Tropico 4 Review

Marcus Jones on April 27, 2012

¡Sí! ¡Sí! La isla de Tropico es muy bueno con los comunistas, la falta de alimentos, y no hay trabajos para la gente, pero estamos contentos con los soldados en nuestras casas! ¡Viva el presidente!

That’s just a quick way to sum up Tropico 4. Honestly though, there are many creative and interesting ways to sum up this game from Haemimont Games and Kalyspo Media. The fourth in the long running Tropico series (11 years now in fact), Tropico 4 is the simulation and managing game that many players will enjoy for a variety of reasons. I mean, seriously, who hasn’t envisioned themselves staging a coup and taking over an island nation and running it as you please? Oh, that might just be me…

Surprisingly there is actually a story to Tropico 4 and the bonus is it’s actually a good one. You are El Presidente and in control of your own nation in the 1950s! Communism and Capitalism are the superpowers to watch out for. Previously you controlled various islands throughout the Caribbean, all part of the Tropico nation. You rose to prominence in the last game, but were forced to flee after being framed for the murder of the U.S. President. Now that you’ve taken the time, assumed a new identity and *ahem* arranged to have control of a new, underdeveloped island somewhere else, the point of the game is simple: return to power and have your revenge!

Gameplay for this title falls into other similar games like Civilization and Sim City, though more on the latter. You play as El Presidente, and it’s your job to turn that underdeveloped tropical island into a tropical paradise powerhouse. Players will manage everything on the island from city planning to immigration. It doesn’t go nearly as in-depth as the aforementioned games do, but Tropico 4 isn’t skimping out on anything either. Players will control how cities on the islands are developed, manage pollution against their industry, be wary of crime and rebels, and also have to contend with elections. This is still a democracy! Managing everything is only part of the fun in my opinion, but that’s only because I enjoy maximizing profits in games like this.

Players essentially have direct control over the island’s industry and can pick and choose how they want to exploit it.Think you can run a tourism capital? Then by all means capitalize on the island’s lush and tropical vistas and attract visitors from all over the world. Or are you willing to risk the beauty of the island and get at the riches underground? Mine away! It’s up to players on how they want to make money for their nation within the game, but remember that everything must come with compromise because not everyone is going to like how you run things. Keep them happy with whatever means you can and you’ll get to stay in office.

Another important aspect is that the game does rank players on how they’ve handled themselves through each campaign map. Making enough money and keeping a good economy on the island (while staying in office) grants a better ranking at the end of each level, as does your Swiss bank account standing. What, you’d expect some dictator to not be stashing away money for himself? Players are given opportunities throughout the game to earn money for their own private account through missions given to them or through edicts they can issue to the populace. Want to earn money every time you build a new property? Issue the right edict to make new properties cost a little extra (and piss off some people), but pocket that extra change for yourself. Doing so will earn you a better overall ranking at the end when it’s all said and done.

Aside from the campaign of the game, there is also a sandbox mode that allows you to pick the parameters of the island (size, density of minerals, farming possibilities, etc) and allows you to play as you please. Sandbox truly gives players the world to use as they see fit and it can actually make for some interesting gameplay – after a while expect to be making millions while sitting back with a cigar and relaxing.

Graphically the game isn’t much of a step up from its predecessor Tropico 3. The islands, buildings, and many other aspects are nearly the exact same even, but at least this means they are crisp graphics and nice to look at. There is a surprising amount of detail, down to even the character models for the population. The landscapes are lush and beautiful and the game is overall very aesthetically pleasing to the eye. If I didn’t love the simulation and strategy aspect of the game so much, I’d say the graphics were my favorite part.

The music is also a fun aspect of Tropico 4 that I enjoyed, though only for a while. It’s fun, catchy, and upbeat music that fits in with the styling of the game – all sorts of Hispanic and Caribbean style music that is a blast to listen to. Downside here though is I think there are maybe twenty songs for the entire game. Think about that: 20 songs. Playing a strategy game like this means you’ll be playing for hours so after hearing the lineup for the eighth time it’s easy to get sick of it. If only they had more songs…

Tropico 4 has other downsides too. My biggest complaint with the game would be how players are forced to wait for things to work out on their own accord. At one point in time I had six or seven total construction offices which are the buildings (and workers essentially) that handle constructing the various unbuilt buildings and properties on my island. I had somewhere around 15 total projects that I was waiting on for them to finish and nothing seemed to be happening. I finally got sick of just watching the 30 workers walking around doing nothing and I used quick build on the properties. It was a waste of both my time and in-game money for this though since I had the facilities and people in place to take care of it. There are also weather effects that seem to last forever in game time – I had a tornado go on for about 5 months. That’s just ridiculous.

Simply Put

Beyond the shortcomings, Tropico 4 is a fantastic game and a blast to play. I highly recommend giving it a shot if you’re a fan of other games in the strategy and simulation genre because then this one will be just right for you. It’s got graphics, good music, a story that’s fun, and it’s a solid title that’ll keep you engrossed for hours. Hell, the first level alone I spent extra time on to really squeeze everything I could out of those wretched islanders…uhh, I mean my glorious Tropicans. ¡Viva mi regla!

Note: The Tropico 4 review was written based on the PC version of the game provided by the publisher.

Tropico 4

Tropico 4 8
You are El Presidente!
It’s fun controlling and commanding your own island nation and doing as you please
Balancing everything at once can be difficult
Sometimes you just don’t make any money if things aren’t properly set up