Tropico 4
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2012-04-15 Xbox 360 Simulation T (Teen) Kalypso Media

I can't believe it took me all this time to finally get into Tropic (yes, shoot me now)! Even though I love city building and micromanagement, I honestly thought that I wouldn't get into it because of the involvement of politics in the game. I should smack myself, because I've been stuck to this like glue for the past couple of weeks.

Obviously I can't compare this to previous titles in the franchise (though I already have Tropico 3 waiting to be played here), but what I can do is tell you about Tropico 4 from my "recently discovered" point of view, and I will separately cover the changes brought by the Modern Times DLC.

In Tropico 4 you play the role of El Presidente, the man or woman in charge of ruling and improving a series of tropical islands in a fictitious Caribbean nation. You may pick one of the available avatars, which include several political figures from all over the world (and I was surprised to find out that the Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was one of them) or you can make your own. Not only you choose the appearance of your Presidente, but you can also customize his/her traits. Character traits are important since they can give you little boosts for what you need to achieve in a particular scenario, and the longer you use those traits, the better you become at them.

The main goal is to develop your islands to generate revenue and keep everyone happy. Except we all know from real life that you can't please everyone at once, and this lesson in the game is pretty clear. Not only you need to juggle keeping all the different factions happy, but you also get requests and demands from other countries. While it seems logical to work to please everyone, there are times where you must pick a side. So yes, it's fairly easy to build schools and clinics to keep your general population happy by tending to their basic needs, but adding a newspaper to the scene will make the intellectuals happy while displeasing other factions according to the content that this newspaper will publish. You place logging camps to cut down trees and the environmentalists will soon complain. Approve same sex marriages and the religious faction will surely hate you. And so on, and so forth.

This balancing act alone is an interesting challenge, especially for that achievement where you must end a game with 70% overall population happiness. It took me days of working on a particular scenario to get it done, and my trouble was always with the religious ones. Seriously, how many more churches could you possibly need, people? Is this cathedral not good enough? Does the massive Jesus statue not do it for you? Papal visit edict not working out for you? I was at a loss there, but eventually by raising everyone else's respect (thanks to frequent visits to the Almanac that keeps track of all statistics), it made up for the lower percentage that was ruining my overall happiness.

You must also cater to your foreign relations by sending money grants when they need help, siding with a particular country on a certain matter, allowing (or not) another country to exploit your resources, export more goods to some place or another. A good thing about foreign relations is how they help you out when disaster strikes. A tsunami, earthquake or volcanic eruption destroyed some of your buildings? Here's $10,000 to help you rebuild, courtesy of the U.S.S.R. And heck, maybe it's my luck, but I was always being shaken up by earthquakes followed by tsunamis, so I was grateful for that. Not only I could rebuild what was destroyed, but there would be enough money left for some bonus building!

Of course, the base of making people happy is your income, and the base of your income will initially be food and rent. The Treasury represents the money available to spend in development, while a percentage of profits gets redirected to your Swiss bank account. I wasn't entirely sure why I couldn't access this bank account so I could transfer money to my Treasury, but I guess that is like the Presidente's personal retirement fund (or something) and is directly related to your score. I just wanted to see this sum having some kind of practical in-game use.

Ultimately, Tropico 4 lets you be whatever type of ruler you want. Be kind to your citizens or completely remove their freedoms. Cater to their wishes or assassinate them if they're not happy with your decisions. Whatever you do, this is your little bit of tropical paradise, and you can do whatever you want with it. Just know that you are in for some seriously rewarding in-depth micro-management, Presidente!

Special thanks to Ted Brockwood and Kalypso Media for providing a review copy.