Tropico 4: Modern Times is the new expansion to the original Tropico 4, adding a new campaign and a multitude of new buildings. But, it’s also more than just new buildings and places to put them. Split up over 12 levels instead of the original’s 20, this expansion will have players back in El Presidente’s expensive shoes as you try to corral your island’s residents and keep the peace as the world collapses around you. It follows a real world timeline, starting from the 1950’s again, that goes all the way up to current times and into the future. Expect to deal with things like the Cuban Missile Crisis and recent London Riots, student protests, and even modern-era hackers and rebels. It’s a dangerous world out there and something is stirring it all up from behind the scenes; only El Presidente can put a stop to it!
The gameplay for Modern Times does not differ from the main point of the Tropico series itself – you build up an island’s economy and infrastructure and rule it as you see fit. Whereas the main campaign of Tropico 4 had players building themselves back up and retaking their Caribbean empire, Modern Times approaches everything in a much different and more difficult fashion.
Each island starts out the same way – undeveloped. You’re supposed to take this moldable island and grow it with the times. Unlike the main game where things essentially stay the same for 50 years, time progression in this expansion brings new buildings, technologies, and ways of making money. Expect to use these new toys as well – as the world grows so too must your island. If it doesn’t, expect to hear about it from your people and the world at large – no one likes seeing a farm that’s 20 years old when new Bio-Farms are out there! Seeing as the timeline also reflects the real world’s economy, expect to see prices of the goods you export rise and fall throughout the game. Later in the timeline though are some great buildings that are essential to boosting a lagging economy, so there are definitely bonuses to the timeline as well. This is why players must be ready to react to changes in the world at large (you’ll get notifications about them anyways).
The new buildings and edicts that come about can also be a little annoying to deal with though. You’re constantly given new missions in-game basically forcing you to dismantle the old junk and build new properties. I had to completely destroy my economy many times and wait while the incredibly slow builders took their time. It’s rough to watch the treasury drain deep into the negatives, or see complaints about housing go through the non-roofs while I waited for the modern apartments to be built. Since each map starts fresh from almost the beginning, expect to do this every time.
My only real gripe with the new campaign are the requirements for actually winning the maps. The first level alone took me almost an entire day because I wasn’t entirely sure what I was trying to do. Unlike the campaign of Tropico 4 that generally has a central focus for each island, with Modern Times I felt like I was just being tossed into it without any sort of direction. Coincidentally, this is why I spent hours on some maps waiting to finish.
Graphically this game is no different from Tropico 4 (or 3 even), so it continues with the tradition of nice, clean graphics. The addition of the modern buildings are nice and they fit in well within the game’s style, but nothing here stands out as fantastically new. The sounds are also the same – none of the music is changed from the main game. The only real difference here that I can note are the voice actors. Penultimo, your second-in-command/advisor, does not have the same voice actor and it is easily detectable when his voice changes mid-game.
Overall the Modern Times expansion is decent. It brings some new gameplay offerings to the table and gives the game some new challenge that it needed. For those that are fans of the series and enjoyed Tropico 4, I recommend giving this expansion a shot as you’re sure to be pleased. Now excuse me while I deal with this damn global meltdown!
Note: The Tropico: 4 Modern Times review was written based on the PC version of the game provided by the publisher.