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TROPICO 3 - PC - Review


Posted by: jkdmedia

Review Rating 8.5 Great

In most games today, the player is tasked with taking down some brutal dictator in the name of all that is good and sacred. Generally, this can be a simple and effective way of motivating the player to succeed, at least wherever the plot is concerned. However, Tropico 3 approaches this tired conflict from a different angle – that of the dictator. This allows players an opportunity to indulge their need for violence and power, not just for some lofty reason or noble cause, but because it’s self-satisfying.

Granted, Tropico 3 does offer you the chance to develop your nation as you see fit. Instead of laying waste to anyone who defies your word, you can enact more diplomatic and good-natured policies. However, as anyone who’s played Knights of the Old Republic can tell you, sometimes the wicked option is just too good to resist. Experimentation is the most enjoyable aspect of learning how to operate in Tropic 3. With so much to do, it takes a curious nature to really drive a deeper understanding of the game. There are also multiple educational layers beneath all the management, as the game will offer you opportunities to play as leaders during historical events.

As far as strategy mechanics go, Tropic 3 is very nicely executed. Anyone familiar with the city-building genre will feel right at home, with an excellent user interface and all the standard tools at your disposal. For the uninitiated, there is an excellent tutorial, as well as a Sandbox mode. In truth, the Sandbox mode is something even veteran players will want to spend time with. The campaign mode will feel much too hurried if you’re not reasonably-versed in the elements of play. Locating valuable resources, laying travel routes, and sustaining a viable population are all part of that wonderful juggling act that simulation fans will enjoy. Of course, no dictatorship is complete without a conflict or two.

Let’s say you’re wandering the periphery of your extravagant palace, and you notice a protestor making a fuss just outside. How does one handle this situation? As the relentless El Presidente, you might decide the most practical solution is to throw him in jail. This way, the voice of dissent is silenced, and he may think twice before repeating his offense. If you’re feeling particularly vindicative, you may wish to have him publicly executed. Of course, this leaves no chance of a repeat offense, and also serves as an example to any citizen who dares to oppose you. There are always more gentle options to explore, but it’s probably safe to assume most players will be taking the Machiavellian route. Even the game’s cover art seems to beckon the player to take the low path, play the puppet master, and pull all the strings.

There have been some very good looking strategy titles this year, but Tropico 3 definitely finds itself in the upper tier. The graphics are splendid and aesthetically pleasing, with great use of color and animation to keep things interesting. Gazing out over the expanse of your island is one of the high points of the game; it’s always invigorating to witness all the bustling activity that operates under your control. The audio is also very strong, with predictable yet atmospheric Latin music filling the room. My one complaint in the audio design is the lack of narration variety; fortunately, this repetitiveness can be fixed with a few adjustments in the options menu.

Despite intense competition from similar games, Tropico 3 really stands out as a thoughtfully-designed and beautifully executed piece of software. It manages to safely balance familiar mechanics with a fresh spin on city-building and national management. Even if you aren’t a big fan of the genre, Tropico 3 is one of the rare experiences that is simply too good to pass up.

Review Scoring Details for Tropico 3

Gameplay: 8.5
It may take time to get accustomed to the gameplay, even if you’ve dabbled in this genre before. Fortunately, the depth makes it all worthwhile.

Graphics: 8.5 
Crisp and vibrant, nothing really says “I am your ruler” like an absurd palace and a lush island kingdom.

Sound: 7.5
Very good use of audio cues, and the music is appropriate. Some of the voiceovers can get repetitive, though.

Difficulty: Medium
This game will definitely take some time to get used to, but it also does an excellent job of introducing itself to the player.

Concept: 8.0 
A very interesting twist on a familiar genre, and expertly executed.

Overall: 8.5
Tropico 3 has all the depth you could want, but presents itself in a fresh light that emphasizes fun without coddling the player. If you have any interest in playing out a dictatorship fantasy, this is as good as it gets.

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