PCs & Gaming

Review: Tropico

tropico

Tropico is an amazing strategy game that I own and play to this very day. I got this game when it came out for my windows 98 pc but it installed well on my vista pc too. It doesn’t need any serial codes to be put in but you will need the disc in order to play.

The game is based on you being a dictator of a Caribbean island. The game isn’t in true 3D but instead like all old strategy games takes that top-down slightly diagonal view, you can then view your island from 4 different sides. Although you can’t see in 3D like you can in tropic 3 and those after it, there is something about this game that is just more fun and you can really zoom in and see your tropicans close up.

The game starts with a fun intro movie and then you are given the option to play a tutorial (great if you are new to this game) or play a game, options/extras which include seeing highscores and the credits – very funny with dancing tropicans or exit which boots you right back to desktop. The game’s loading time, even on my windows 98 machine, is incredibly fast and the game really doesn’t feel choppy at all.

If you select game you are given options in the form of pictures, hovering over them gives you the option to load an existing game, play a scenario or play a new game. Scenarios can be complicated and hard and I’d advise anyone new to the game to start with the tutorial and then your own custom made game.

A new game is started with you choosing certain features of your island, how much greenery you have (the more the easier), how many minerals your island has buried underneath (the more there is the more you can mine), how flat or tall your island is (flatter islands are easier to build on but have less choice of crops to grow), how much water you have around your island (the more water the more fishing you can do) and finally how big your island is over all. You can also pick how many tropicans to start with, the more people you have to start with the faster and easier it is to build your island and increase your economy.

You then can select how long you want the game to last for before a final score is counted and any other details that can make gameplay more difficult such as no immigration (but don’t play with any of these when you first start as it will hinder your initial game).

After picking what your island is like you get to choose what dictator you will be. You select from a list of well knowns such as Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Juan Peron, etc to El Bombastico (?). After picking your dictator you can choose to change their attributes. You can select to play as they are or just use their name and instead select all the different things that make up a dictator:
Their background, were they a farmer, a miner, born with a silver spoon, etc.
How did they rise to power, through a communist or capatilist rebellion, elected as a socialist, for family values or perhaps installed by the KGB or CIA, etc.
Their traits, you can select 2 traits that are good such as green thumb, administrator, empathy, etc
Their flaws, each dictator has 2 flaws that hinder their progress, anything from a kleptomania, womanizer, alcoholic, gambler, etc.

Picking the different traits, flaws, background and rise to power will help or hinder you on the island. The island is filled with tropicans that belong to different faction these include a religious faction, environmentalists, capitalists, militarists, communists, etc. These different factions will respect or despise you depending on which things you pick at the beginning of a game. This might sound a bit complicated but it really is not and becomes very easy to understand very quickly once you start playing.

After selecting all your details you are quickly whisked away to a randomly generated island where you can start playing. The game gives you your chosen number of tropicans to start with, several farms, a dock, a teamsters office and a construction office, as well as El President’s palace of course. The main aim of the game is to stay in power while keeping as many tropicans as happy as possible. You face regular elections which you have to win (you can cheat of course but it won’t make your tropicans happy) or choose not to have any but face an uprising or military coup. You have to keep building up your economy, this is done by growing, mining, logging, making things and sending them to the dock where you will make money as soon as dock workers load it onto incoming ships. Immigrants come to your island to take jobs and the more tropicans you end up having, the tougher it is to keep them all happy.
You have to do what any city building game would ask, build housing, buildings to help with education, work buildings, leisure, etc. What makes this game unique to any other city builder is that when you’ve bought and placed a building down you don’t just see it straight away. Instead you see a yellow blueprint of the building. Construction workers have to come and work on making your building before it can be used. This can feel frustrating at first if you are used to games like simcity, but it’s amazing how much more fun and realistic this game makes the whole building process.
The whole game feels very real, and is very different to any city builders. In city building games you typically have to attract residents who live in houses and may leave, but here your tropicans start off in horrible little shacks that spoil their mood and your island’s beauty. It’s up to you to build enough housing for your tropicans to live in.
There’s also the US and USSR to worry about, upset either side too much and they can remove you from your regime instantly!

The gameplay is remarkably fun once you grasp it. The game is complex and there are so many different ways to play each time it really makes for a different game each time. The game is fast in loading and doesn’t seem to crash at all.
There is a manual that comes with the game and although the tutorial explains a lot I’d advise to give the manual a quick read through, especially as it’s fun to read.

The graphics were amazing when this game came out and although with today’s technology this game is certainly past it without having true 3D, there is something better about this game. When I zoom in close I’m still amazed at the level of detail that’s been put into the buildings and characters as they go about their business. There is an options menu that allows you to switch certain features such as software/hardware rendering but this wasn’t worth trying to do as switching to hardware just scrambled my screen. You’ll also notice that the game only plays with 16-bit colours (these days games run with 32-bit) but this doesn’t seem to affect the gameplay, in fact I didn’t notice it at all while playing, the game is so pretty – just watching certain areas of the screen and you might see the odd whale in the ocean or just seeing the beauty of each character wandering around.

The game also has some great latino music. It’s lovely just to have to music playing and it makes for a relaxing play. Each game can take a long time to finish on normal speed so I’d advise speeding up the game or you could take more than a day to play one game (speed of gameplay can be changed with the + and – buttons). Playing a scenario is the next step and these offer far more challenges but once you’ve mastered this game it really is something you should try!

The Bad:
There is only one bug I have run into with this game and that is when I am in the menu to select a fountain or other pretty feature, basically don’t leave the buildings feature without switching to any other type of buildings. Don’t leave and visit the island details screen without switching to housing for example. the reason for this is that when looking at island details (how much pollution is on the island to be specific) and then switching to buildings, if the lst buildings where fountains, etc I WILL always be dumped to desktop. This is a true bug, but getting around it is easy, just change the buildings you are looking at, or visit the edicts screen before selecting buildings after viewing pollution.

SO:
I’d really recommend this game to anyone into strategy games. I really prefer it to tropic 3 (modern torpico) it’s just more fun and easier to play, less complicated than recent versions. The graphics are still lovely and the game runs very smoothly and loads with virtually no waiting time.
If you like this game then I’d also recommend getting the paradise island expansion pack, or perhaps picking up a compilation copy that has both together already, that pack added weather and other random events as well as improving some of tropicos features that already exist. A great game with both and even more fun!

Rating: 5/5

Review published on amazon UK, click here

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