|Alt names||热带岛国, Тропико, Banana Republic|
|Theme||City Building / Construction Simulation, Cold War, Managerial, Real-Time|
|Perspective||Isometric, Bird’s-eye view, Free-roaming camera|
|Publisher||Gathering of Developers, Inc.|
|Developer||PopTop Software Inc.|
Description of Tropico
Famed for its railway management simulation Railroad Tycoon 2, Poptop Software has turned its attention to a rather different style of game. Though players of Poptop’s recent titles will recognise much of the look of Tropico, the theme is both different and novel. Los trabajadores controlan las fábricas It’s a simple enough formula – run a small Caribbean island, provide jobs and housing for the people, and (hopefully) develop it, over time, into a successful nation. How you achieve this is up to you – dictator or democrat, communist or capitalist, violent or peaceful, there are many paths open to Tropico players. Early in the game, finances can be raised by farming and mining, but later on, it’s usually desirable to begin manufacturing or processing your raw resources to raise their value. Yanqui Tourists can also be enticed to your island with hotels, casinos and spas, bringing their wallets with them. When starting the random island game, you can choose from a set of personal characteristics for your ruler. Each has various positive and negative effects – a background of “Booze Baron” will ensure high prices from rum sales, whereas a trait of “Flatulent” will harm your foreign relations, and mean your palace guards must be paid double. They can be unbalanced – certain characteristics are much more helpful than others – and unfortunately many of the negative ones (yes, you have to choose two character defects) involve losing respect from the church. This can make good relations with the religious factions difficult. The characteristics of your island can be changed, too, and there are a variety of victory criteria, including an open-ended mode. Danza para mí, bebé To keep your citizens happy (and thus, yourself in power) services need to be built. These range from police and army outposts to keep the peace, to clinics and hospitals, to churches and cathedrals, and include a wide selection of entertainment facilities like pubs, restaurants and strip clubs. (Well, OK, it calls them “cabarets,” but from the look of the women who work there, there’s only one sort of “cabaret” going on.) All in all, there are around 85 different structures, each with its own range of options and settings to modify its effect. Mi gente me ama! No hay necesidad de elecciones Your people will periodically call for elections – whether you listen to them is up to you, but not holding elections will make them more likely to turn on you and kick you out of office. If you proceed with them, there’s a further option to rig the ballot, but your smarter subjects will work this out, causing further unrest. Lose the election, and it’s adios to you, Señor. Probably the best way to sum up Tropico is to imagine Sim City with a much more complex economy model. The island-building aspects of the game bear a strong resemblance to city management games (placing them carefully is vital for efficiency), but the focus of the game is different. It’s not enough to build a school, then sit back and watch students flood in – to encourage education, you’ll need to create an incentive for people to study rather than work. Many jobs around the island – policemen, factory workers, soldiers, sportsmen – require a high school education, so setting high wages for qualified people is one way. The people won’t bother to attend if there are no such jobs available, though, so balancing the number of teachers (to minimise costs) with the requirement for more educated workers can be tricky. Tropico is filled with neat little interdependent situations such as this, and it’s rare that changing one factor in one place won’t have knock-on effects in other aspects of your economy. There’s also a set of edicts that can be issued – these fall broadly into individual, monetary, diplomatic and social categories, and cover litter prohibition, tax cuts, imprisoning dissidents and organising a visit from the Pope. Por favor, señor! Alguien ha robado mis maracas Tropico just oozes Caribbean atmosphere. It’s clear the artists have had tremendous fun working on the graphics – from the tall, imposing power station to the grand façade of the luxury hotels, each building is individual and attractive. The effort extends to the animations for each individual Tropican – they change clothes as they change occupations, so it’s instantly possible to see the jobs of each wandering individual. The fat bankers swagger around with smart blue suits, the military have a suitably assured and confident gait and the bishops shuffle about as if they’ll soon be meeting God themselves. You can delve into each individual’s needs, personality, family background and even see what they’re thinking, rather reminiscent of The Sims. The sound and music matches the graphical effort excellently. Though the music can get slightly wearing after extended play, its South American vibe is cheerful and pleasant in smaller quantities. Your advisor has a suitable Latino drawl, and his habit of referring to you as “El Presidente” will amuse. Tropico should be essential playing for any designers intending to use graphics and sound to create a strong style and identity. Sit down for a Tropico session, with a tall glass of rum and pineapple juice in one hand, and a fat cigar between the fingers of the other, and you’ll be Fidel, for a while. No vendemos esa clase de cosa aquí, Americano Poptop’s smart decision to avoid depictions of drug cultivation has paid off well. Although the theme can be quite dark at times, the humour and cheerfulness of the presentation will mean a smile’s never far from your face. Repression, political totalitarianism and murder isn’t really a laughing matter, but in Tropico’s world even death is an opportunity for some sarcastic comments from your advisor. It meddles with some serious issues, but always keeps the focus on fun. The only major question mark hanging over Tropico is one of lasting appeal. Though it’s great fun to explore the various paths and options open to players, once you’ve seen it all, Tropico can become repetitive. This will take quite some time, though, so you shouldn’t necessarily let it put you off a purchase – beyond the simple “good ruler, free elections, happy people” vs. “evil ruler, no elections, repressed masses” question there are more complex alternatives to explore. But once they’re all explored, you probably won’t find yourself coming back for more. More varied preset scenarios would have helped – there are a few, but they are somewhat uninspired and lacking in variety. There are some other, more minor gripes with the interface and economic system. Presumably to avoid dealing with the problems of inflation, the designers have capped all the rents, salaries and prices. This can occasionally create difficulties when your armed forces are unhappy and at max pay – it would be handy to be able to up their wages a little to placate them for a while. Some of the edicts are rather ineffectual, and there could be more depth to the election system. El fondo es… Tropico is an amusing, individual, absorbing and fun game. Budding Fidels will snap it up, and those bored with traditional management games of this type will find it deliciously different. Just don’t expect to still be playing it when the sequel is released.
Review By GamesDomain
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