Tropico 4

8.0 Overall Score

Fun, challenging & addicting

Unrelenting natural disasters

Written by on November 14, 2011 in [, , , ]

Video games are one of the few places, and hopefully the only place, we can play God. I love playing games like The Sims or Civilization V that allow me to control entire civilizations, but what if I just want to create an island and do whatever I want with it? Enter Tropico 4 from Haemimont Games. Tropico 4 is a simulator game that puts you in control of developing an impoverished “Caribbean” nation. The game is complex and addicting, best described as a “just 10 more minutes” experience.

Tropico 4 can be played in several different ways. For newcomers to this type of game, it is best to start with the tutorial where you will be instructed in the essentials for revitalizing Tropico. Complete all 4 parts and you even get an achievement. The story mode is split up into 20 different chapters, each chapter taking you somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour or more depending on the speed you play at. You play the role of El Presidente and choose how your island develops. Will you be a tyrant or a man/woman of the people? Each chapter brings a different facet of Tropico 4 ranging from chapters where you have to focus on tourism, industry, or just building a successful, happy island. Tropico 4 has several different time speeds that allow you to watch your nation build quickly, or gives you the chance to slow things down so you can easily micromanage. This can come in handy when you are waiting on buildings to be built, shipments to come into the harbor, or just wanting time to pass quickly.

To build your island you will need money. To earn money you need to establish some revenue, whether it be from exporting crops, mining, creating industrial areas on your island, or schmoozing with foreign countries for aid. You should have a good base of money when you start your game so you should focus your wealth on farms and ways to keep both your people happy, and money in your pocket. Crops like sugar or tobacco will yield a high profit, but can not be eaten by your citizens. What you want to do is make sure you have both crops to feed your people, as well as crops to increase your pocketbook. If you industrialize your island you will be rolling in money, but the environmentalists will be all over you for polluting the island. Finding that sweet balance between making everyone happy is difficult.

When you start your island you will already have some inhabitants, although they live in shacks making the living conditions very poor. It is your job to help the citizens by giving them better places to live, food to eat, entertainment, and other means of keeping them happy. If you don’t keep them happy you stand the chance of having a revolt or your citizens turning to a hard life of crime. There’s nothing worse than having to shoot at your own people because they are revolting and taking arms. Your citizens are divided into multiple factions, each with their own beliefs and demands. Edicts, foreign policy, and government structure will affect how each of these factions perceives you and will react accordingly. To please these factions you can also bribe, arrest, kidnap, or assassinate “trouble” citizens.

During your playthrough you will have the chance to take on many challenges and objectives which can net you money, buildings, or other items which will help your island prosper. You can have up to 5 challenges going at once and the challenges are easily viewed in the bottom right corner of the screen. These challenges help keep the game fresh and can even help you to earn achievements if you complete enough in a single mission. Some missions will take time, such as exporting 1000 papayas to the USSR, or can be completed instantly by wiring another country some money. Missions are completely up to you to complete however you want. If you want to play as a tyrant, you can. If you want to give all the money to the people by showering them with luxury, you can.  You can introduce edicts, which can help or harm the economy, even taking some funds and placing them into your Swiss Bank account.

The graphics in the game are subpar, but you will spend the majority of the game zoomed out to see your entire island, so the game wasn’t made for close-up realistic images. The music is what really makes this game fun. There were times where even my wife, who was sitting on the couch next to me, would start swaying her shoulders to the rhythm of the Latin-esque music. The music really gives the game a Caribbean feel and pulls you into the secluded island setting. Tropico 4 also includes radio broadcasts which can help give you a sense of how your people feel about your ruling. The sound of the old radio and the festive music do a great job at keeping the fun factor up.

The only complaints I had with Tropico 4 were the unrelenting natural disasters, load time, and the phantom camera. I don’t know if the disasters are scripted or randomized, but there were missions where I was suffering from earthquake after earthquake, which left my buildings in shambles and my pocketbook very empty from having to rebuild everything. Can’t I make it through a mission without a fire breaking out, a volcano erupting, or a tornado killing 8 of my people? There were often times where I would be moving the camera and it would freak out and start moving itself in the opposite direction, or start moving when I wasn’t pressing the thumbstick. The camera is customizable in regards to the zoom and angle you look at your island, but I wish there was a more dynamic view of the island when I could travel the street as a citizen. The load times in the game also seem a little too long, with loading screens taking between 20-30 seconds to load the game. Not even the political humor on the load screen helps the long wait.

If you’re looking for a complex city/island simulator then I highly recommend that you pick Tropico 4 up. Tropico 4 is not only a fun experience, but is challenging and addicting, keeping you busy for hours on end. I don’t have much experience with the previous installments of the game, but have heard that the game stands out more as an upgrade, rather than an entirely new game. Still though, Tropico 4 is a nice break from the more hardcore titles you will see this holiday season. Tropico 4 is available now on the PC and Xbox 360 and is rated T for Teen.

A copy of Tropico 4 was provided to TMG for the purpose of evaluation and review.


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Author: Loren Nikkel View all posts by
Hardcore Xbox and occasional PC gamer. I love to play multiplayer and co-op games where strategy is key.

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