I wake up, the sun is shining, despite the warnings of a tropical storm I take out my whitest suit. Lighting my first cigar of the morning, I walk to my balcony to address the masses. I am El Presidente and this is Tropico 5 on PS4 and Xbox one.
This is not my first time with Tropico, starved of a decent RTS game on the Xbox 360 after Battle for Middle Earth and Halo Wars, I turned on a gamble to Tropico 3 and was instantly hooked. The game is perfect on consoles and Tropico 5 continues the trend. This is a city building sim for everyone. Think of the barriers to the genre, that most people face. The complexity, the PC that is needed, the fear of boredom and the control scheme. Tropico on a console has always conquered these in its own way and the next-gen version is no different.
For people who are interested, the game runs at 30fps and 1080p on PS4 meaning it looks good and runs smoothly. Smoothness is the most important feature of the series. From your first introductory missions, you will notice a laid back approach to everything. The music and the setting place this game very much apart from the hustle and bustle of other city builders, meaning that the control scheme doesn’t matter because there is no mouse. Using a wheel interface, you can easily select the buildings you want to build, position them and if necessary demolish them. As with any city builder, the road and transport network is both a source of joy and frustration. In Tropico, you only need to worry about the money involved and staying in power. Just make sure you link your port to all the major production areas and before long you will be making a fortune exporting, tobacco, bananas, wood or even tourism. The scenarios in campaign mode are cleverly designed to teach you the value of each commodity, useful for when the difficulty ramps up.
The game itself differs from the previous entries, by starting you off as a leader of a colony, under the old British Empire. The principle is the same, build you own island paradise up, through fair means or foul and decide how you handle the negotiations with your imperial rulers. When you branch out on your own in later eras, you get the chance to play cold war rivals off against each other. The joy of Tropico is the multitude of options available to complete your tasks. Do you use the secret police to quell the rebellion and fix elections? Do you let one of the superpowers build a toxic waste dump in an extreme part of the island? The choice is yours, as long as the island is rich and prosperous and you can siphon off some for your Swiss bank account.
The game features many scenarios which will bring a smile to people’s faces, no matter their political view. Everything is done very tongue in cheek and the choices presented by the game lets you be the Communist ruler, giving power to the people or the Fascist ruler locking up anyone who disagrees. For me the game is best played in the living room, chilling out and seeing what happens. El Presidente is fully customizable and you can take him for a walk around your kingdom. Walking him over to a building under construction makes the workers hurry up the build. The game is full of common sense decisions and humorous stereotypes that shouldn’t offend anyone. If you were on a desert island with a rigged election, what would you do?
My personal favourite of this game is how the buildings now change depending on the era you have reached. There’s nothing quite like making your little corrupt island the number one attraction for stupidly rich tourists. Just make sure thy have plenty of shops to spend their dollars in.
The most difficult thing about this game will be convincing people to buy it or even try it. I am a long-time fan of the series so for me, it was always a must-buy. To convince other people all I can really say is that the Tropico games are unlike any other, especially on PS4 and Xbox one. The are the definition of pick up and play. Once you get through the tutorial the game becomes as deep as you want it to be. You can micromanage it down to the nth degree or allow your advisor to take control of the small things, leaving you to worry about the relations with the superpowers and how you are going to design that statue of yourself you always wanted. This is the game that will sit in your collection longer than others. The only thing I can imagine trading it for is Tropico 6. When you explain the things the game allows you to do, to your friends, they will be begging to see it in action, if not buy it themselves. As I studied politics in college, I understand that there were islands that operated like this. The game is a satirical look at history. but like Civilisation, it doesn’t mean that there is no truth in the matter. When you people are revolting, you are running out of money and there is a natural disaster on the way, maybe you will cast democracy aside and fix the election to complete the level. It is a good game for challenging long-held beliefs.
The game is not as deep as RTS experts will like, but it has its own charm that seems at home on a console. With Multiplayer co-op and competitive modes still to test, hopefully, this will be the Tropico that sets the trend for more RTS games to hit the home console. The console space is crying out for games like Total War, Starcraft, Company of Heroes and more. In the meantime, we have Tropico, the most relaxing game that involves running a nation available. Now excuse me while I light another cigar, that my ill-gotten gains have allowed me to buy. Until next time, this is El Presidente, chief election-fixer.