The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I’m sure there’s some selection bias at work here, but I can’t help
but think that Europe stepped up over the last year in triple-A game
development. Tropico 3 is the latest in a string of great titles coming
from across the pond. This city simulator leverages incredibly detailed
political and economic models to create engaging gameplay while
simultaneously providing a terrific sense of place with its outstanding
presentation. A steep learning curve, limited tutorial, and poor
documentation set a high barrier to entry – which is well worth
overcoming in order to experience what Tropico 3 has to offer.
many city sims, this doesn’t worry the player overmuch about creating
complex housing districts with access to a set of goods and services in
order to get your citizens to build better, more lucrative dwellings.
Tropico concerns you with building an infrastructure that allows your
subjects to get on with their lives without too much fuss. If you
supply them with jobs and the rudimentary services they need and/or
want, they’ll go about their business while you worry about how best to
spend their tax dollars. Building the bones of a prosperous society is
an entertaining puzzle in itself, but that’s only a single gameplay
The campaign’s many scenarios
offer varied challenges within Tropico’s massively complex set of
interrelated systems. One mission sees you on an infertile island with
a city to feed. You can delay industrialization to build up a fish and
livestock food economy (and very possibly go broke in the process), or
accept an offer of humanitarian aid. Letting those dirty foreigners on
your sovereign soil is a slap in the face to the nationalistic and
military factions of your people, though. Plus, a stream of refugees is
seeking asylum in your country – more mouths to feed, but you’ll look
like quite the autocratic *** if you close your borders. The
constant pressures to make money by exporting goods and to offer better
churches, schools, and medical care never relent during any of these
Ruling Tropico requires making a number of big-picture
decisions: what kind of crops to grow, whether to hire trained foreign
workers for specialist jobs or rely on immigration, and the appropriate
level of kowtowing to U.S. and U.S.S.R. interests are just a few
examples. A whole slate of edicts that range from mandatory education
to requiring special building permits (which naturally funnel into your
personal Swiss bank account) are at your disposal. Shaping domestic and
foreign policy via these and other measures is critical to maintaining
a stable state. Internal factions like communists, intellectuals, and
religious folks get restive when their interests aren’t catered to, and
gross neglect of your peoples’ desires will eventually lead to armed
rebellion. It’s a good thing you thought ahead and kept your generals
happy and guard posts equipped, right?
The depth and breadth of
your options and the systems that they impact goes far beyond these
simple examples. A well-funded secret police force can identify and
make troublemakers “disappear” before talk of revolution gets out of
hand. Different crops grow best in certain conditions, and support
different types of industry. Increasing workers’ wages and improving
their working conditions can be a great tool for maintaining order and
attracting talent, but comes with a stiff price tag. If you want, you
can even jump into direct control of your avatar and walk among the
people, put down rebellions firsthand, and give inspiring speeches from
the palace balcony.
This wondrous complexity is not introduced to
the player in a reasonable fashion, though. Expect to restart scenarios
often, as previously unexplained mechanics bite you in the ass. Don’t
think that completing the tutorial prepares you for the rigors of
governance – you’ll learn how to read the interface and place
buildings, but that’s about it. Tropico 3 is a hard game, even
for experienced city builders. It never feels unfair, though, and
restarting a level from time to time is hardly the end of the world.
expected sandbox mode complements Tropico’s excellent campaign, and
it’s exactly what you’d expect. All told, one could happily spend as
much time here as with any top-shelf simulation or strategy game.
Anyone who is willing to deal with the game’s imposing impenetrability
will be well rewarded.
Email the author Adam Biessener, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.