City building games are one of the most niches of genres in the video game industry. Despite that, it has a vast expanse of titles, with some known franchises making their mark. 2019 is a year when city-building (and especially simulation) games try to make it big, with the year noting the return of some well-anticipated franchises. Tropico is one franchise which has been around for quite some time, and El Presidente is returning to the Caribbeans to consolidate his throne.
Tropico 6 is a city-building simulation game developed by Limbic Entertainment and published by Kalypso Media. The game was released on March 29 for the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Tropico 6 returns with the same modes as its predecessor. You can experience El Presidente’s stories in the Campaign, or just design an island at will in the Sandbox. Sandbox allows the player to build a metropolis of their dreams without any limitations including recurring quests to fulfill. The game features a ton of customizability in terms of the weather conditions, resources available, land area available for building, progression of eras, faction demands, riots, disasters, and so much more.
The campaign is one place where the change of tone is evident. Kalypso Media has been testing the grounds for a new developer this time for Tropico, and Limbic Entertainment has tried a completely new formula with the game. Haemimont Games had not only made Tropico’s campaign, but they have defined Tropico as a distinct name among the several franchises that have embraced the genre of city-building games. The campaigns in Tropico 3, Tropico 4 and Tropico 5 are progressive in nature, in the sense that missions lead to another which advances the story. Tropico 6’s missions are just a recollection of El Presidente’s adventures throughout the ages, and there is no link between one “mission” to the next. This is something that made me feel out of touch with the franchise after a long time since I personally feel the Haemimont approach to the game was better. However, the missions are challenging and are sure to be huge time-sink once one properly gets into the game. One necessary change they implemented over their predecessors was that all maps (or rather, “missions”) unlocked are visible on the campaign screen, and the player does not need to worry about maintaining saves for the sake of progression (because somehow, the past Tropico games did not allow you to resume your adventure from the menu, you’re basically losing hours of progress if you do not maintain a proper save). Just boot into an unlocked map and start playing without any hassle.
The game’s dialogue system has lost that appeal that it used to have. Character dialogues do not command the same amount of sarcasm that they used to do back in Tropico 4. Also, for some reason, the characters are definitely not people whom you can get used to seeing easily. A few occasional intellectual jokes from Penultimo does lighten the mood, but that’s all about it, to be honest.
The multiplayer formula, first unearthed during Tropico 5, is another fundamental portion of Limbic’s Tropico. The multiplayer does not change the concept brought over from Tropico 5. You can trade with one another, invade, or even publicly denounce each other in election speeches (yes, that is a thing, more on that later). Tropico 4’s concept of “foreign aid” could have been a thing in multiplayer, allowing a player with a bigger bank to invest in his friend’s island and extract profits while keeping a fraction of his people happy. Despite this, a race to the Modern Times with friends is definitely something fun and eager to look forward to.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Tropico 6 fails to instill any “major” sense of change to the game. The mechanics used in it are almost always an equal or slightly better version of its predecessor. Existing fans of the franchise wanting a new game with new stuff to explore might find themselves disappointed. With that being said, there are a few welcome changes in the game which does make it better for a newcomer.
Tropico 6 is a continuation of El Presidente’s attempts to make Tropico the biggest nation in the Caribbeans, and in turn, the biggest nation in the whole world. Presidente is the Supreme Leader of the country, and the “One Above All”. You manage a fictional banana republic in the game, trying to make the most out of being the dictator of a backward nation in the Caribbeans. In order to do this, one gets to construct buildings as well as micromanage all aspects of life on the islands. A new feature that has been added is the construction of bridges to connect other islands in an archipelago. All maps have adjacent sectors which can be reached out to if a bridge is built. However, the feature comes at the expense of the build area on the islands. The build area on the majority of maps has been reduced. I have mixed opinions about this, since it does allow some depth of strategy and planning about what sort of buildings to construct while snatching the freedom of both Tropico 4 and Tropico 5. At least there is a large variety of buildings to play within the game (you might not even be able to construct all thanks to the limited space available).
Tropico 6 features a newly overhauled economy system. Now you can actually track the materials being produced as well as the raw materials being fed to a factory. The status bar actually allows you to see the cause of that icon hovering over the factory, which signifies that it is not supplied with resources. Factories not functioning still have to pay wages, so it is necessary to either produce enough raw materials or import them in case the island does not have enough of the required raw resource. The game also does away with the “debt” system, which is basically a way of cheating funds into your treasury when your economy isn’t going too well and you need some cash urgently. (Did I mention the fact that tourists do not like visiting a “poor” nation? Oh, the local media do not like it too, not that they cannot be censored off).
However, distinct supply lines from the nearest group of Teamsters (who are basically the people who transport resources from one point to another on the islands) would have been better. Garages apparently are only used by well-off people for traveling to work (unless made cheaper by the Presidente), which makes transportation of resources a hassle, especially when the guy can’t afford to travel using a car to work (yes, observe a tiny guy picking up a sackload of sugar from a farm and travel across two bridges to another island to dump the sugar at a Brewery, like how hard can it be? ).
