has all the elements that you would expect in a
nation-building sim. You build the structure of your island nation over
time, starting off with essentials such as farms and housing. Later on,
you’ll attempt to improve the situation of your people (and
your bank account!) by adding industry, wooing tourists to your island
paradise, and trying to keep your people happy and safe.
My little island nation looks
prosperous under my "benevolent" rule.
The gameplay of Tropico 4
is, overall, very solid and quite fun. One
aspect of the game that keeps you on your toes is all the factions that
you’ll have to contend with as you try to stay in power.
You’ll have to deal with divergent groups such as communists,
capitalists, loyalists, religious, intellectuals, and even tree-hugging
environmentalists. Keep the factions happy and your reign of power will
be an easy one. However, not only do you have internal factions to deal
with, but there are also different foreign powers to appease as well.
The leaders of the various factions will make demands to you from time
to time, such as passing an edict to curb litter (environmentalists) or
prohibit alcohol (religious). Each citizen of your island has their own
views and opinions, which you can see by clicking on them. Are they
communist or capitalist? What faction do they belong to? You will
definitely want to make sure that the larger factions are happy. If
building roads and timber mills will make 60% of your population happy
but will piss off the 10% that are environmentalists, you’ll
definitely will want to tell the tree-huggers to get stuffed.
As you chug along in your tyrannical ways, various tasks (missions)
will come up that you can undertake in order to get a reward upon the
completion of that task. These tasks help add some spice to
nation-building as it provides kind of a little storyline to the game.
Adding to the mix are the various natural disasters that can occur. In
one scenario, my poor little island got hit by two earthquakes, one
erupting volcano, and a drought! There’s nothing more
irritating that having just built a building only to have it fall down
during an earthquake or get burnt down by the erupting volcano. (Hint:
build a fire department!)
Damn hippy environmentalists
and their never-ending demands!
There are three modes to play this single-player sim: campaign,
sandbox, and user-created content. The campaign mode is comprised of 20
scenarios, each dealing with a specific theme (foreign factions,
mining). Once you win a scenario, you can stop or continue playing if
you wish. In the sandbox mode, you can create your own custom island or
choose from a list of islands and just go to town. Finally, there are
some user-created scenarios that you can choose to play, or you can
create your own and share them.
The game is definitely light-hearted and is chock full of humor. The
humor can be very broad and the game definitely uses stereotypes for
comedic effect. I found the humor to be refreshing and it kept the game
of playing a dictator fun and light, rather than depressing if
you’re oppressing people and setting up secret police and
prisons. One example comes to mind. After an earthquake, some miners
became trapped. I had the choice to rescue them right away or hold off
to get some foreign aid for disaster relief. I decided to wait and gave
a speech about unity that helped out my prestige, and I eventually got
some foreign aid (some of it diverted to my Swiss bank account).
Afterwards, I allowed the rescue of the miners and I came out smelling
like a rose.
Each citizen has their own
There are a couple of drawbacks to Tropico 4
. First, the game can have
a steep learning curve for players new to sims. While there is an
excellent tutorial, there is a lot of depth to the game that is glossed
over. Newer players will do a lot of trial-and-error. An example is
creating an army if you’re worried about rebels. How do you
create soldiers? Do you build an army base? The answer is no as that
the army base provides housing and medical care for soldiers. You have
to build an armory to get a general. Once you have a general, you build
a guard station, which then gives you three soldiers. You need one
general per three soldiers. I lost a few mines to some freedom-hating
rebels before I found this information out. I would heartily recommend
thoroughly going over all the information on each building when you
first start to play. There are a lot of pre-requisites for special
buildings that you will need to be aware of if you truly want to retire
in luxury in the Swiss Alps.
The gameplay can
also become a bit repetitive during the scenarios. While
you’re focusing on a theme, the basis nation-building
strategy stays the same: start by building food sources and housing and
then later adding infrastructure and advanced structures. Also, there
are times when you’re playing a scenario where
you’ll see that you’ll obviously fulfill the
winning conditions, but you’ll have to grind it out to export
that last piece of merchandise. Still, while Tropico
doesn’t re-invent the wheel for sims, it is solid fun.