Review: Tropico 3

Steam can be a nasty hab­bit… or at least a damnable temp­ta­tion.  They have these sales, you see.  Good sales.  Good games for as lit­tle as $2.50 or $5.  This leads me to have a large heap of games in the review pile.  For­give me the lazi­ness of link­ing to games on steam.  It’s fast and you can find the game’s home page from there if you like.

Trop­i­co 3 is a town build­ing strat­e­gy game that fea­tures trop­i­cal island set­tings.  In the game, your avatar is the dic­ta­tor/ruler/guy-in-charge of the island.  The games plays out in a very tounge in cheek way.  You can play the oppres­sive (or the pop­u­lar) dic­ta­tor or you can play the pop­ulist that wins every elec­tion (hon­est­ly or by sub­terfuge).  But every­thing (and I do mean every­thing) you do has a wide range of effects on the population.

You can play this game at many lev­els.  At the high­est lev­el, you can cre­ate build­ings and man­age the pop­u­la­tion with grand edicts and immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy.  You can also micro man­age each indi­vid­ual cit­i­zen.  You can arrest them or have them shot.  You can have them fired from their jobs.  You can have years go by in min­utes or you can stretch them out as you care­ful­ly craft your strategy.

Again at the high­er lev­els, you man­age the pol­i­tics both inter­nal and with the USA/USSR twins.  Inter­nal­ly you need to some­what sat­is­fy a sub­set of the groups in the coun­try (comu­nists, cap­tial­ists, reli­gious, …etc) that are bal­anced so as to be at cross pur­pos­es with each oth­er.  I sup­pose that is some­what real­is­tic.  Exter­nal­ly, the same but some­what sim­pler fight plays out between the USA, the USSR and your lit­tle coun­try.  Some­times mak­ing the USA hap­py will stop it from invad­ing.  Oth­er times, mak­ing the USSR real­ly hap­py will con­vince it to pro­tect you from the USA.  Again… at least to the tounge and cheek point of the game, some­what realistic.

At the low­er lev­els, each cit­i­zen has needs… things like food, health­care, enter­tain­ment and reli­gion.  When their sta­tis­tic gets low, they enter a phase (vis­i­ble on their action log) to sat­is­fy that need.  When they run out of food or health­care, they die.  Oth­er stats just dri­ve them to be unhap­py and revolt.  Some rev­o­lu­tion is man­age­able, but a full fledged rev­o­lu­tion can oust you and end the game.

The inter­face is sur­pris­ing­ly rich.  Overview pan­els can list the num­ber of hap­py cit­i­zens and the num­ber of unhap­py cit­i­zens.  There are lists and graphs for every type of activ­i­ty, pro­duc­tion and whim.  Pre­sent­ing the num­ber of unhap­py cit­i­zens is one thing, but the graph­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the cit­i­zens is some­what like stick fig­ures and these are click­able — select­ing the indi­vid­ual cit­i­zen they represent.

On that indi­vid­ual cit­i­zen, all the stats you find in aggre­gate are there for the indi­vid­ual.  The most sur­pris­ing thing, how­ev­er, is that the state machine for each cit­i­zen is exposed in log for­mat on this inter­face.  You can see the list of actions this per­son has recent­ly per­formed and why.  For the com­ple­tion­ist, this pro­vides insight into how one might con­fig­ure the “per­fect” world and for afi­ciona­dos of this game genre,  this is a real­ly cool fea­ture.  It also means that you can be more assured that the game is not pulling a “fast one” on you.

The game can play out as a series of cam­paigns each with their own dif­fer­ent goals that encour­age you to explore all of the games mechan­ics.  You can also gen­er­ate ran­dom sand­box islands which allow you to inves­ti­gate game mechan­ics for your own edi­fi­ca­tion.  The expan­sion pack “absolute pow­er” adds more cam­paigns and a num­ber of new build­ing types that gen­er­al­ly make the game more fun.

I was­n’t aware that the “absolute pow­er” items were avail­able to the reg­u­lar cam­paign when I start­ed play­ing, but some of the new build­ing types sim­ply make more sense.  The wind­mill, in par­tic­u­lar, is more afford­able and mod­u­lar than the reg­u­lar game’s pow­er sta­tion.  It also does­n’t pol­lute.  And the radio voice (which com­plains about every­thing) says some­thing about the dic­ta­tors erect­ing a wind­mill that only rotates “with the wind.” … which is fun­ny the first few times. In my first playthough I did­n’t even real­ize the pow­er­sta­tion was avail­able until I was try­ing to get an “all build­ings built” achievement.

Right now Steam and oth­er retail­ers are offer­ing a bun­dle of the game and the expan­sion as the “gold edi­tion” … and I rec­om­mend get­ting that if you haven’t bought the game already.

Even­tu­al­ly, the repeat­ing radio announce­ments and small playlist become tedious.  The game does offer the option to shoot the radio host (which is a small amount of com­e­dy relief), but the tedious audio is use­ful enough that you will miss out on game events with­out it chat­ter­ing in the back­ground.  This game also has a lim­it­ed amount of replay val­ue as there’s only so much con­tent to explore.  I’m not sure if it would be worth the full price, but it’s def­i­nite­ly worth the down­load spe­cials.  I found it held my atten­tion for 50-ish hours and I might play it occa­sion­al­ly again.  In par­tic­u­lar, this game might be fun played as a com­mit­tee of friends around a big-screen TV.

If you play this game enough, you’ll start to decide on a myr­i­ad of ways to improve it or ways in which it was defi­cient.  It seems a mir­a­cle that games like this get pub­lished as there always seems to be some­thing to add or some­thing to rejig. A few of these are minor irri­ta­tions, but none of them were in the way of enjoy­ing the game.  I can’t quite give this game a “must buy” but I can cer­tain­ly give it hearty buy “on special” …

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2 Responses to Review: Tropico 3

  1. It mes­mer­ized i from almost the first minute of the series. 

  2. Pingback: Review: Evil Genius - Random Scribblings ...Random Scribblings …

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