by Marjolein Verheij
previewed on X360
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to run your very own banana republic? You can in Tropico 3, the third installment in the Tropico series. Going back to the roots of Tropico, the game lets you play an omnipotent dictator with absolute power over his country and the people living in it. Absolute? Well, almost. The story is set during the Cold War and you have to keep both the US and USSR content with your actions or they will put an end to your regime. Similar to SimCity, Tropico 3 focuses on city-building and economic management. Both elements will be present in roughly the same proportion.
You can choose your “El Presidente” from a list of predefined characters or create your own custom character. New is the option for you to customize your character's looks and choose his background. The choices you make while creating your character determine factors such as your relationships with the US and USSR, the military, the local population and the political factions. If you have a “green” background, the environmentalists will favor you. If you have a sporty look, the army will walk away with you. Every choice you make will have both positive and negative effects, so choose wisely.
Starting off with only a small town, it is your job to make your country powerful and to require large sums of money which is pretty much the overall goal of the game. You do want to retire in luxury don’t you? So be sure to stash as much cash as you can in your offshore accounts.
It's all about the money
If your economy fails and you go into debt too far, either the US of the USSR will come in and take over. Money makes the world go round on your island after all. Income comes from exporting products which your island produces such as cigars and sugar. Some resources such as oil are non-renewable, while others such as trees and wheat are. When you select a building, the best area to place it in will be highlighted. Placing an oil derrick in an area where there is no oil would obviously yield no oil. Farms placed on non-fertile land may still produce a little food but it will be hardly worth the trouble.
Managing your farms and ranches well will help to keep the flow going so your population won't go hungry and export won't come to a halt. To make sure things run smoothly, you have to build roads to connect everything as unconnected buildings can’t transport their products to the docks or other facilities on your island. Tourism can be an alternative source of income. If you set up an nice resort with lots of entertainment, partying tourists will start finding their way to your island. Eco-tourists can be drawn in by telling your TV stations to create nature documentaries.
Rent and salaries are controlled by you as well and should be determined with thought. If wages are too low, people may not want to work in your factories or on your farms, and if the rents are too high, your population will revert to living in shanty towns. Not paying your army can have even nastier consequences: they may stage a coup to get rid of you.
Controlling the Mayflower
You can influence how many people are allowed to come to the country with help of the immigration office. If there isn't enough work, people get angry and will start demonstrations and limiting the number of immigrants is a good way to appease the protesters. It is also possible to restrict the immigrants to those with particular skills or education levels. A good way to keep your population’s numbers under control is to pass or revoke birth control laws. Pass it and you will see population growth slow down. Ban birth control and you get a baby-boom to expand the population. But beware: the state of birth control law is followed closely by the religious faction.
To help manage your inhabitants’ wants and needs, you can zoom in and select one to see stats such as health, fun, religion and occupation. This way you can react to your people's wishes... if that's what you want of course. You are a dictator after all, so it's your choice if you want to crack down on demonstrations held by unhappy inhabitants or if you want to solve their issues peacefully. The secret police can be used to control population by openly shooting dissidents to make a point, arresting them to put the fear into their peers or by making them, well… let’s just say that we haven’t seen uncle Paco for a couple of months now.
Tropico 3 gives you about 30 hours of gameplay in its main campaign that consists of 15 different scenarios. After that, there is a lot left to experience with such a wide variety of options and choices to make. Especially the choice of your “El Presidente” can have a huge impact: if you develop your country as a popular tourist destination, the game will feel very different than it will when you focus on developing your industry. And what to think of playing the game as vicious tyrant versus a kind fatherly type? The possibilities are legion. It's all up to you so let yourself go and rule!