“Who knew that being a dictator was this much fun?”
“Good morning Tropico!” I should really have that set as my alarm in the morning after hearing it so many times in the game I am about to review, Tropico 3.
It wasn’t until April of this year that I even knew about the Tropico series, which is surprising considering that the first game came out a decade ago. As a fan of games such as SimCity, I’m really upset that it took me until the third game of this series to even know that it exists.
Tropico 3 is all about ruling over a Caribbean island known as Tropico. The game begins in the 1950s when you first seize power of the island. It is up to you to decide how your dictator did so, as you are presented with a character creator that allows you to choose your dictator’s appearance, background history, and character flaws. I opted to make my dictator a balding alcoholic Russian who was put in power by the USSR.
Tropico’s gameplay was quite interesting. The game started out slow and demanding like the Caesar game in which you have to micro-manage several small details in order for your city to get off the ground, but after that happened it just played mostly like a SimCity game thanks to messages always popping up and telling me what was going on in Tropico.
You basically start with nothing more than your presidential palace, a dock, some shacks, and a few businesses with terrible wages. You have to turn this around, so the first step is to make a good source of income that your populace will work at for little money. Cigars turned out to be a fantastic way to go about doing this, as all I had to do was first plant a farm and direct them to grow tobacco, and then build a cigar factory beside it. For a few ingame months, this did absolutely nothing for me financially until the tobacco began to grow at a good rate, allowing the nearby factory to begin manufacturing cigars and then sending them to the dock to be exported.
Once you start getting some decent money in and the quality of life starts to improve in Tropico, you’ll want to bring in tourists by building another dock or an airport. As I did this, I found that it was also imperative to remove shacks from the city, due to them being unpleasant to look at and they brought down the appearance of the neighborhoods that they popped up in. A good way for me to discourage many shacks from popping up was to increase the wages of many jobs.
Of course, there is more to Tropico 3 than just expanding your city and aiming for a higher population and bigger bank accounts. Unlike in games such as SimCity, your approval rating actually means something in the Tropico games. If it dips too low, you had better expect some serious consequences. The last thing any good dictator wants are riots and assassination attempts!
To make sure that your people respect you, it is important to make sure that Tropico has everything that your people need to survive, or even just have fun. When the city itself is just fine but your people are showing discontent, you can use edicts to sway their loyalty. Edicts are things such as introducing tax cats, bringing the Pope to your country for a visit, or declaring Mardi Gras. Some edicts, such as Mardi Gras, are wonderful for Tropico’s economy.
The game has a lot of content in it, ranging from campaigns to individual mission-style maps. If you don’t like being told to aim for a specific goal, there is also the sandbox mode in which you are free to just develop Tropico however you wish to.
I find myself really enjoying the visuals of Tropico 3. It is perhaps the best looking city management game that I’ve ever played. The buildings and terrain are loaded with detail, and all pedestrians are rendered in real time as they walk to work or just find things to do in the city. Animals, freighters, and more are also all visible most of the time, and many shacks like to pop up on vacant land as well. I expected Tropico to run slowly with so many things going on, but the game was silky smooth for me even on the highest display settings.
The sounds of Tropico 3 are magnificent. Even though there are only a few music tracks in the game and they play over and over again, they are all very fun to listen to and set the mood extremely well as they are all very Latin-based. Sound effects and voice acting are also great, and I never tire of hearing “Good morning Tropico!” from the ingame radio announcer who tells you what’s going on in Tropico, which is very helpful to you.
Overall, Tropico 3 is a lot of fun. Your cities are different each time you play, and the realism in Tropico 3 blows SimCity out of the water. If you’re looking for an enjoyable city game to spend time playing until the next big one comes along, then Tropico 3 is for you.