We put it to you, dear readers, that a lot of people remember the first Tropico game fondly. We also put it to you that of those people, only a minority actually gave it any significant degree of time. Let’s forget about the second game – where the setting was changed from a fictional Caribbean socialist paradise to a community of bloodthirsty, grog-swilling pirates – and concentrate on the first one, because this is where Tropico 3 is picking up the baton. No buccaneers here, just honest citizens and corrupt leaders of revolutions.
The premise is much the same: the fictional Caribbean island of Tropico is yours to command, by fair means or foul. You can choose to be a tyrant, ruling your land with an iron first in an iron glove with iron bits sticking out from the knuckles. Equally, you can be tender and caring to your people, perhaps even posing for publicity photographs cradling an injured lamb in your arms, nursing it to health after a nasty capitalist ran it over in his gas-guzzling decadence machine.
From our time with it, we can tell that Tropico 3 is a huge improvement over the first one, as you’d hope it would be. Political, social and economic options are plentiful, including the ability to issue edicts (enact legislative changes) that alter the way your downtrodden society functions. You can ban drinking and contraception, or be a liberal leader and allow same-sex marriages and set up a range of sensitivity training courses for your people.
More underhand strategies are still needed though, regardless of whether you’re a benevolent or tyrannical leader. Faction leaders can be bribed or arrested in an attempt to prevent criticism of your regime, and there’s the small matter of siphoning off public funds into a Swiss bank account, something which is used to calculate your final rating once you’ve finished the game (i.e. been thrown out of power in a counter-revolution).
Unlike a lot of other god games, you have a physical presence in your game world. As El Presidente, you can make speeches on your palace balcony like a cigar-smoking Pope, or step down from your ivory tower and mingle with the common folk, (or your comrades, depending on your dedication to socialism), by making personal appearances at schools and such or speeding up construction of important buildings. Whether having an avatar in the game means you can be assassinated or not, we’ve yet to discover. You can certainly have traitors or rebels shot down if you so wish, so perhaps they can retaliate.
There’s also the small matter of your relations with the two superpowers in the world: namely the United States and the USSR. Again, you can choose to move towards either Cold War faction if you so wish, so there’s no reason your communist paradise couldn’t be allied with the capitalist pigs in Washington.
Aesthetically, Tropico 3’s looking good and the music is salsa-riffic, complementing the tropical visuals nicely. Interesting god games are thin on the ground and, certainly, ones with a focus on something other than historical trade are even sparser, so it’s good to see something breaking from the pack and trying something new. Yes, we know it’s a sequel, so it can’t, by definition, be ‘new’ new, you know? You know what we mean.
Sep 28, 2009