There was a lot to love about Tropico 3. Developer Haemimont and publisher Kalypso worked hard to revive the franchise that died in 2003, and the end product was full of charm and fun, not to forget a substantial amount of polish. Now they're working on Tropico 4, and while the game doesn’t feel like a substantial change from its predecessor, there is promise for a solid continuation of Tropico 3 type entertainment.
Tropico 3 played on the idea of dictatorship extremely well. El Presidente could be an evil man bearing low morals and a weak GI tract or a beloved hero raising the people of Tropico out of the ashes of middling third-world living. Either way, El Presidente was a dictator plain and simple, and the player wielded absolute control of the nation.
Tropico 4 builds on this concept even more. Yes, Tropico is still a small island, but this time El Presidente has higher goals. Instead of just building alliances with the Soviet Union or the US, the player’s goal is to turn Tropico into a first-world superpower.
There is a completely new focus to the game. Players still start off small, but even small actions make big changes. For example, should the player start mining, El Presidente would have to build schools, churches, and bars for the miners and their families. Bars cause problems, so police enforcement is needed, and with the boosted economy, piers are needed to import and export goods. And that’s just the beginning. If a players starts constructing amusement parks, tourists will arrive, so players have to be aware where on the island their resources are and where they should build hotels and attractions.
As the island becomes wealthier, water parks, stock exchanges, zoos and other high-end services can be built. By incorporating all of these services into your nation, Tropico can reach superpower status. Tropico 4 is very much like Tropico 3—a direct sequel that won’t reinvent the series, only expand upon it. There are 20 new missions on 10 new maps, and the 20 new building types lean toward the technically frivolous. These services signify a shift toward the new “first-world” focus of the game.
Like previous games, the decisions of El Presidente can have good and bad effects on the people. Secret police can be sent to assassinate unruly citizens, or they can be outright executed. However, execute that farmer for not selling his property, and people will dislike you. Assassinate him with the KGB or CIA, and receive no repercussions. Should colleges students protest due to educational budget cuts, you can pay them off, ignore them, arrest them, or punish them. Every action affects how the people of Tropico respond. El Presidente can keep all the money for himself, and upgrade his island in a poor manner at the expense of his people. In contrast, he can invest into his nation and have it slowly become relevant. It’s a balance players must strike on their own, and everything from forging alliances to appointing ministers will impact that progression.
The Council of Ministers is a new addition to Tropico 4. Individual citizens can be appointed to the council, and depending on their educational background and interests, they can prove helpful or hurtful. Depending on how outrageous El President’s laws and edicts are—such as substantially raising taxes on food—ministers can make it more palatable for the people. Players will also be dealing with lobbyists from different industries, indicating a much more political focus in Tropico 4.
The last new addition to the franchise is even more interactive disasters. Elements completely outside the control of the player, such as volcanoes, droughts and tornadoes, join the older disasters in wreaking havoc. Developer Haemimont knows that these were some of the more popular features in the game, so expect El Presidente to deal with natural disasters more often.
Tropico 4 is well on its way to becoming a solid sequel to Tropico 3. With new features including Facebook and Twitter support, publisher Kalypso is keeping the game progressive, while familiar gameplay will keep returning players coming back. We'll see if Tropico 4 lives up to the surprise and success of its predecessor this April.