Having never played any of the other games in the Tropico series, and reading the most recent outcry over how terrible this particular iteration was, I was a little concerned that this might be the wrong time to be getting the ol’ feet wet. That being said, as a huge simulation game fan, this game kind of hit the sweet spot! Long time fans might think otherwise, though.
To give you an introduction, you are the President/Dictator/Ruler of your very own island. With great power, comes great responsibility! While trying to quietly shuffle money into your Swiss bank account, you are also trying to meet the needs of your people, squash violent uprisings, fight off foreign nations, and bring peace to the environment around you. All while making sure everyone gets enough options in newspapers to feel like they’re not being oppressed!
Although it has since passed, I purchased this game for $25 as part of a Humble Bundle. Oddly enough, it’s available by itself for the same price right now on Steam. Tropico 5 is made by Kalypso Media, the same company who’s currently making another game i’m highly interested in – Urban Empire.
To wrap up the introduction, the official system requirements look a little steep. I was able to run the game just fine on a Dell Inspiron 15 5000 series laptop with an i7 processor and integrated Intel HD Graphics.
The first thing you are exposed to is creating your own dynasty – a family name of sorts that will preside over your next few campaigns and sandbox runs of the game. From what I could tell after sinking a mere 20 hours into the game though is that this has a fairly minor influence over the game. After playing for a while you have the ability to upgrade your primary character offering small kick-backs to your island’s growth. Nothing major, but it personalizes the game a bit. Not a bad start! I spent far too long perfecting his appearance….
Help! I need a-see-stonce!
Next, you’re introduced to your right hand man, Penultimo! This man is probably one of
the best assistants in any game. When he has something important to say, everything is pretty clear and concise. When you’ve completed an objective, though, he’s there to drop in some silly – if not snarky – comments. His language is crude, laden with sarcasm, and great comic relief. He will walk you through the tutorial if you opt-in, or just join you in your campaign.
Any time you need some input, he’s there to help.
This game manages to find a solid balance between decision making, customization for fun, and meeting the needs of the people. You can successfully cater to the ultra capitalists or the zaney communists. The freedom to break out and do as you please as El Presidente is there, despite having to maintain an overall happiness to the island. That is, once you break free from the Queen and are free to reign over your own land!
The difficulty is what you make of it, in sandbox mode. With multiple settings – from island size and economic difficulty to climate and disaster frequency, you can make it as near-impossible as you’d like or incredibly accommodating.
In campaign mode, the settings are baked in. You don’t get that flexibility but overall offers a fair challenge that really helps you grasp the game. I’d recommend playing through at least some of the campaign mode to teach you how to work your way through some problems you might experience in the sandbox.
In terms of Tropico, I think it’s important to address the replayability here. I sunk about 10 hours into my first game, before admitting defeat with Tourism on that playthrough. After that, it was just as fun the second time through to start another iteration. Getting bored? Try some campaign challenges, then roll back into the sandbox. I don’t foresee spending more than 75-100 hours in this game before getting tired of it, but it’s definitely worth the money if you can catch it on sale. Otherwise, it really depends on how addicted you get to simulation games like this.