Tropico 3 review

Only pretends to let you be a tyrant

GamesRadar+ Verdict


  • +

    Surprisingly compelling gameplay

  • +

    Challenging city building

  • +

    Lovely setting


  • -

    Punishes corruption

  • -

    Crap tutorial

  • -

    Steep learning curve

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The prospect of creating our own tiny banana republic in Tropico 3 had us rubbing our despotic hands with glee. Perhaps we’ve finally been given the chance to approach a city building game with a more ruthless approach. Forget “I’m Mayor Rosycheeks from Happytown – let’s make a paradise that everyone can enjoy.” Instead, get your laughing gear around god-fearing, uneducated peons who live in terror, following El Presidente with unwavering loyalty, even as we issue increasingly unreasonable edicts and score a nice retirement fund from the profits of our overpriced produce and kickbacks from fellow Communist countries. Yeah.

Tropico 3 offers an interesting balance of politics and metropolis planning, so to a degree you can do all of the aforementioned and turn yourself into a cigar-chomping tyrant to make Fidel Castro look like Boris Johnson. However, if you want to be a dictator, the game hasn’t made it easy. If you take bribes from a fruit-buying company, you’ll get short term financial rewards but could find yourself in a contract that caps the price of your produce. You can create an intimidating military force to scare all the peasants into voting for you, only to have them all stage a coupe d’etat because you didn’t build a titty bar for them.

So, ultimately, you have to perfect your micromanagement skills to create Happytown first – with all the schools, clinics, restaurants and cathedrals that your populace demands – before you’re rich enough to start not giving a shit.

Tropico 3 does present a substantial challenge, even for city sim veterans. The balancing act of risk and reward means there’s rarely an opportunity to sit back and watch the money roll in.

Of course, it would help if some of the game’s intricacies were better explained. Do all buildings need to be connected to roads? Why are some structures so difficult to place? How are we supposed to keep one faction of our population happy when it seems to be at the expense of half a dozen others? Don’t be surprised if you find yourself bankrupt, killed by rebels or voted out by ungrateful peasants in your first couple of attempts at tyranny.

Still, if you can deal with the steep learning curve and get your head around some of the gameplay foibles, Tropico 3 is a surprisingly accomplished title that doesn’t appear to be diluted for consoles. Even the control system is quite easy to negotiate. If only we didn’t have to be loved before we started to be feared…

Nov 16, 2009

More info

DescriptionIf you’re expecting it to be funny and clever and allow you to flex your evil muscle at the expense of some faceless minions, you’ll be disappointed. If you like seeing virtual cash flow in by the shipload and making ever-larger tacky tourist traps, there’s more than enough here to keep you going for a few Sunday afternoons.
Platform"Xbox 360","PC"
US censor rating"Teen","Teen"
UK censor rating"16+","16+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)