The simulator genre is quite the menagerie. From Surviving Mars to Frostpunk to Farming Simulator 2019 there seems to be something for everybody. So what does Tropico 6 offer that makes it stand out from every other city building/political management simulator? Your role as El Presidente certainly doesn’t hurt, and Tropico’s unapologetic sense of humor might be its greatest strength over all.
As El Presidente of Tropico, the strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures of your island nation rests squarely on your shoulders. While Tropico 6 has eschewed the standards of its predecessors by removing its Story campaign, the developers have opted for a series of eighteen mini campaigns that see players trying to keep Tropico afloat through a variety of scenarios. In one instance you may be planted firmly in the Colonial Era, struggling to fulfill the needs of your own citizens, the ever overbearing Crown, and the Rebellion as you seek to gain Tropico’s independence. Other scenarios you will manipulate world wars, choosing between helping or sabotaging the Axis and Allies, and navigating the communist propaganda machines.
Given that this is the sixth entry in the Tropico franchise, there had to be some kind of shake ups to keep things fresh for returning players. For the first time ever, country of Tropico is now made of expansive archipelagos, with a variety of lay outs available for the player to choose from. Each archipelago has its own list of pros and cons, including the resources and land space that is available to build on. Additionally, those islands can now be connected by bridges, include bus stops, and other transportation options – so long as you’re in the appropriate era with the appropriate funds, of course.
Tropico 6 doesn’t just ramp up the new additions to building, though. The difficulty, too, gets an unexpected boost from new building mechanics. In the case of most city management sims, buildings that produce resources typically have a set amount that is produced over the course of the in game day. Tropico throws in a little extra struggle, however, by throwing that rule completely out the window. If your building – be it a farm, a mine, a bar, or even your state sanctioned pirate cove – doesn’t have employees during work hours, you’re throwing away money.
You need to plan your communities properly, ensuring that your workers live close enough to their place of employment and leisure activities that they’re not spending their entire day traveling to work instead of actually working. If you find yourself planning out these elaborately designed archipelagos where your people live on one island, they mine resources on another island, their grocery stores are on yet another island, you’re going to see your economy suffer. Both in that your buildings will be less productive, and that you’ll have a barrage of shacks popping up around your islands as the homeless populace attempts to move closer to where their places of employment are.
Even still you may find that even with the best laid plans your economy has come to a stand still merely because all of your farmers decide its time for a vacation, or your coal miners would rather go protest then work for slave wages. Construction work can slow to a crawl, and you may have to choose to sacrifice some of your resources just to speed up the teamsters that did show up to work that day. It does, unfortunately, lead to a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ game play. You can control how fast time passes, but even still you may find yourself staring at a queue of buildings that are waiting on construction workers unless you decide to sacrifice your funds for a quick build.
The citizens of Tropico are fully simulated in Tropico 6, each with their own goals, dreams, and agendas. It is possible to see information about any one individuals’ thoughts, family tree, and political affiliations and it becomes vital to your island nation’s health to closely monitor your population and infrastructure, lest you want your citizens to remove you from your cushy role as El Presidente.
Often times simulator games struggle when they are ported to console from PC, most frequently because of how difficult it can be to go from the volume of potential inputs on a keyboard and mouse versus the more limited controller options. Tropico 6’s overlays that allow you to monitor the archipelagos’ well being, however, is a solid example of how the game has handled this particular obstacle. By choosing the almanac from a radial menu, a pop up appears on the player’s HUD that allows them to browse through segmented points of interest. Want to see where the best place to put a goat ranch would be? The overlay can tell you that. Want to see just how badly your factories are polluting your island? There’s a tab for that, too. Additionally, Tropico 6 features an almanac that allows you to zero in on important information about your island’s populace. Doing so can help you improve the choices you make when it comes time to forming a speech that can sway the people and keep you in power for just a little longer.
Tropico 6 doesn’t shy away from loaded political topics, with players forced to grapple with factions such as communists, environmentalists, and even the religious right. While the game’s tongue is firmly planted in its cheek the warring over the various factions can certainly weigh heavily on your experience with the game. Still, you’ll find yourself drawn back to Tropico over and over in hopes of creating the ultimate island utopia. Or dystopia, depending on the type of dictator you want to be.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher