Tropico 5 is the latest instalment in Kalypso Media’s successful series of strategy games that has a slight twist. The twist in this series is that you play the part of a dictator, but in a very humours and entertaining manner with a selection of eccentric advisors who will help you create the perfect tropical paradise, even at the expense of the population or political allegiances. I have to admit now that even though this is the fifth instalment it is the first time that I have played a Tropico game, so I wont be able to cast too much judgement on similarities with previous games but I will look on this as its own game.
Like most games of this genre there are a few gameplay modes available when you start up the game, there is a single player story based mode that takes you from the colonial era all the way through to modern day, a single player sand box game where you go about your own business with a variety of options and an online mode where you can either work with or take on other players in a bid to create the most successful dynasty using all the powers that money can buy.
Kalypso media have created a very bright and lively world for you to play in, the music is non stop… well… calypso music that really helps you feel as though you are in a tropical island, I did fear that the music would become irritating but, for me at least, it didn’t and enhanced the fun nature of this game. Graphically this game is full of bright vibrant colours, you can even zoom in on individual people and see what they’re up to and their various states of happiness towards your leadership. The various islands that you will preside over look great and have enough variety to feel as though they aren’t just different colours of the same template and zooming in you can see the palm tree forests being cut away by your army of loggers; this game looks great and the more structures you build the more alive the island feels.
The mechanics of the gameplay are standard strategy affair, you start off with a palace and a few plantations, you then have to harvest more raw resources and research improved technologies to help you gain more money exporting goods around the world to other powerful nations. In the single player campaign you will begin in the colonial era under the power of the crown. As you progress through various eras you have objectives to meet so that you can advance; these all generally add up to exporting a certain amount of resources so that you can earn favour from some of the worlds superpowers. You will have the choice of picking sides or trying to juggle all of their demands to keep them all happy, sadly this does limit the freedom you will have as you are constantly being told what you have to do to progress.
A key part to the game is the help and advice you will receive from your advisors, after all you are a dictator and you will need advice on a range of things be it how to keep the people from revolting, how to win an election, killing off an opponent, rigging the election or just not even letting one take place in the first place. The building of your island paradise is aided by the building of your dynasty, and as time progresses members of your family will give birth or you will just adopt new members from other countries – these can then be set to manage various buildings or be sent away on diplomatic relations or to learn new abilities. If you save up enough money in your Swiss bank account (your own personal slush fund that you can earn in a variety of underhand methods) you can then upgrade these characters so that their influence is greater.
The wants and needs of the people should be a top priority of yours to build a prosperous world and all of the options are there: religion, healthcare, policing, unemployment and housing are some of the categories that make up how happy the people are, but it has little impact on how you play the game as you are constantly having to pander to needs of the superpowers. It feels as though this just isn’t important when it really should be a key mechanic of the game.
From time to time you will have to stop an invading force and this highlights possibly the worst part of the game, the battles are pretty terrible, you will build the usual military structures from Guard towers all the way up to an offshore aircraft carrier. There aren’t many options when it comes to your military units, they will go about their own business and when an enemy force attacks you have no control on how your troops will respond, they just seem to all pile in with no regard for themselves or the surrounding people or buildings. This element of the game really is underdeveloped and as you spend the whole game playing off against world superpowers it really needs to be better as sooner or later you are going to be invaded, be it from foreign powers or from within with rebels trying to overthrow you.
Tropico 5 is a more entertaining take on the strategy genre though and perhaps the addition of a complex military would detract from this. I really enjoyed playing through this game, as I said it was my first time in the Tropico world so I am not sure if it is an improvement on previous titles in the series, but I really enjoyed it. After all it is a fun and humorous chance for you to be a dictator and in that case it works well with enough options to keep you entertained for the duration.
Reviewed on PC