I’m in love with the idea of being a mad but friendly dictator, so firing up Tropico 6 gave me some very good vibes. It doesn’t take long before I’m roleplaying my character, as I discover I can make my avatar look like Heisenberg from Breaking Bad, and set off to create the most corrupt drug empire banana republic I possibly can.
A fairly robust tutorial leads into a string of fifteen story missions, each with their own mini story to explain why you’re mining for gold or exporting wool. Early missions are fairly simple and almost act as an extension to the tutorial, taking you on a journey as you enter into new areas you have not yet explored, but later levels place restrictions on you, forcing you to find ways around your predicament. For instance, one mission sees you on an island not so rich with resources, forcing you to import the basics and build an economy based on fish, of all things. Sure, the oil option was there, but being the ultimate fishmonger was way too tempting.
The game really shines in its sandbox mode though, where everything including your win conditions can be customised. If you fancy setting up a game where you win by attracting a large number of tourists while having an extremely large bank account, then fill your boots.
The management systems in Tropico 6 are deep. From the very start, you need something to generate resources to either sell or use to make other types of export. In my main game, I started off with a banana plantation which had a total of five workers, each with their own characteristics, lives and bank balances – this is an area that new series developer Limbic Entertainment have really focussed on. By clicking on each citizen, I was able to tell their thoughts and feelings on their current situation and in turn, try to accommodate them. As our colony had just started, everyone was classed as a poor citizen, but the few jobs going meant that people couldn’t afford the cheap housing I’d created. The banana plantation was ok and The Crown was happy with my progress, but we needed to do more to establish ourselves properly. I needed the support of the people and the only way to do that was to make them happy.
On my small island, there were a lot of trees and that means business was only a lumber mill away. Before you know it, planks are being exported and the empire is generating more cash. Ranches are created, providing farmhand jobs and procuring livestock so they can be used for meat and leather. Before long my trade empire is bustling and the money flowing in.
As you’d expect, your citizens don’t just need homes and jobs, they also need education, entertainment and also a military presence to keep them safe. It’s a bit of a juggling act as you try to please as many people as you can. Failure to please people and the various factions can result in rebels rising up against you and your regime, but then that’s another good reason to have a strong military.
If you’ve curried enough favour and good will, your people will continue to vote for you during elections. You can see a percentage rating of your approval in the top left corner, but for a more detailed breakdown, the almanac gives you a closer look at each individual person and how they feel about you. When you click on each citizen, there are options to try and swing them to your way of thinking, either by bribing them, killing them, or even putting them away in the asylum. If during you haven’t done enough to capture the hearts of your nation before an election, then you are voted out and it’s game over.
As you progress through the four eras, you gain access to new buildings and tech, proving better jobs, happiness and quality of life overall. The Colonial era is the only one with a time limit, in the form of needing to declare independence before your time as govenor runs out, while the others let you progress as you please. Declaring independence, you can either choose to pay back The Crown or go to war with them, in which case they will send military over to attack you and you’ll have to defend your right to independence.
Tropico 6 isn’t too challenging and it seems set on letting you create your own idyllic paradise. The toughest thing is to get your economy flowing early on. It’s tempting to go all out, making tons of mines and mills, but push too hard and you’ll find your finances in the bin. I do feel Tropico 6 would benefit from a help file system akin to Civ games, as I was left wondering how I can improve my bank account on a few occasions.
Another way of gaining resources is through piracy. Sounds mad but yes, you can build your own pirate cove and send pirates out of voyages to either loot resources or steal great wonders of the world to place on your island paradise. This is done via the raiding screen, which evolves as you go through the different eras. During the World War era, for instance, when choosing which superpower to side with, you can send Commandos to sabotage either the Allies or the Axis (not Nazi’s), generating favor in the process.
There is plenty to do and everything can be micromanaged, right down to deciding the route of local bus services. You can create your own proper little ecosystem, sit back and relax while the money rolls in. Everything is fairly easy to navigate too. The menus and UI are big, colourful and intuitive so you will never have any issues getting around, and this will certainly help when the game comes to consoles a little later this year. Considering the number of options on the table, you think you’d get lost, but Tropico 6 manages the balancing act quite nicely.
For a game like this, Tropico 6 is as serene as you’d imagine. The sunlight glistens softly off the sea as the sweet sounds of Caribbean instrumental music plays in the background. It takes the edge off the serious nature of the sim as you can get into the role of being a dictator, lounging around in the sun, cutting deals and building an empire.