by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Reinventing the Banana Republic
There is no denying that the differences between Tropico 3 and 4 were marginal at best. Since then, I have often wondered about how the franchise could be rejuvenated – changed in such a way that it was still Tropico, but with enough new elements to bring it out of its apparent vicious circle. As it turns out, the devs at Haemimont had plenty of ideas to do just that.
Much of Tropico’s new gameplay stems from the new ‘ages’ system which not only changes the graphical representation of buildings and vehicles but also introduces new gameplay elements. The starting period for your budding banana republic is pushed back by a good century and a half to the beginning of the 19th century. In fact, you don’t even start as a dictator but as a governor appointed by the Spanish queen, tasked with making her rich. She will reward you for fulfilling requests and it is up to you whether you will pocket the reward or give it to the population over whose backs the reward was earned – you would not be a proper dictator if you did not at least consider pocketing it, right?
But you have to be careful about what she asks you to do. Kickstarting your economy by providing her with significant quantities of wool sounds fun in theory, but as soon as she has had her fill, you may find yourself with bales of wool going to waste at the docks and large portions of your population unemployed. But hey, as long as you please her, you can stay in power. Fail one request too many and she will replace you in a heartbeat.
Her oppressive behavior will of course not be tolerated forever. As a leader of the revolt, you get to write the new nation’s constitution, your choices having a major impact on how the rest of the game will play out. One particularly important decision lies in who should be allowed to vote. You can keep the number of constituents small by for instance only allowing men or land owners to vote. Doing so makes it much easier to get re-elected, but will also make it harder to keep the non-voters happy.
The choices that you make in this process also affect other aspects of the game – most notably foreign relations – which in turn influence what sort of civic transformations your nation will go through. If your constitution closely resembles that of the US, then the chances are that at some point you will find yourself in the middle of a prohibition for instance.
Different eras also have different factions. Early on you may see factions with agendas that revolve around staying loyal to the crown or separation from the empire. Later on these factions may change their agendas to centre around environmental considerations or political philosophies such as communism or liberalism.
The trade system will be expanded upon greatly, allowing you more control over trade by adding more detail in the trade mechanics. Distance becomes a factor and ships that trade with China will be away far longer than ships that trade with the US. This means less efficiency and makes it vital that the trade ships are filled to the brim with profitable goods. Then again, trade will also improves relations, so maybe it is worth taking a financial hit in return for a more stable political situation.
Of course even dictators don’t live forever (actually, most don’t live very long) so you will need to groom an heir. That’s right; you’ll have to find – or take – some sassy lady and work on building a long-lasting Tropican dynasty if you want to stay in control of your island for the full two centuries that a game of Tropico can last. If all goes well, that 19th century fort that El Governor built can be officially opened as a museum by his great grandchild, El Presidente.
Tropico 5 will also introduce a research tree. True to form, many of these are absolutely ridiculous. Think along the lines of research Table Manners, which is a… technology that enables you to engage in diplomatic relations with other nations. I guess bashing your mug against the table surface to indicate you want a refill of rum is and burping loudly at the end of meals is off-putting to some, who knew!
Not your mother’s Tropico
These were just the highlights of the many changes that this instalment will be bringing to the table. I left Gamescom with the feeling that Tropico is about to come into its second youth and that 5 is well on its way to becoming the best game in the franchise. *lights a cigar in celebration*