Is Tropico 6 the same thing all over again, or does the sixth installment in the series actually bring something new to the table?
I’m a big fan of the Tropico series. I never played the first two games, but have close to 150 hours of gameplay combined in the third, fourth, and fifth installment of the series. Both Tropico 3 and Tropico 4 were strong games, but the disappointing Tropico 5 fell flat on its belly. There were many reasons for its failure to live up to the Tropico standard. In my review, I pointed to the dreaded count-down timer, and that Tropico 5 didn’t feel casual anymore as two of the main reasons. Also, when you’re trying to create something from the same basic recipe for the fifth time, making it in a way that feels fresh and interesting is hard.
I purchased the most recent Tropico iteration, Tropico 6, just a few days after its release. That is something which is very, very unusual for me. The most recent purchases you’ll find in my Steam library are several years old games that finally dipped below the $10 mark during a sale. The reason I went ahead and purchased Tropico 6 so early was quill18‘s release stream on YouTube. The stream was sponsored, so in this case, the publisher got value for their clever use of the marketing budget.
So how does Tropico 6, the sixth game in one of the longest running city builder slash banana republic simulator series fare?
Same old, Same old - But More
Tropico 3, 4 and 5, were all developed by Haemimont Games, the company that also developed Surviving Mars. But for Tropico 6, publisher Kalypso Media turned to Might & Magic developer Limbic Entertainment.
Getting some fresh eyes on the Tropico series could potentially push the game in new directions, but Tropico 6 does not stray far from its familiar path. The basic premise is the same as always; you’re a banana republic dictator, and your goal is to build a thriving society. To accomplish this, you have to balance the budget, keep the your people and the various domestic political fractions happy, and make sure you don’t step on any international superpower’s toes.
If you fail, the people might turn against you, and rebels will throw you out of your beloved palace. Or a superpower might decide that enough is enough, and invade your lovely island. Thankfully, there are many ways to avoid this, and Tropico 6 is a very forgiving game. The budget, for instance, doesn’t seem to matter much. I’ve been tens of thousands of Banana Dollars in debt, but live still went on. When you have no money, you can’t build anything, and that’s a problem of course. But with a little patience, you’ll eventually crawl yourself out of the economical hole. If you have powerful international friends, it’s likely they’ll throw a bit of money your way to help as well.
It also looks like the chance of people turning into rebels is considerably lower than in previous games. I assume you’ll get more rebels on the highest difficulty, but on normal difficulty, I never had single islander turning rebellious, and I gave them a lot of good reasons to - like denying them elections for 20 year straight.
In this fashion, Tropico 6 feels a lot more casual than the previous iteration. This is a change that suits me well personally, but I suspect some of the more hardcore gamers might find Tropico 6 a little too easy.
Intermission: Graphics & Bugs
Many people have been talking about how beautiful Tropico 6 looks. In fact, the game’s Steam page was filled with review quotes focusing mainly on the Tropico 6’s esthetics for a while. Personally, I can’t tell you how great it looks, because the game only recommends me playing on the very low graphics settings. I’ve got a GTX 965M, and while it’s not exactly state-of-the-art, I’m a bit surprised that I’m stuck at “very low”. Makes me wonder what kind of photo realistic graphics this game has on the highest quality graphics settings.
But even at very low settings, the game looks quite good, so no need to worry. Besides, the graphics are but a tiny part of most games. It doesn’t matter if it looks great if the game mechanics suck monkey balls.
During my time with the game, I discovered some bugs. None were game breaking, but still had an undesired effect on the gameplay. El Presidente, the guy you effectively play as, is a useful character. Not as useful as in Tropico 3 and 4, but far more handy than in Tropico 5. You can give him a few basic tasks, but for some reason he moves about the map like his got a giant stick showed up his ass, and it took years for the poor fella to move from point A to point B. Also, some missions wouldn’t show up correctly, but they would time out, meaning that someone, either a political faction, or a superpower, got mad. It also very much looked like the builder wouldn’t give a damn about the building priority. Instead, they would randomly go to a construction site and promptly go to lunch.
Tropico 6 is far from a bad game, but it doesn’t feel like the most compelling game in the series. Tropico 4 still stands too strong to be dethroned. But Tropico 6 certainly steamrolls the previous installment, getting rid of - or at least minimizing - the most annoying and unnecessary game mechanics that Tropico 5 introduced.
That said, it would not be a great loss for humanity of Tropico 6 was the last game in the Tropico series. Despite its innovations (if you could go as far as to call them that, it feels more like someone’s tweaked the recipe by replacing some of the water with milk), the whole series feels stale repetitive at this point.
There are limits on how many times you can beat a dead horse. Please bury it instead, El Presidente.
This review is based 13 hours of single player gameplay with no DLC installed or Steam Workshop content.