Bow down before me peasants, as I bring prosperity to paradise, and a swift death to any who oppose me.
It seemed like forever since I was unceremoniously removed from my seat of power. But now, thanks to the fourth Tropico installment from Kalypso Media, I am back where I belong, in control of a beautiful island.
From my palatial home on the island, I look out at what is only a very small settlement so far. It is the year 1960 and in the coming 40 years I plan to raise this island to a glory never before seen, all the while filling my Swiss bank account to bursting and ensuring the unwavering love of the people. Viva El Presidente!.
Tropico 4 bears more than just a passing resemblance to the previous Tropico title. In fact, many would go so far as to suggest that, with the limited number of changes that have been made, a new release is largely unwarranted. But the changes that have been made make the game far easier and more enjoyable to play, opening the genre up to newcomers who have previously been scared away by the complexity that comes with running an island nation.
It is for those newcomers that I would like to quickly explain what is involved with being El Presidente. Tropico 4 comes with some 20 odd different scenarios in campaign mode, along with a customisable sandbox mode, challenge missions and a competent tutorial. Although through the campaign the objectives may change and the difficulty may rise, certain things are common across all of the modes.
As El Presidente, the player is responsible for the day to day running of the island including, but not limited to, building, security, healthcare, education and both internal and external relationships with various factions and nations. To start building up the island nation the player will be required to juggle all of these things if they hope to bring prosperity, and a healthy Swiss bank account balance, and remain in power.
Going into the building menu, the player can choose from a wide selection of different buildings that all have different effects on the island and its inhabitants. Providing the general populace with essentials such as clinics, schools and good quality housing is essential in keeping them happy. More important than keeping them happy, as you can always force them to be happy, is building the economy, and there are a number of ways to do this.
Farming and mining are always a good bet, especially if you have fertile ground and and abundance of natural resources. The resources that you acquire can be refined through various industries to increase their worth, such as opening a cannery and putting fish stocks in tins. Even if the player has none of the required natural resource, such as gold, it can always be imported in and refined for profit.
Tourism is always an option and there are a variety of hotels and attractions that can be built to attract different types of tourist, such as Spring Breakers or Wealthy vacationers. Of course, locals will also benefit from the added entertainment that comes with a vacation hotspot.
Remaining in power will rely mostly on keeping the various different factions of the island happy. Each faction will have certain requirements of El Presidente and failing to fulfill them will reduce their support and put the player at risk of losing the next election (unless they cheat). Ecologists and the Church are perhaps the most difficult to keep happy, with Ecologists having a constant problem with profiting from the resources of the island, and the Church making unrealistic demands on behalf of God. Still, build a new Cathedral and plant some trees and everyone is happy.
Relationships with the foreign powers are also something that have to be monitored closely, especially those with Russia and the US, simply because they can invade the island if they feel it is needed. Both the factions and the foreign powers have requests that pop up around the island from time to time. These mini side missions are entirely optional, although the benefits of completing them are often worth while.
Perhaps the most dramatic thing that El Presidente has to deal with are the natural disasters. The island may be prone to all manner of destructive forces, such as tsunami, tornado, earthquake and even volcanic eruptions. These events happen from time to time and inevitably cause destruction of property, leaving the player to tidy up afterwards.
Tropico 4 may not be a huge leap from the previous game, but the little changes make for a much tighter game experience. Players can get as involved as they like with the micro-management, right down to choosing wages for each individual worker if they wish. Or they can let the game take care of the intricacies and instead concentrate on becoming rich and powerful. The missions found in the campaign mode work on a reasonable learning curve and will take in excess of 40 hours for the average player to complete. Once this has been added to the Challenge missions and the brilliant Sandbox mode, the amount of gameplay that can be taken from Tropico 4 is quite substantial.
The changes may not be huge, but Tropico 4 is a definite improvement over Tropico 3, which was already a very good game. Anyone who enjoyed the third title would be well recommended to pick up Tropico 4. But gamers who have never dipped their toes into the warm, sunny waters of Tropico, but fancied themselves in Aviator sunglasses and an impressive moustache would do well to pick this game up as it is the most accessible title in the series thus far.