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Tropico 6

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Realmforge Studios
Release Date: March 29, 2019


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Tropico 6'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 28, 2017 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Prove yourself once again as a feared dictator or a peace-loving statesman on the island state of Tropico and shape the fate of your nation through four distinctive eras.

As El Presidente of the small island nation of Tropico, your goal is to succeed, but what that looks like depends on your goals. Do you want to create a thriving nation?  Or do you want to exploit and profit as much as possible and escape before you're deposed? Tropico 6, the latest entry in the franchise, isn't aiming to change too much from the normal style, but it gives you more ways to be a benevolent dictator or greedy strongman.

At E3 2017, we got a glimpse of day-to-day life in a Tropico game. A change from the previous titles is that every citizen now has their own wants and needs, which are measured by various meters you can check. They even follow their own schedule, which has an impact on the game. If a particular citizen is spending all their time getting drunk, that means they're not working at the factory and you're losing production. This isn't a Sims level of micromanagement, but there's enough here to make it clear you'll want to pay more attention to the specific needs of your people.

Your overall goal is to manage the citizens' needs while ensuring that your fiefdom thrives. Farming only bananas could be profitable, but before long, your citizens would get sick of eating a single food and demand more varied crops. Working them cheap might be profitable, but if they can't afford health care, then they'll get sick and be unable to work. You'll also have plenty of competitors who are eager to take your position.

It's a delicate balance as a strongman. You can't keep your citizens happy without losing potential for profit and growth. On the other hand, you're not going to be able to stay in power if you clamp down too hard. Citizens will demand regular elections, and while you're not obligated to give them the elections, it's only a matter of time before they decide a bullet is as effective as a ballot. You have to consider how far you can push the populace before they decide to dump you.

You also have to focus on building the island. A game of Tropico is based around four eras: Colonial, World War, Cold War and Modern. Each generation comes with its own host of upgrades and abilities that increase your potential gain and profit. There are also special buildings you can only get by completing certain objectives or quests within the game world. The quests reward blueprints, which are necessary if you want to have a proper steel mill, for example. The research system is more in-depth than ever before, but unfortunately, the information on that won't be available until Gamescom later this year.

One of the more interesting twists to Tropico 6 is that you're no longer limited to a single island. You can have a small collection of islands, each with different environments and landscapes, such as heavily mountainous areas on one island and tropical beaches on another. The advantage is that you have more flexibility and variety in how you set up your dictatorship. For instance, you can set up an oil-mining operation that's distant from your tourism area. Multiple islands introduce a transportation issue, so you'll need  to set up docks or bridges so people can travel between the islands.

The biggest new feature in Tropico 6 is the raid mechanic. You might be the benevolent ruler of a small island nation, but even the most respectable dictators need a little flair. Heists allow you to steal some of the world's greatest artifacts, such as the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids, and bring them back to your home nation. In the final version, there will be 17 different landmarks to steal, but you'll only be able to steal one per era. (We're told there will be special bonus missions that remove this restriction, though.)

In order to utilize the raid mechanic, you'll need to develop an era-appropriate raid building. In our demo, it was a command garrison. Once it's built, you passively gather raid points, and after you've gathered enough, you can send your black ops soldier on a commando raid. The demo showed the theft of the Statue of Liberty. It happened mostly off-screen, but once the theft was successful, it hit a snag: The Statue of Liberty is too big to easily sneak into a country. Our dictator had the option of investing in the oil to have it flown in or waiting an extra year for it to take the slow and safe route. We chose the oil-rich route, and within moments, the statue could be placed anywhere on the Tropico map. The landmarks can have a significant impact on the gameplay, but they haven't worked out the specific balance and mechanics of those improvements yet.

It might be good to be king, but it sure isn't easy. Tropico 6's tongue-in-cheek humor doesn't do much to disguise that it's a game of balance. How far can you push your citizens before they revolt? How much can you exploit your land before it isn't profitable anymore? How many national treasures can you fit in your backyard? It's shaping up to be a fun entry in the long-running franchise, and fans should have a lot of fun with it when it comes out in 2018.

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