by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Ze plane, ze plane!
Tropical islands may look beautiful, but they have also proven quite dangerous. Natural disasters can wreak havoc on your island and have a variety of effects. An erupting volcano will set your buildings on fire, leaving you with the choice to call for an expensive helicopter to douse the fire, or to maintain your own fire stations with brave men ready to put down any flames in sight. A tsunami may wash away some of your buildings which will need repair, but it may also chuck a ship onto the shores of your island, just where your hotels have been attracting boat-loads of tourists, ruining the area for that purpose as its beauty is decreased.
In addition to Russia and the US, El Presidente now needs to maintain good relationships with other world powers like the EU and China. They play only a minor role though: they will occasionally give you in-mission assignments for a chance to improve relations and – I assume – invade your island if relationships deteriorate to open hostility, but I have not had that happen yet. More interesting is the ability to appoint ministers for the six key areas of government. You can recruit ministers from your own workforce or hire a foreign expert when none are available, or the ones that are just aren’t up to the job. The main reason for appointing a minister is to unlock the ability to issue edicts in his or her area of expertise but ministers lead their own lives as well, randomly getting into trouble or earning a boon for your island. Skilled ministers are more likely to do the latter, though.
Also new – and only available to PC users – is the integration with social networks Facebook and Twitter. Not really my cup of tea, but if you like to flaunt your achievements and share pictures of your islands, you can be assured of many new posts in your online spaces.
Fun, but not so new
Tropico 4’s campaign may be refreshing, its graphics are not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still as pretty a game as last time around, but you would think two years time is enough to create a new graphics engine. There are a number of new buildings and the interface has been tweaked somewhat, but everything else has been recycled from the previous game. Because of this, the game feels more of an expansion than a whole new game, so much so that initially I had some issues seeing Tropic as a new game.
While the game proved to be rock-stable – we wouldn’t expect anything less when copying an existing engine – it’s not completely exempt of bugs. I only hit one, but it was a particularly nasty one where no new immigrants arrived on the island. As it takes a long time for your own population to provide enough people for your workforce, and college graduates in particular, it became a real challenge to fulfil my goals. I decided to treat it as an extra challenge and while my island wasn’t a bristling powerhouse when I completed the challenges for the campaign, it was still fun to play.
Looking at a few of my old gripes with the game, I'm glad to note that the message “a garage is overloaded, build a new one nearby” now let's you zoom into which garage is the one that needs additional support. The stats are still a little hazy at times though, and while you get all sorts of warnings about your people going hungry, buildings not being occupied and production facilities not having any output for a long time, there’s no warning about goods not being transported to the docks. Odd, as that may be the most important thing to know of all the above.
Measured in fun, Tropico 4 does not disappoint. The campaign mode is very entertaining, the radio broadcasts about new happenings on your island are humoristic to listen to and the various tweaks to the original Tropico formula are guaranteed to keep you glued to your PC for days, if not weeks. If you can look past its two year old copy/paste exterior, Tropico 4 is a very worthy purchase.
Great campaign, best in the series.
Recycled graphics keep it from feeling like a new game.