“…profound and brilliant”
Tropico is by no means a new franchise on the gaming scene, but Tropico 6 feels like a decidedly fresh take on the series. The game’s theme and control systems will feel familiar to fans of Kalypso’s popular strategy/city building titles, but its deeper, more involved gameplay features create an entirely renewed, and arguably improved, experience.
Should you be unfamiliar with the Tropico games, the series follows the escapades of El Presidente; glorious leader (albeit dictator) of the communist-influenced island of Tropico. Through the careful employment of political policies, friendly manipulation of foreign nations and well-managed social engineering of your population, you are tasked with building, talking and in some cases fighting your way to prosperity. Whether you employ peace or combat as your means to an end, the grand story of El Presidente’s rise to greatness awaits; as does the plethora of stereotypical humour for which the franchise has become famous!
In the past, all this construction, management and action has taken place on small, localised islands; but no more. In Tropico 6, large archipelagos are at your disposal when carrying out your plots and plans. Add to that the ability to “obtain” world wonders for your nation, and Tropico 6 is genuinely grander than ever before. These wonders offer unique benefits to your nation’s prosperity, whether these be in terms of controlling the population, appeasing foreign nations or simply bulking up your coffers. It is good to see that this new feature, which could have simply been left as a gimmick, has a real and significant impact on gameplay.
New building options also help to give you full control over your great new “empire”. From new transportation options to facilitate the movement of your people around this new, expansive land, to sneaky pirate coves which allow you to trade with less legitimate partners and send your people out on daring and dangerous missions, there are many and varied new options to explore. For returning players, the wealth of new buildings will make your experience of the game feel distinctly different to the previous title and offer new and refined ways to build your nation. Naturally, new players will get to enjoy the variety and quantity of options available all the same.
It is the newly introduced systems in Tropico 6, however, which really set it aside. More edicts to manage your population and a more distinguished research system will be immediately obvious changes for returning players. Each of these elements has be re-focussed to benefit the political side of the game directly, with a view to making the systems interconnected and specific in terms of the options available. In addition, the new Broker character in the game offers you an outlet of sorts for your Swiss account, allowing you to purchase benefits to your rule with some of your… personal, allowance. Should you need to bypass the time commitments of completing research or enticing the support of your people, the Broker probably has some task up his sleeve to help you on your way… On the subject of gaining your people’s love and support, election speeches also make a return in Tropico 6, with the whole election system having been worked on carefully to make it more realistic and significantly clearer for the player. Trade, whilst still critical in the gameplay, largely remains the same.
Whether you are new to Tropico or a returning veteran, it will quickly become abundantly clear that everything in Tropico 6 is very shiny and beautiful. A move to Unreal engine has given Tropico 6 a hearty boost in terms of its visuals, and although many models look familiar, the level of detail with which they have now been drawn is refreshing and impressive. Indeed, when you zoom into the map and examine its intricacies, there is a stark improvement upon the previous game’s level of detail to be found.
Tropico 6 would be incomplete, of course, without a little sugar on top. Customisation has been creeping into the game slowly over time, but now you can make your rule over Tropico unique and your own. Both El Presidente and her/his palace can be customised in a wide variety of colours and characterisations, allowing you to assume full ownership over your own experience of the game. Whilst not in any way critical to the experience to come, this is a nice touch by the development team, and worthy of mention.
Every aspect of Tropico 6 feels like a distinct improvement upon Tropico 5; which itself was an outstanding instalment in the franchise. The game’s features are bigger, bolder and more in-depth than ever before in almost every way. The complexity of the game has ramped up a little, but the overall quality of the experience, and indeed the game’s assets, is both profound and brilliant. Throw in a little bit of dressing with the added customisation options and, truly, Tropico 6 is the best instalment in the franchise to date. Even outside of its own history, it is perhaps one of the most enjoyable and enticing city builders on the market today.