by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
I never saw El Presidente, or maybe I should say Ella Presidente as the Gamescom demo featured a female dictator, as an angel in disguise. Yet I never pegged her to be a pirate either, at least not in any of the games outside Pirate Cove. But there she was, a regular pirate queen in charge of no fewer than three pirate strongholds, raiding away at unsuspecting nations the world over. And those strongholds weren’t just for show either.
The map we were demonstrated at this year’s Gamescom was one of 15 campaign maps, and called Pirate King. This time, Ella Presidente’s budding empire was founded on a rocky, barren island, poor in natural resources and exempt of natural beauty. The wreckage of what looked to have once been a freight ship sat propped up against a cliff jutting out of the water, further strengthening the idea that this would not be an easy environment to colonize. It was obvious that the challenge on this particular map would revolve around getting a solid economy going in this hostile place.
A few low-yield farms provided meagre rations for the island’s first colonists and there was no income to speak of. Piracy, then, seemed to be the only means to get that economy up to speed. If we had not figured that out already, the new mission that popped up would cement it: produce and export 50 rum. Err… no soil fertile enough for a sugar plantation, so time to go on a raid. Most raids will resolve themselves without any interaction from you other than pointing at the target and/or the intended result. A fun little twist is that raids can also be used to… motivate people to come and live on your island. Completely voluntarily of course. You can even set which type of future citizens your pirate vessels should “rescue”, like educated people or slave labour for instance.
Raids are not the only answer, though. We could have chosen to import the sugar, assuming it had been available on the market, but being strapped for cash means desperate measures, no? And markets aren’t always reliable - it’s perfectly possible that the flow of a certain good inconveniently dries up. Also, raids tend to piss people off. If you kick the shins of the wrong nation a few too many times, they may take action against you, to the point of a full-blown invasion.
Now, if you are - looking - to piss people off, few things work better than stealing their prized world wonders. This is done through heists, which are a bit more interactive than raids. Bringing home the Eiffel Tower or the Giza Pyramids is nothing to sneeze at and each heist can only be pulled off by fulfilling multiple sub quests. Granted, it’s a little jarring to see Schloss Neuschwanstein tucked in between palm trees, but it’s a fantastic way to kickstart your tourist-based economy. Super power Europe won’t be too happy with that though, and it will take a while before they will forgive you.
Work modes and other nuggets
Besides pirates, raids and heists, Limbic had lots of other little nuggets of information to share. Workplaces, for instance, now sport various animations to show you that they are producing - if there is no smoke coming out of a chimney you need to check what is going on. Work modes are also back, allowing you to apply some customization to its output. Few things are as satisfying as setting the local penitentiary to “convict labour” to optimise its profits. Almost as good is the “live and let live” setting for the police station - for every arrest made, 50 bucks will now go to your Swiss bank account. Speaking of which, The Broker will be happy to relieve you of your offshore money, offering special deals in return.
And there’s so much more! The island’s factions will use quests to gently nudge you towards independence, each with their own agenda of course. There are bridges, and tunnels, and cable carts. You can move your palace, adjust its layout and adorn it with lovely features such as a giant sized hologram of yourself.
The interface and information panels are tidier and more accessible than ever, the game plays smooth and looks as vibrant as the Caribbean should. You can make deals with special citizens to get them out of your hair or take a portion of their fraudulent income in exchange for protection. You can place bus stations and influence their route. And, and, and.
Tropico 6 is shaping up to become the best instalment in the series. Every time I see the game in action it’s getting harder to conceal my excitement. You know what, I won’t - TROPICO 6 LOOKS AMAZING!