El Presidente demands your support on the PS4.
Traditionally, city building strategy is at home on the PC and rarely makes its way onto the home consoles. However, El Presidente, the enigmatic dictator from the Tropico games, has never let something like tradition stand in the way of domination and has made an appearance, through Kalypso Media’s Tropico games, on consoles in the past, and the games have worked vey well. Ever looking to the future, El Presidente set his sights on the latest generation of consoles by comfortably setting his presidential palace down on the PlayStation 4 with his latest dictatorship, Tropico 5.
When Tropico 5 launched on PC last year, it was well received and considered by many to be the best Tropico game so far in the series, despite relatively few major changes over the previous outing. Personally, as a long time fan, I really enjoyed the game and the GGUK review reflected this, and not just because I feared the wrath of El Presidente. But it has been a while since I played a Tropico game on a home console, so how does it compare?
As always, the player begins by heading to some undisclosed corner of the Caribbean and taking control of a settlement. It is now up to the player to make lots of money and keep their residents happy through building up the settlement and evolving the economy. Place housing so that your residents have somewhere to lay their heads, and taverns to keep them entertained when they are not busy toiling at the plantations, factories and mines that you have built. Get the money rolling in and the people of your land will be content. Well, depending on how much of that money you siphon off for your personal Swiss bank account.
This is Tropico and you have the right to be exactly as selfish as you want to be. The peasants don’t matter and the only real time that you need them to like you is when it comes time for elections, and even then it may just be easier to rig the election or have your opponent assassinated. Self interest is the name of the game, and in Tropico 5 it really does head into some pretty dark areas. However, things never get too uncomfortable thanks to the overwhelming sense of humour and your good friend (only friend?) and advisor, Penultimo.
Penultimo is always there (unless you send him away on some mission or another) to guide your presidential hand and offer sound advice. The humour, both from Penultimo and the game in general, is often dry and quick to highlight the absurdities of dictatorships. In many ways, the humour is what drives the game, and makes it very easy for even the most righteous player to reveal their darker, more selfish side.
Whilst the building and development of a stable economy work really well, and importantly are successfully transferred over to the PS4, it is the politics and management where Tropico 5 really shines. Aligning with different factions and nations, creating edicts and a constitution, and dealing with the challenges of entering a era are all things that El Presidente will have to juggle with. Then there is El Presidente’s own dynasty to consider with offspring occasionally popping up, each with their own skills that will make them perfect for certain roles, or a danger to El Presidente’s rule. Being removed from power can end the game, and it cuts much deeper if it is caused by a family member.
The core campaign in Tropico 5, as the player maintains control despite the interventions of other and multiple little side missions that can spell doom, is thoroughly enjoyable. There is a slight frustration in having to start again when things don’t quite work out how you would expect, but this is countered by the sense of achievement when they do. Aside from the campaign, there are also individual missions and a free form sandbox mode to play around with. And then there are the multiplayer modes which allow up to four players to share an island and either work together or against each other for victory. All in all, there is plenty of content to keep a budding dictator busy.
Visually though, Tropico 5 is not as shiny as you would perhaps expect on the PS4, especially given how long it has taken to arrive on the Sony console. It is bright and colourful, as you would expect from a game set in the Caribbean, but the detail just doesn’t feel representative of what the PS4 is capable. This kind of sim game is never going to be cutting edge in the visual department, but I would have expected more.
If playing Tropico 5 on the PS4 has shown us anything, it is that being a dictator is a difficult life. Tropico 5 is an enjoyable city building and management romp and works really well on the console. If ruling over a banana republic is something that appeals to your darker side, take pity on poor El Presidente and grab this game.