by Sergio Brinkhuis, reviewed on
Try some freshly squeezed tropico
It is not often that an old franchise gets a new lease on life. When one does, success is anything but guaranteed. Many attempts fail simply because the developers can't find the right balance between remaining true to the original games and creating a game that a modern day gamer would like to play too. With that in mind, I had apprehensions when I slipped Tropico 3 into my DVD drive, as spending some time with the game at GamesCom in August did not fully put me at ease.
You are El Presidente, new ruler of Tropico Island. While that sounds like an important position, you might lose some self esteem when you learn that you can only boss around a handful of people, and your country's GDP is smaller than the annual income of the average household in the United States. But that's no reason to despair. Tropico is rich in natural resources, and its forests and white beaches could be teeming with tourists if you play your cards right.
A game of Tropico 3 starts with picking a character or creating a custom one of your own. Many of the pre-made characters resemble well-known “Banana Republic” figures, and each has a combination of positive and negative traits. Traits can affect areas such as diplomatic relations with the US and USSR (yes, the game is set in the Cold War era), your standing with local factions and production speed. When customizing your character, some positive and negative traits are linked, making something that looked great a whole lot less appealing. The concept of having both positive and negative traits felt a little restrictive at first, but I quickly found that fiddling around with the various options was a lot of fun.
As with many city builders, Tropico starts you off with some cash, a handful of buildings and a small population that is eager to build themselves a better future. Hmm... wait. Actually, in Tropico your citizens are thankless dogs that start off unhappy but with expectations so high that a lesser man than El Presidente would be on the first boat out. You can't really blame them either. Your people live in shacks and are mostly unemployed. As you take stock of your island, a freighter leaves the local dockyard, the harbormaster informing you that it left without any exports on board. You need cash, and the game just gave you your first clue: get some production going.
A president’s job is never done
From there you start your balancing act, and I don't just mean the one that involves your finances. Every inhabitant of Tropico has aligned with a political faction. Each faction has its own agenda and will need to be appeased to keep its members from rebelling against you. The Nationalists, for example, keep a close eye on the state of employment on your island. If the unemployment is high, they will complain loudly about your open door immigration policy and if the average wage is not at least as high as that of other Caribbean islands, they'll be knocking on your door again. The Religious faction will love you when you ban contraception but will cause a ruckus when you allow same-sex marriages. Especially in the early stages of the game, it is incredibly difficult to keep everyone happy and it is not uncommon for inhabitants to become rebels.
Numbers will make Rebels bold. If their numbers match or dwarf your own soldiers, they are likely to start a coup that will have to be quelled quickly before you will lose the game. El Presidente himself will join the soldiers in their attempt to fend off the rebel attack and, depending on the choices you made during the creation of your character, may actually tip the balance. You will have ample warning before this occurs, though. Disloyal followers will be protesting under your balcony long before anything drastic happens and the military faction will be extremely unhappy with you, nervously commenting that there are more rebels than soldiers.
The original series brought back to life in a superb way.
None (but say goodbye to your family life for a while).