GamesBeat

Tropico 5 delivers heart-warming tyranny without any real surprises (review)

Tropico 5 palace
Image Credit: GamesBeat

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If I change my plantations to tobacco, my people would starve, but it would lower the national debt and help pay for my new opera house. I guess I could just issue an edict that forced these freeloading peasants to pay for the food they are producing.

Witness the inner dialogue of Tropico 5.

Tropico 5 is the latest offering in a line of city-building simulator games that dates back to 2001. Veteran real-time strategy and simulation game developer Haemimont Games (Omerta: City of Gangsters, Grand Ages: Rome) took its third crack at the series, which takes a fun and lighthearted look at totalitarianism, world history, politics, and economics.

I assumed the role of El Presidente on the PC version and immediately set about making the nation of Tropico, a network of islands under my thumb, into a model society. Xbox 360, Mac, and PS4 players will have to wait to try their hands at world domination.

¡Viva El Presidente! ¡Viva Tropico!

Tropico Zoom Out

Above: Your own slice of paradise! (Warning: Does not contain paradise. May contain bees.)

Image Credit: GamesBeat

What You’ll Like

New simulation game, same great taste

Tropico 5 sticks to the rules of city-building simulators. The resource-gathering, building, research, trade and diplomacy screens are pretty much identical to those found in every other simulator. This is a good thing. These interfaces have remained unchanged for the better part of two decades for a reason, and to change them now would cause an unnecessary shock to the game’s core fan base.

However, Tropico 5 does have something different to show.

The storyline is decent, but it’s the thousands of ways to get from point A to point B in each of Tropico 5’s four historical eras that will keep players interested. It has a million new building and customization options for players. El Presidente can bend buildings to his every whim. Want that plantation to increase its output for the glory of Tropico? Try hiring a manager, upgrading it with a researched technology, or throwing money at it via the budget system. You can even do all three to maximize earning potential! Virtually all of the game’s 100-plus buildings offer this type of micromanagement.

It breaks up the tedium of repetitive city construction with natural disasters that actually mean something. My city was doing great until an earthquake destroyed four of my buildings and damaged six others. I didn’t have the money to fix it all, so I had to get a little creative. Natural disasters in the Total War and Civilization games are pretty pathetic, but I was surprised with how severe they are in Tropico 5.

Tropico 5 Build Screen

Above: Now, why would I want to educate my subjects?!

Image Credit: GamesBeat

A lovable cast of stereotypical characters

Every character in Tropico 5 plays an archetypal role. It has a rough-riding United States president, who is fond of making wagers, drinking until the sun comes up, and taking every opportunity to undercut the Axis and Soviet powers. The embodiment of British colonialism, the bespectacled and top-hat adorned Lord Oaksworth, is there to plunder as much of El Presidente’s goods and materials as possible in the name of a far-off king. A local tavern keeper also runs a public access radio show for some reason, and she spews hilarious and somewhat racist anecdotes about the people of Tropico needing siestas and rum instead of education and money.

And then there is Penultimo, El Presidente’s faithful adviser. Tropico 5 takes a strong stance against the lackluster and annoying guides that permeate many video games and interrupt the general ebb and flow of the campaign. When Penultimo opens his mouth, you know you are going to laugh while you receive that important message, and this makes the interruption a lot more tolerable.

Tropico 5 Penultimo

Above: See? Much better than an annoying fairy screaming “Hey, listen!” every 4 seconds.

Fantastic sound

Fans of the Tropico series know to expect a top-class Latin-infused soundtrack, and the latest installment doesn’t disappoint. I caught myself dancing around an idiot more than a few times while constructing my empire. The music perfectly matches the Cuban theme, and the songs of the looped soundtrack vary enough to keep you from going insane after just a few hours of gameplay. This type of achievement in music isn’t really necessary for a simulator game, but Tropico 5’s score spices up the overall presentation of the game.