Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Feb 24th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under city management, dictator, island, tropical, caribbean

Source is CyberEagleWarrior on DeviantArt

One of the most beautiful aspects of gaming is the sheer magnitude of ideas that have been tried. At this point it would be rather difficult to find ideas for games that have not been at least attempted. The PC market is especially rich in these ideas, given its long history and how many games can be made that just do not work too well on consoles. Simulators are ones that are especially deep in this regard. Everything from goats to the insanity of dwarves in various styles of fortresses has been tried. Few of these simulators have the raw humor and character that the Tropico series has. Tropico is more of a hybrid type of game, where the bulk of the gameplay involves the city building aspect. There are plenty of tools for a more sadistic player to keep control of their communist island paradise. Management of a banana republic has, and maybe never will be, as fun as the Tropico series has made it.

The first game in the series was developed by PopTop Software and released in 2001. This is the game that the series would be based on and judged from. It laid the foundations for the entirety of the series, but it is a bit of a black sheep. The game is designed to be the rule of a banana republic like island "democracy" where the player takes on the role of El Presidente, who is given his own personality. The game features heavy elements of social commentary and philosophy, firmly planting its tongue against the inside of its cheek. The music is wonderfully fitting in this first game, being original Caribbean Latin-styled compositions, which even won various awards throughout the industry. El Presidente has to keep his subjects happy and hold elections, with the player choosing between legitimate ones, or fraudulent ones. It depends on El Presidente's chances to win most of the time. The subjects are all members of various factions, which could be communists, intellectuals, militarists, religious, and others. Pleasing these factions is based on the types of buildings El Presidente declares to be built, and how the population is encouraged into different roles. Communists like food buildings and houses, militarists like bases and defenses, religious like churches, etc. All of these make enough sense that the player can be in control by keeping expansion based between all the various needs of the factions, as well as the basic needs for everybody like food and health care. Outside of the internal factions there are also the two major powers of the time, the US and USSR, that El Presidente has to play politics with in order to draw foreign aid from to help with the expansion of Tropico's economy. Tropico had an expansion pack released called Tropico: Paradise Island, the following year.

Tropico was rather quickly followed up with the black sheep of the series, Tropico 2: Pirate Cove, in 2003. Pirate Cove is set in the same region as the first game, but back in the Golden Age of Piracy. The modern social commentary is gone, replaced by more of the simulation elements, which mostly fit along with the same ideas of the first game. The Pirate King has to keep the various workers on the island happy, as well as keep the captives taken from raids in their place with fear. This was the first game in the series to include a campaign, which mostly serves to introduce the mechanics in piecemeal segments. However, due to the setting and time period change, many economic tools and options were ripped out of the game such as tourism, industry, military options, and consumer commodities. Reviews at the time were generally positive, but Tropico 2 has been mostly forgotten by the fanbase of the series. It is a good game, but not what most people think of when they hear the name of the series be mentioned. While the game did initially sell well, the series was shelved for six years after the release of Pirate Cove. In 2009 a compilation pack was released that featured the first Tropico, Paradise Island, and Tropico 2 called Tropico Reloaded, and its regular price is quite cheap at $6.99.

Due to various business maneuvers PopTop had been bought by Take-Two Interactive after the release of the first game, but after a few years of dormancy after Tropico 2 the IP was sold off to Kalypso Media. Kalypso had Haeminont Games start working on Tropico 3, which marked the triumphant return of El Presidente, in 2009. An expansion to Tropico 3, Absolute Power, released the following year. The third game brought some massive, and necessary changes in comparison to the first game, which is what Tropico 3 and its subsequent games take the majority of their inspiration from. The gameplay elements from the first game mostly return, with avatar customization, random events, election speeches to sway voters, oil production, more edicts to declare, and more added to the game. The most important changes to gameplay are the revamped road system, which becomes critical to the game with the introduction of cars. Your citizens in Tropico 1 and 2 could only walk to get anywhere on the island, Tropico 3 and onward changes that and adds infrastructure for traffic control. The personality of the first game returns, and there are a couple other characters introduced in the game through a radio station that will play clips based on El Presidente's edicts, economic success, building orders, citizen happiness, random times, and more. Juanito runs the radio station, TNT Radio, and another character, Betty Boom is a DJ for the station that appeals to those who resist El Presidente.

Tropico 4 released a couple years following the release and success of the third game. The game is mostly an improvement on the third, with a few changes and additions in comparison. On top of the US and USSR there are more powers added to the game, but only those two give Tropico regular foreign aid. Getting aid from Europe, China, or the Middle East is based on random events, with the camel gift from the oil sheiks being the best one to get. The main addition to Tropico 4 is the expansion of the personalities from the third game. Now, every faction has their own personality to lead and drive them, it adds some life to El Presidente's experience in comparison to just hearing a couple voices on the radio station, as good as Juanito was as a DJ. These characters all have something endearing about them, such as Reverand Esteban's alcoholism, El Diablo's jingoism, Penultimo's limitless loyalty and incompetence, or Miss Pineapple's love of schools, cabaret, and El Presidente. The foreign powers all have their own personalities as well, with the US having a generic suited capitalist, USSR the typical Russian honeypot spy, the oil sheik of the Middle East, and Europe's parody of Margaret Thatcher. Tropico 4 also included an expansion pack, Modern Times, and also added many smaller DLCs that include buildings and/or another map. Tropico 3 was more the innovator, while Tropico 4 is the fresh, polished shine of those innovations.

Tropico 5 tried to be the innovator that the third game was, but sadly has some good ideas that were just halfway executed. The game released in 2014 and followed the DLC system from the fourth game after release. Where every game in the series until this focused on the lifetime of a single dictator, the fifth game adds in many different eras. A regular game starts in the Colonial Era through the World Wars to the Cold War and finally, Modern Times. Given this long period of time, Haeminont Games added in a dynastic system to the game, but nobody ever dies. Your Colonial governor will survive all the way to Modern Times, and their family members only really serve as extra managers. Since Tropico 3, players have had the ability to micromanage El Presidente to give added bonuses around the island. Put him on a building queued for construction and it will build faster, put him on a finished building and various other bonuses will be applied. El Presidente can give extra happiness to entertainment buildings, increase productivity on production buildings, help tourists have a better time, and more. The extra bodies given in the dynastic system give up to five total family members to manage for these bonuses. One addition that works well in the Tropico world in this game is the addition of building managers. These management positions can be handed to members of the dynasty or to qualifying citizens of Tropico. There is also the addition of a Constitution which can be built on and amended as the eras are progressed through, which gives some extra options for how to run the island. There was a challenge level in Tropico 4 that featured a rudimentary research function (Penultimo lost all the blueprints), but that was expanded to become a core part of the gameplay with Tropico 5. Tropico 5 is also the first in the series to feature a multiplayer function, where multiple people can take control of the island in a filthy "democratic" way.

Tropico 6 has been announced for release in 2018, little has been released outside of trailers and some screenshots. Based on the information so far, it could be the best innovator for the series since the third game. El Presidente can now build on multiple islands, with bridges and tunnels to connect various parts of the archipelago. El Presidente will also be able to build a custom palace, instead of looking at the same one in every map and scenario. Taxis, buses, and cable cars are added for more options for the country's transportation infrastructure. The research function will also be expanded and worked on to offer a smoother experience. If multiplayer returns it could be implemented in a more competitive way given the nature of the new island building and connectivity between everything.

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