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Tropico 4: Modern Times review

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The island of Tropico is about to get with the times.

Tropico 4’s newest expansion pack, Modern Times, is an attempt by Calypso Games to take the dingy and shanty-filled communities of Tropico and modernize them. What we end up with is a strange hybrid of futuristic mega structures and rusty tin-roofed shacks.

Making History

Looks like the apartment complexes have the same architect

This is an expansion to the base game of Tropico 4, and as such is merely building upon it. We’re not getting any major or even minor gameplay changes here. Heck, there was barely any change between Tropico 3 and 4 to begin with. If it isn’t broke...

Modern Times introduces the Timeline feature (located at the top of the mini map) which provides a fun new element of ‘randomness’ to your games. Providing a few years of advanced warning, the timeline shows you what is coming down the pipeline in terms of events and buildings that will be unlocked. Pretty convenient for El Presidente to know that in about two years there’ll be the Cuban Missile Crisis and you’ll have Conscription activated for free, isn’t it? The Timeline indeed helps to keep things a little more interesting, and gives armchair presidents the chance to feel like their island is more connected to the outside world, even if all they can do is watch freighters sail off into the sunset.

Time to Upgrade

The best views are from the blimp, trust us

Thirty new buildings are introduced, as well. These range from Organic Ranches to massive business towers and metro lines. The best and worst part of the expansion are the buildings. They are just too good. Once you unlock Biofarms, for example, you’ll practically never build a regular farm again. It simplifies the growing process and is more compact and easier to plan than traditional farms. Everything that is new is better and more compact than its predecessor for the most part; but that’s kinda the point then, right? It’s about modernizing your island? Still, some of the massive architectural wonders (7 Star Hotel and Telecom HQ spring to mind) just stick out like sore thumbs.

But that won’t matter when you are raking in the dough from all the modern conveniences that those monstrosities afford you. Once the transition phase is done, you’ll have a gleaming modern city!

For My First Decree...

The old mixing with the new

The new edicts are interesting but nothing particularly jumps out as a ‘I must activate this edict!’. Blocking the internet from your citizens is fun to do, and I’m not sure how sending 100 chinese immigrants gets categorized as a ‘Development Aid,' but it’s a great population boost! 

Since nothing has changed performance-wise, we get the same Tropico experience from 4. Yours truly only ran into a few minor bugs (one of my biofarms was staffed but wouldn’t grow anything, and building near the coast once messed up the pretty beachline) that resolved themselves after saving and reloading the game. You also might notice that textures on the tall buildings will become simplified at a distance, which is probably what the game was doing already for the shanties and low-lying structures, but because these buildings tower over the horizon, you notice it.
 

A tourist's paradise... just don't mind the roaming death squads!

Tropico fans will want to pick this up, as once you pass that beginning phase and have a basic economy going, expanding upon it with the new buildings that unlock will give you an amazing boost. After that, it’s only a matter of time before you’re going to wish you could invade other countries with all of your wealth.

Great

Toejam
Doug Fairall
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