Tropico 5

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Haemimont Games
Release Date: June 17, 2014


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PC Review - 'Tropico 5'

by Dustin Chadwell on July 17, 2014 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

Packed with a whole host of new gameplay features and all new artwork designed from scratch, Tropico 5 takes the city-builder series into a new and exciting direction – dynasties!

Buy Tropico 5

When it comes to modern city-building video games, the Tropico series has been one of my highlights. Sure, we've seen solid entries outside of the ever-popular Civilization series, like Anno 2070, but I can't think of a single game that takes the humorous and often twisted approach that Tropico does. If you haven't delved into a game in this franchise, Tropico 5 is a perfect starting point. If you've enjoyed the last couple of entries as I have, you'll still get a lot of enjoyment out of this sequel.

Tropico 5 is built upon the idea of creating an island paradise that focuses on the ideas of Communism and closely resembles the island nation of Cuba. You don't need to stick to any one path to succeed. You can build your island to be an industrial powerhouse and export and create luxury items to sell to other nations. You can opt to become a hot resort destination for hundreds of vacationing families, or you can cater to the stinking rich or the filthy poor.

You have access to a variety of buildings and other structures that'll help you overcome any scenario the campaign throws your way. Most of these constructs are self-explanatory, such as apartments and tenements for housing, hospitals and clinics for health care, and taverns and restaurants for entertainment. The citizens in Tropico 5 can be a finicky bunch, and you'll need to balance needs like entertainment, food, liberty and religion to keep them happy. The buildings you create and how you choose to staff those structures play a major part in keeping the populace appeased. You can even seek out particularly skilled residents and appoint them as managers, who can add small bonuses to the buildings or surrounding areas and further improve your status as El Presidente.

Every structure you build dips into the treasury pool, so you'll also need to focus on your in-game economy. There are a number of resources available, so you'll have access to various mines that contain bauxite, coal, gold, iron and uranium. You can even uncover oil, both on land and off-shore, and build ranches or plantations. Once you have enough resources, you can create factories to create items like cigars and jewelry, and then you can export those items or resources to America, Europe, Russia, and so on. A major addition to Tropico 5 are trade routes, an option built into your docks that grant a limited number of ships and trade routes based on your diplomatic relationships. This can often help in offloading unnecessary or surplus resources for more cash.

Another factor that plays a part in your success in Tropico 5 is diplomacy and balancing your relationships between different world powers. Admittedly, this is dialed back from what was available in Tropico 4. You still build an embassy to enhance your influence with countries like the United States and Russia, but you'll do so slowly, as Tropico 5 works its way through the early 1900s and onward. You can interact with a small number of world powers until you reach the modern era. Even then, you do little more than praise or send delegations to those world powers to build up your reputation. There's little need to woo world powers to your cause, outside of the bonus cash that can be earned for positive relationships. There's a looming threat of being invaded, but it happens rarely, and with a sufficient army, you'll have little trouble in repelling attacks. Many optional activities involve reaching a certain relationship level with different countries, so you still need to establish connections with various world powers.

As you play through the campaign of Tropico 5, which is fairly lengthy and difficult, you're tasked with completing different stages across two different islands. Each stage focuses on a particular island, but you'll constantly pick up where you left off, so while early stages might not seem hard, you'll want to pay attention to how you build early on. I ran into some trouble with the final two stages because of this and found that my economy was underbaked, which made it difficult to stay in the black during the late game. I'd highly suggest making ample use of the manual save system early on, since you'll often want to double back to correct mistakes that aren't uncovered until much later in the game.

While Tropico 5's campaign provides an ample amount of playtime, you can also whittle away hours in the excellent sandbox mode, which allows you to develop island nations without any pesky breaks between time periods. Thanks to a couple of early patches, most of the significant bugs that seem to plague Tropico titles at launch have been wiped out. I didn't run across any major issues once patch 1.03 hit, which fixed a particularly nasty and annoying issue regarding Teamster traffic. All in all, pedestrian traffic in-game is really solid this time, and you won't have to babysit your road development nearly as much as you did in prior Tropico releases. I also didn't run into any annoying max population bugs or any major development issues.

Finally, the last component of Tropico 5 is online play, both co-op and versus. However, I didn't find much opportunity to play it. Despite not being that far out from launch, the online community for Tropico 5 is virtually nonexistent at this point. When you enter the online mode, you can create a game or room for others to join. You can jump into open rooms, which are grouped by country, or you can search available games. There's even a quick-join function for both co-op and versus modes, but none of these options seemed to matter. Lobbies were generally a ghost town during weekends and throughout the week, and the high point was when I saw two other players in one room. Even then, it was difficult to actually get a game started. Essentially, if you're looking forward to Tropico 5 due to its online component, I would strongly suggest bringing along a friend or two for the ride.

I really enjoyed my time with Tropico 5. As a total package, it's a great starting point for new players. Gameplay mechanics like diplomacy have been simplified, so it's pretty easy to understand for newcomers. It'll help to have some working knowledge of similar sim titles, but even without that background, the campaign does a great job of easing you into the basic functions of city-building. The simplification isn't always in the best interest of the game, as I found when attempting to stave off exports of much-needed resources. While trade routes are a great addition, not being able to have direct control over which goods I export and import was often problematic. Issues like this are few and far between with Tropico 5, making it an overall positive and very fun experience.

Score: 8.5.10

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