Deep down inside, I enjoy management sims more than I probably let myself admit. In games like Sim City and Evil Genius, I have relapsed into this genre from time to time but never really let it fall into my radar as something I admit I play. Now with Tropico 3 in my lap, it’s probably time to come out of the closet on this.
Well, the management sim closet, no other closets are involved. Let’s just move onto the review before I ramble myself into a coma, shall we?
Like most games in this genre, the key focus is to balance two main things: people and money. Depending on the variables of the island you embark your fascist quest on, there are many different things you can produce to earn money; these range from farming crops to fishing, and from mining to turning the local ruins into a tourist hot spot. These are but a few examples of the ways to make money, and each will have its own ramifications which will affect your other main area of interest: people.
Capitalists, communists and nationalists are just a few of the factions that exist on your island, each with their own agenda. Leave the doors open to too many immigrants and the nationalists will oppose you, ignore infrastructure such as churches or cathedrals and the religious zealots will likely become pretty angry toward you. These are important matters to consider; if they are ignored too many times, the people will rise up against you, and that never ends well. I’m still bitter about those money-grubbing militants demanding better housing and pay rates, and then ousting me from office, we’ll see who has the last laugh. I’ll make them wear lilac uniforms or something next time…
Okay, you can’t actually change that, but you do get the chance to design your own avatar. Whilst limited compared to some RPGs, there is still a decent amount of customisation to be had for you to create your very own Castro, or if you’re like me, your very own suave pirate. Even though the scale of the island means you will rarely see these things, it is nice to have, and it forms a bond between player and avatar that most games need.
As well as aesthetic changes, there are various traits you can add to your character. You can be an old war hero with the admiration of the military faction, for example. Likewise you can assign positive and negative characteristics, which may give you increased building times, or a yearly gambling debt, respectively.
Like you would expect from a dictator, you have an incredible amount of control on your island. Everything from wages to rent, from creating sweat shops or environmentally friendly logging, from the type of education at your high schools to the agenda of the newspaper. This is a game to get lost in. Despite the hours upon hours I have spent on this game, I still feel like I’m just scratching the surface here.
The game will lead you in gently, and offers a variety of game modes with “Sandbox”, “Campaign” or “Challenge”, but the difficulty curve can ramp up fairly quickly. If you can cope with this, then you will be placated with a rich and immersive game, as you juggle every inch of making your population happy, or at least as you juggle every inch of making your population fear and respect you. That part’s up to you, as you can choose to be an iron-fisted tyrant or a gold-hearted savior.
The saint or sinner of your choosing has the liberty to run around the island improving construction speed, improving production, giving a speech to rally your people or even taking up arms to defend your regime from the would-be usurpers. Unfortunately, it’s rare you will do any of this and you will likely leave him on autopilot as you get on with the important dealings, which is a shame if you spent time customising your avatar.
There are various other annoyances, aggravations or just plain frustrating parts. Building roads is almost a nightmare at times, and at one point, I had a vital road I needed to build, but I had to choose between demolishing a cathedral or a hospital. The camera is generally fine, but when placing buildings, the overlap of controls causes any such ease to fall by the wayside. Also, there are often some unexplained facets of the game, even if you have gone through the tutorial.
Regardless of minor niggles, there is so much to do in this game, and so much to get involved with that you will lose many hours of your life if you decide to start playing Tropico 3. But like so many things on the sunny island, that choice is up to you El Presidente.
Whether sitting in the clouds designing your city or on the streets leading your avatar to defend your palace from attack, this is a superbly crafted game.
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From pleasing the factions to pleasing your bank balance, almost every area of this game is immensely enjoyable.
A great soundtrack let down by slight repetition and the occasional annoyance of the announcer.
With a variety of modes, and so many choices within the game, you will be coming back for more for a long time.
Whether you have played the prior Tropico titles or not, the blend of politics, construction and economy make this a fantastic game if you can stick with the learning curve.