Hola El Presidente…you look different. Well, not all that different, like you did something with your hair different. No? New shirt? Tropico 4 is remarkably similar to its predecessor, but somehow it also feels remarkably different. Maybe it’s the new cartoon infused visual style, or maybe the more accessible arcade style gameplay. Regardless, Tropico 4 continues the series’ long running history of being a fun and addictive city simulator that you’re sure to get lost in – even if it feels like you’ve done it all before.
As in previous iterations, you start Tropico 4 by creating your character, known as El Presidente. There’s a lot of options here and it may be daunting to those who haven’t played a Tropico game before. Do you go full Fidel? Perhaps fat cat in the pocket of the small industries? Perhaps the Caribbean version of Abraham Lincoln is more to your style. During these opening moments, you’ll make a series of distinct choices that will affect how you rule your chain of islands. If nothing else, it adds to the replay factor of the title. What would happen if you made one choice differently than the others? It may sound cliché, but the possibilities are more or less endless.
Of course, your goal as El Presidente is to manage and grow Tropico, your set of islands in the Caribbean. Just how you do this is up to you, and can be a lot of fun to play around with. On my first play through of the game, I found myself playing nice – trading with other nations, building factories and hospitals and listening to my people. It was rewarding to see my set of islands flourish and my citizens live happy lives. Then it occurred to me, I could make more profit by taking the other route, so I decided to make decisions based on money and not the good of the island – sure I had to deal with a few rebellions here and there, but I was much more financially successful this time around. Each session with Tropico 4 feels much different than the last.
Those revolts play a much larger part in this game than the rest. Now, each faction has a leader with their own unique personality and demands. It’s no longer as simple as just looking up how to stop certain factions, as each time you’ll have to make decisions that will affect your nation greatly. The environmentalists for instance will want you to stop logging as much and build a wind turbine, but doing so will anger the logging companies in your area, and you’ll risk losing jobs for your citizens. It’s these types of choices that make Tropico 4 such a compelling time.
Curiously, Tropico 4 feels much more arcade at times than its predecessors. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a simulation at heart, but several key additions make Tropico 4 feel different. Key among these additions is the new disaster system that seems to happen much more often than before. It was a bit frustrating each time I would build up a certain area, only to have it constantly wiped out by a flood or some other disaster. Yeah, I know…they’re a part of the game, but the just seemed to happen a lot more here than in previous games.
It’s amazing that after three previous installments and a huge fan community, Atlus wouldn’t put multiplayer into the Tropico series. Sure, there’s Facebook and Twitter integration, along with user created scenarios to try your hand at – but the fact that Tropico still exists without a dedicated multiplayer system is nothing short of astonishing. Why can’t I take on my friends islands, and form treaties with others? Tropico seems like the perfect fit for a dedicated multiplayer suite, but for some reason we still don’t get it.
The Blast Factor: While it is true that Tropico 4 plays much like its predecessor, the changes that are here are far too heavy to merely call this Tropico 3.5. Though the lack of new features and multiplayer are a bit daunting, Tropico 4 is a game that fans of the series and those looking for a new experience are going to want to check out.
Tropico 4 is available now on the Xbox 360 and PC. A Xbox 360 copy of the game was provided by the publisher for this review