Games you need to try: Tropico

Ever wanted to be the tyrannical dictator of your own South American country? In Tropico, you can! 

Tropico is part city builder, part economy management sim. You play the role of El Presidente, ruler of the titular Caribbean island nation. How you got to power, nobody knows for sure. Maybe it was a communist revolution, possibly some sort of fruit company takeover, maybe you’re a CIA or KGB plant. It doesn’t really matter. You’re here now, and the locals have to deal with that, or else.

The series is both a tongue-in-cheek love letter to Latin America, as well as a biting parody of geopolitics during the Cold War era. Tropico fancies itself as the single greatest nation in the world, despite the fact that it’s riddled with chronic poverty and lacks any industry whatsoever. Your goal as El Presidente is to make that a reality. Or pad your Swiss bank account. Whichever tickles your llamas, or keeps you in office.

Your first order of business is getting the economy going. Are you going to farm food, or cash crops like sugar and tobacco? Cut lumber, or mine minerals? The key to winning is to diversify as much as possible, so you can insulate yourself from global price fluctuations. You don’t want your banana republic becoming a literal banana republic.

                              A mature game in Tropico 4 combines colonial Spanish and modern architecture, with that corrugated steel and tar paper chique.

You’ll also have to manage your citizens. Is there enough employment? Are there enough immigrants and births to fill vacant jobs? Do they have enough housing? Is it nasty tenements or clean apartments? Do they have access to adequate healthcare, entertainment, and religious services? As the game progresses, you’ll also need to ensure your citizens have enough education for more advanced jobs in factories and clinics. And those citizens with higher paying jobs will except better quality homes and services.

The more you meet the needs of the various factions on the island, the more respect you’ll receive from the populace, and the longer you’ll remain in office. Fail to meet their needs, and your citizens might just try to take power by force. Assuming of course you haven’t neutralized those with rebel tendencies. Those gulags practically pay for themselves. 

On top of all this, you also have to manage international relations. Keep the US and USSR happy, and they’ll keep sending your foreign aid. Rustle their jimmies, and they’ll send a force to “liberate” the island. Though your nuclear ambitions will quickly nip that in the bud.

Nobody said being an absolute ruler was easy. At least you’ve got a great licensed soundtrack of the region’s cheapest Salsa music to enjoy while forcing one more citizen to work the salt mines. I think that’s where they produce Xbox Live players. 

The Tropico series has been around for awhile, but if you’re looking to get into it, the fourth entry is the best. A complete edition featuring all the DLC can be found for cheap on Steam. Tropico 5 was also made available for consoles. It takes the game into the colonial era and beyond, but longtime fans agree it was a bit of a atomic dud. Hopefully the upcoming sixth entry makes Tropico great again.

If you’re a fan of city and resource management sims, or just want to tap into your inner megalomaniac, you should definitely give Tropico a try.






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