It’s been a couple of years since Tropico 3 revived the much loved tripicocal city management sim on both PC and console, but does the latest iteration bring any significant improvements to the formula to entice you back to paradise?
Indeed Tropco 4 is still a vibrant city sim and a great one at that. Whether you’re playing sandbox mode of campaign mode it’s all about building a functional city that meets the needs of your citizens whilst you line your pockets with money in a Capitalist regime or share it among the people in a Communist one. Either way you’ll have to deal with the trials and tribulations of running a city in tropical setting. It’s compelling micro management that eats up hours like few other titles do.
Tropico 4 takes place between 1950 and the end of the cold war, and so the external influences on your fledgling nation now consist of China and the Middle East on top of America and Russia. It makes for a more diverse set of side objects as each nation tries to woo or control you, and you also have issues at home with Nationalist and Environmentalist groups causing unrest, spreading dissent and criticising decision. There’s more character in Tropico 4, literally, with the factions and nations that offer you side missions sporting caricature portraits as well as being fully voiced. They often stumble over the line of stereotypical, and come dangerously close to offensive in some cases, but their humorous dialogue saves it from getting too bad and certainly adds a bit of extra charm and substance to the game.
The side missions are quite intrusive though, pointing out issues factions and nations have about the state of your country and your rule by setting you the side mission to appease them. It certainly makes it more accessible and grants large cash bonuses which aid you even more, so new comers will find Tropico 4 a great fit, but veterans may miss having to look through statistics to determine any imminent problems and solving them themselves.
The focus this time round is certainly on the side mission rather than the sandbox approach Tropico 3 had. It’s a more structured game overall. Levels are split into islands for you to build upon with certain objectives in mind and side mission popping up to shape and refine your management. Unfortunately though this more structured focus those lead to a fair sense of predictability, meaning your building strategy is likely not to alter much once you find a system that works for you.
Building your cities is much like it was in Tropico 3 and can be broken down into placing mines over mineral deposits, creating tourist attractions on you most naturally beautiful areas, and placing farms on land best suited for particular crops. It’s then a matter of building houses for citizens and all the amenities they need to be happy, like jobs, police, markets, churches and a good road infrastructure. If after all your efforts the people are still giving you trouble and stepping out of line, you can always use bribes or even assassinations to convince them your way is best. A few new building are present as well, such as shopping centres, but their overall effect on gameplay is minimal.
Shaking this up now and again are natural disasters, such as volcanoes and tornadoes, that cause havoc on your island and can utterly destroy your infrastructure and thretens to send your city careening into chaos. However, thanks to the new addition of a quick build button that finishes the construction of new buildings instantly for a price, you can always bounce back and save your city from sinking into total despair. The colours of identical building have also been mixed up to add nice variety to your city and a little more character than the copy pasted look Tropico 3 had.
Overall Tropico 4 is a great city management game and easily the best yet of the series. However, veteran players are likely to be disappointed with how little has changed since Tropico 3 and see this as more of an expansion that worthy of full price.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: PC/ Xbox 360 Release Date: 26/08/2011 (21/10/2011 Xbox 360)
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Tropico 4 for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of three weeks on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.