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Dictator or Democracy? - A Tropico 5 (PC) Review

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Hola, Tropicans! It is time for all those noble El Presidentes out there to rise again with Tropico 5, the latest installment of Kalypso's Caribbean-flavored city simulator. Tropico 5 brings back a lot of the familiar neatly packaged in a shiny new wrapper. Players will again take up the role as El Presidente, leading his beloved people through colonial times, the World Wars, the Cold War and beyond into modern times by any means necessary. Each time period comes with a rising level of complexity, but provides ample time for players to adjust to their role as leader. Fans of the series will find enough improvements about this game to find it enjoyable; while new players may have a little bit of a challenge adjusting if they skipped the optional tutorial and chose to jump right into the campaign or multiplayer.

tropico 5 city

The immediately noticeable difference between Tropico 5 and its predecessors is the dramatic improvement to the graphics. The landscapes in Tropico have always looked nice, but the buildings and people left much to be desired. Now instead of shabby looking generic buildings and vaguely people-shaped pixels, everything looks varied, detailed and unique. Even the crops look like actual crops. Sadly, the graphics are what really make Tropico 5 different from the other installments.

Fans of previous games will enjoy Tropico 5, but it wants for more new features. Many of the buildings and industries are all things that fans have seen before, but tweeked to be made better. One of the biggest improvements was made to farms. No longer do players have to randomly place them spaced apart so that crops can grow patchily in. Instead, there are actual fields in which the crops grow; players can even place buildings within the field that have no penalty other than decreasing the production.

tropico 5 farm

New buildings to the series are few and far in between, but Tropico 5 does come with some new features such as a research system, historical eras and dynasties. Taking a few pages out of the book of games like Civilization, Tropico 5 implemented a research system. Through this system, players are granted research points by building libraries. They can then choose a technology that will unlock new buildings and edicts. The more libraries players build with the staff to run them, the faster the research completes. This research system helps foster the island into the next age where players will have to contend with a number of foreign affairs like being under the rule of the British Crown or the mutually assured destruction of the Cold War. Of course, one El Presidente can't do all this alone. Tropico 5 introduces their new Dynasty system which, as far as I have experienced, is fairly useless. Players can recruit a number of their many family members to their dynasty. Players can choose a perk for the member that will help the island, send them abroad on missions and even make them their heir. The perks are a nice bonus, but other than the occasional foreign mission, they kind are just...there.

A fun feature of the dynasty system is that you can create how each member looks. If you want to have a dynasty of clown nose wearing greasers, then that can happen. However, compared to the character creation in Tropico 4, the choices for dynasty and El Presidente design are pretty slim pickin's. Maybe I'm just mad that they took the pirate outfit out. Yeah, maybe it's just that.

tropico 5 costumes

The costumes aren't the only humorous feature in Tropico 5. The series has always been fairly comical and thankfully that has not changed. Your advisors are still incompetent, foreign officials are still thinly veiled caricatures of historical figures, and the DJ that occasionally makes radio broadcasts across the island is as shameless as can be. Personally, the DJ was my favorite part of the game for a long while, however after the 50th time of hearing the same 5 stories recycled; the humor kind of lost its effect.

As far as difficulty goes, Tropico 5 has the option to ramp it up, but on moderate settings it seems easy but can get very difficult quickly. For one, players who are used to the different faction leaders consistently nagging you to do things for your people will not find as much of that here. In fact, if you purely focus on trying to keep your little island out of the red, you'll find yourself voted out of office. It is ridiculously easy to forget about your people without faction leader nagging. Soon you may have a booming industry, but having forgotten to build essentials like clinics, entertainment, churches and housing, your people will hate you. This is a negligible oversight for veteran players, but for new players it can lead to a frustrating end of game. For all those new players considering Tropico 5, they should be sure to play through the tutorials to learn the ropes as the campaign, sandbox mode and multiplayer has none. Even after playing Tropico 4 all week to get ready for Tropico 5, I occasionally found myself a little lost in the interface.

tropico 5 multiplayer

All of that aside, Tropico 5 also comes equipped with some technical aspects that don't quite work correctly. It is a freshly released game, but some of these technical annoyances are unlikely to go away. Two primary examples are the random load screens and the autosave feature. Never, ever rely on the autosave feature to save on any sort of schedule. The saves are random and few. One could only assume it would save after passing each mission, but no it saves in the middle of a mission, two missions back. I have not had any issues with the game crashing, but there are a few occasions during missions where it becomes easy to lose. So thus, skip the autosave and remember to manually do it on each new mission. Finally, another minor annoyance is the absolutely random load screens. You can be just cruising around your village, placing a building or surfing through a menu deciding what to build next, then BAM! A load screen. It doesn't happen often, but it does take away from the general flow of the game itself.

Tropico 5 - (PC)
Amazon Price: $39.99 Buy Now
(price as of May 24, 2014)

Finally, the multiplayer is nothing special. It is much like the multiplayer in other city building, strategic game. A maximum of four players square off on the island and build their city and/or army in order to beat the other players. There are a variety of ways to win multiplayer. Players can build the strongest army and destroy other players, make the most money, reach the construction goal or win by points. The game conditions are set by the game creators so players who don't want to duke it out with an army should make sure to find a game with the other win conditions enabled.

Tropico 5 (PC) Amerowolf 2014-05-24 4.0 0 5
+ Pros: - Cons:
+Has the traditional Tropico feel
+Good humor
+Good building fixes to building mechanics
+Excellent graphics
-Not enough changes / features
-Repeditive humor
-Terrible autosave


Overall, for fans of Tropico or indeed any city simulation game, there is a lot to love about Tropico 5. It will give a solid, enjoyable fix to your God complex but for fans of the series who were expecting more, it fails to deliver. It is by far the most refined and graphically superior of the Tropico games, but I don't think a Tropico 6 would be merited without some bigger changes. However, the question then becomes what would they change about it while still keeping the Tropico feel.



May 28, 2014 10:53pm
I enjoyed your review even though I'm not a gamer. Nice writing.
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