by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
People to oppress
I suspect El Presidente keeps his aide Penultimo around just for laughs. Between him and the lady who runs the local radio station, playing the fifth installment in the Tropico series is funny as hell. While pleasant, such frivolities obviously cannot stand in the way of the larger picture. A dictator has responsibilities. There are homes to build, riches to be mined and, above all, people to oppress and opponents to be assassinated. It is a tough job, but one that simply cannot be left to the illiterate monkeys inhabit the island that I just bought and will dub... Tropico!
Actually, you don’t get to name the island you play on, and it wouldn’t be as much fun as playing the already named islands that the campaign puts in your care. Often, you get to choose where you will carry out your mission and can thus influence its probability of success. If your goal is to attract tourists, would you not rather do that on a lush green island than a rocky desert? Then again, if you are up for a challenge, you might not.
Tropico 5’s campaign follows the same lines as the previous two games. Advisors offer various tasks, some of which contribute to your primary mission, others serve to improve your relationships with local factions or foreign nations. And of course there are tasks that simply add money to your bank account - Swiss or otherwise. On occasion, Tropico forces you to face situations that you might have worked hard to avoid before. For example, invasion is part of the campaign and there is no escaping it, though the game does usually offer you to generously buy time or postpone it for some time.
If you cringe at the idea of not being able to fully control your destiny, then rest assured that it actually works out quite well. Tasks feel both more focused and dynamic than they did previously and you get to experience the full spectrum of what Tropico has to offer. The rewards and impact of tasks are also laid out more clearly and most serve in the furthering of the overall mission.
Of course nothing gets done if you sit around and wait for things to happen. If you have a task to export cigars, you will need a cigar factory, which needs tobacco. Both of these industries need workers, and adding workers to your island means more people feeling entitled to housing, health care, religion and entertainment. Fail to provide these and they will rebel against you or, if you run a democratic island, vote you out of office during the next elections.
The balance between income and expenditure can be precarious. Things get particularly hairy when unhappiness coincides with elections during a time where your revenue stream has dried up. You have numerous ways to deal with such a situation. As long as you have the military faction on your side, you can declare martial law in which case you get to have fun suppressing a rebellion with your iron fist. Pulling your island out of such a mess and seeing it thrive again a few months after is as satisfying an experience as ever.
Eras add flavour, research brings structure and dynasties give you a reason to come back.
A few minor quest bugs.