A big addition to Tropico 6 is Pirate Coves. While people may deny it, pirates are one of the most profitable ways for earning resources and cold-hard cash, though the methods might not be exactly legal. Of course, superpowers do not like a bunch of buccaneers preying on their freighters, so you will suffer some loss in relations. Diplomacy isn’t really an issue in Tropico 6, so offsetting that minor loss isn’t something to worry about. Pirates also allow the Presidente to steal blueprints for some of the world’s most precious Wonders for Tropico. You might end up with obstacles like sages on the way, but nothing is more rewarding than successfully planning the heist, executing it, and bringing the monument to life for both tourists and Tropicans alike. Also, that guarantees another term in office!
Maintaining the balance between production and exports can be tricky, so there are various modus operandi for the buildings to help change the way they operate. An interesting feature brought back from Tropico 4, work modes allow you to maintain the fragile balance between job quality and production. Upgrades are also a handy way for improving productivity, though upgrades tend to increase the upkeep a lot and aren’t really worth it unless the economy has more than enough space for expansion.
Did I mention that palace customization is a big thing in Tropico 6? Yes, you can tweak and turn the various aspects of your palace. The garden, the walls, the windows – everything is changeable. Be it the style, the colors – an offshore architect from Switzerland..errr…Belgium will manage that for you, so things are supposed to go well during redecoration. Well, interior decorum can always be cool, but how can you stop the rioting hungry Tropicans outside it?
Research and Edicts
What’s the use of being a dictator if you cannot issue edicts, rig elections, and remain in control of the Iron Throne (err….wrong reference). You need to invent or discover the various tools of governance on your journey through the eras. The brightest brains in Tropico help in “re-discovering” tools of governance that allow the Presidente to keep his people happy, or simply act like a despot while siphoning off funds from the treasury into his/her Swiss bank account. Yes, you need to manually research and unlock all clauses under the Constitution as well as the edicts that you can issue. You cannot research buildings, only their modes of operation once they are unlocked. Buildings are only unlocked by unlocking blueprints either through side-quests or through coughing up cash.
Election speeches are back! This was one of the selling points of Tropico 4, and it is nice to see it back in Tropico 6. You make promises, praise or blame factions, and superpowers, and then try to keep your promises. The people are fickle and will remember your failures – election speeches following the one where a promise has not been kept will not have the option of making any promises at all. At least Tropicans aren’t harboring corrupt guardians of democracy who mislead the people on every election, are they? The Presidente is always a wise person to vote for.
People and Factions
People are perhaps one of the most important resources in Tropico (after the precious minerals and oil deposits on the island of course). You need their support to win elections, stay in office, and continue doing whatever the Presidente wants to do. People have their own needs, and they need to be satisfied so that they do not become rebels. Rebels are one thing you do not need as a despot – they oppose your orders, just imagine! You have lots of creative ways to “treat” an errant citizen, or reward loyal ones.
Factions are back, though they are more loud-mouthed and stubborn in Tropico 6 than in its predecessor. Some factions like the Conservatives even threaten to campaign for early elections to vote the Presidente out of office, so they are definitely stuff that should not be taken lightly. Faction demands are pretty stupid sometimes, like when the Communists asked me to build an Opera House for the Tropicans (come on, why would they ask me to build a source of luxury entertainment when half of their followers cannot afford to visit it?) Quests are definitely easier ways to earn cash or standing with a faction, but considering the limited space available for building, as well as the upkeep that would result in additional outflow from the treasury, it is not always worth it. Some demands can be pretty unreasonable too.
Sounds and Music
After a long while, I am pretty dissatisfied with the music tracks of Tropico. Both Tropico 4 and Tropico 5 had memorable soundtracks. The appeal is surprisingly missing in Tropico 6, which is a huge step down for the franchise.
In-game sounds do have a touch of realism in them, which is cool. You can hear seagulls near the seashore, the sounds of an AC going on near an apartment, a factory operating at peak efficiency to keep the Tropican dollar in shape, or a car moving through the streets of Tropico. Character voices are mostly good, though I really did not like the change in Penultimo’s voice. Having your most loyal servant being disgraced ought to count for something.
Graphics and optimization
Tropico 6 looks more glorious and sharp than its predecessor. The in-game models for a few buildings have been changed, and in general, most of the buildings look extremely pretty. The best thing is the huge draw distances that the engine allows so that you can practically zoom down to street level and observe your Tropicans going about their ways to their jobs.
The game was tested on the following specifications:-
CPU: Ryzen 5 2600
GPU : GTX 1080
RAM: 16 GB DDR4
Tropico 6 features quite a few optimization improvements making the game more stable than Tropico 5. The game does not slow down when a large number of buildings have been built, which was quite an issue back in Tropico 5. This is partly because of the fact that Tropico 6’s maps do not have enough build space, but I’m sure other optimizations have also been done to improve the stability.
If you are a fan of the franchise and are eager to hop into its latest game, try and get the game in a sale to save yourself from the disappointment. However, newcomers to the franchise can buy the game to check out what Tropico as a franchise stands for. I would have loved to talk more, but there are Tropican pirates on my tail (somebody help me?)