes so its easy for lots of original tropic players to recognise who is who. The game works very much in the same way, build farms, fishing, logging, etc to make money. Build housing, schools, churches, entertainment, build bigger industries etc. Money is made by tropicans who go to work and for those that don’t know how it works, the (for example) farm will produce a yield of bananas which the teamsters will take to the dock. Once at the dock the outgoing produce will wait until a freighter comes by and only then do you ‘sell’ the goods and make money. In the meantime you have to juggle the finances of the island with your citizens health, well being and not annoy the superpowers of Russia and the USA too much so they will give you some financial aid every year instead of bringing gunships to your island and forcing you out of power.
The original gameplay is actually a lot of fun, and there are a lot of new good features such as the drivable roads. The original game had all tropicans walking, but now some of them will drive around. There are also some new buildings and edicts to play. The single biggest new feature for me though is the walking avatar of your dictator. This character can wander around the island, be sent to areas to improve buildings or speed up construction there. It can try to hush down a protesting citizen and make speeches from the balcony to increase respect. All this I like but at the same time, it makes the game feel slower somehow, and I kept getting annoyed at where this avatar was going when I wasn’t telling him/her where to go.
There is one more amazing feature I must mention before I move on to the really bad points…The GRAPHICS! The graphics (although needing a powerful graphics card) are amazing. You can zoom 360 and right in and out and just stare anywhere long enough and you can really see some amazing things, chickens running around, crabs walking on the beach, dolphins jumping in the sea. The graphics of this game are truly stunning and a wonderful improvement. But…
The additional features to the game just complicate it. The new feature of making an election speech and promising to keep it or face consequences just slows down the elections. The new avatar just slows down the fun gameplay.
There is so much new stuff that even as a veteran tropic player, I can’t just play without feeling lost. The whole idea of a simple goal and an easy known route to take is gone. The buttons to press to get around are all different and I kept opening up the wrong tabs all the time, just can’t get used to the new interface.
The amazing graphics, though really stunning, can actually detract from the game. Who cares about how the island looks if you can’t find your way around it.
The lack of one-off scenarios to play is a big turn off for me. Sometimes you don’t want to play a campaign especially as the early levels are easy. Sometimes you just want to play a short pre-designed level, but the creators couldn’t be bothered to make their own before shipping the game.
Even the finances felt strange, I kept going into debt without even knowing it as the game allows a certain debt level before it stops you spending(it impacts on your game to be in debt but the game just lets you spend without a warning).
The whole game feels like it takes ages to complete, even if you speed up time you keep having to slow down to control something else, sometimes simplicity is best and more is just worse.
Finally the radio guy seemed like a good feature at the start but he chimes in too often and can get annoying at times it’s lucky that you can turn him off.
To conclude, If you are a veteran player of tropic then I’m not sure you will enjoy this game so much. In improving the graphics so much the makers seem to have lost the best part of tropic, it’s incredibly simple and easy gameplay. It just doesn’t seem FUN to me anymore. I can’t put my finger on exactly why (I usually like new versions of old games) but the fun aspect has been replaced with frustration and boredom.
I’d still advise anyone to try the game, maybe you’ll like it more than me, and maybe the expansion pack will improve things, but as far as the base game goes, the gameplay just isn’t that fun and it makes me want to get out the old game and play that instead. Even though the old game may seem dated, and you can only view the island in a limited way, somehow this just made the gameplay easier.
New players may enjoy this more than veterans, please make up your own mind, I am neutral about this game.