Tropico 5 – Gamescom Preview

Title   Tropico 5
Developer  Haemimont Games
Publisher  Kalypso Media
Platform  Windows PC, Linux, Mac, Xbox360
Genre  Political Simuator, Management
Release Date  April 2014
Official Site

If you were to visit the website for Tropico, you’d see a little sidebar on the left. On it are a few bits of information; there’s one about the age rating (‘T’ for ‘teen’, in case you were wondering) and one which tells you more about the game than the rest of them put together. It’s a little box which reads ‘Go buy Tropico 4, or else.’

For someone who has never played a Tropico game, this says plenty about what you really need to know. Sure, that ‘T’ for ‘teen’ also tells you that there are references to alcohol and tobacco, suggestive themes, and violence. But that ‘advert’, for want of a better word, tells you what the game is actually about; it tells you that your main character has the power to enforce an ‘Or else’. It intimates that they are willing to threaten you to get what they want. It suggests that, for better or for worse, El Presidente is not the good guy.

None of those things have changed in Tropico 5; they know about what makes a good Tropico game, and they haven’t taken anything away from that for the latest one. In fact, their design attitude for this game was apparently “Bigger, Better, More!”

This attitude is very clear in the way that new features are being implemented. The focus is on improving the scale, which translates into larger towns, and longer games. In order to ensure that this works out without slowing the game to a crawl, the amount of in-game time that is actually covered has also been expanded, which led to one of the more exciting new features – rather than playing the role of a single Presidente, Tropico 5 instead tasks you with building a dynasty of rulers.

This, in turn, has led to the addition of more features that further encourage lengthened games, the most important of which is the ability to choose traits for your successor to inherit, allowing you to essentially customise your leader to fit your own personal style. What’s more, with each generation of leader you get to select an extra trait, allowing for further customisation. Just because there is a new heir, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the old dog is out of power, and because each has different skills and abilities, you can choose who is best suited to complete specific missions.

Thankfully, this is not the potentially-confusing element that broke the camel’s back, as many of the other gameplay elements have been streamlined and slimmed down to ensure that Tropico 5 is not a monstrous mess of micro-management. There is a range of things that this allows, such as the ability to queue up research actions, or the ability to delegate the running of certain elements within your city to managers that are often far more attentive than you could ever be. Plus, you can even have those managers siphoning some of the profits into your Swiss bank account.

This all leaves you more time to pay attention to the interesting stuff, such as building a constitution for your fledgling nation. Doing so allows you to further customise the experience to your own play style, affording you the opportunity to define the rules of the country you govern, including regulating who can vote, who can become citizens, the objectives of the military forces you control, and even the religion that your country subscribes to.

Better still, none of this is happening in a completely static world. Instead you have to build a ruling family, a constitution, and a thriving town, while the state of play continues to change around you. Over the course of a game, up to four eras can be moved through, each with different factions within the island and ruling powers in the outside world with which to negotiate, and manipulate.

Those you’re on good terms with are likely to give you better prices when you get to trading, so it’s not the best idea to simply ignore them if you want to ensure the prosperity of your nation. There are also other areas to keep your eye on, such as tasks, which also influence your relationship with both the people you control and the outside world.

Tasks are more than just that, however. There are dozens to complete, each with a different reward once they’re done, ranging from simple chunks of money all the way to extending the royal mandate to allow you to continue ruling your island in the early days of your tenure. Allied with hundreds of new events that take place during sandbox matches, tasks essentially serve to make free-play endlessly replayable. I was promised hundreds of hours of gameplay before events begin repeating, so it is possible that you’ll do the same thing twice, but by the time this happens you’ll likely have forgotten them in the first place.

Although they go by a slightly different name, certain tasks also allow for multiplayer modes, both competitive and co-operative. These are known as ‘agendas’, and essentially serve as a constant stream of goals during a match. Often they’ll overlap, meaning that players (all on the same island) can be rushing towards completely different goals, all with totally different styles. The first to complete a particular agenda receives a point, so it is not only speed that is important, but also carefully selecting which to fulfil.

Various match styles are possible, from team matches that allow allied teams to fight it out, bouts that are ‘every man for himself’ style affairs, and even some with no competitive element at all. Victory conditions are equally varied and allow matches to be won by time, money, or even those agenda points.

It seems that even without making vast, sweeping changes to the formula, Tropico 5 looks set to be different, exciting, and visually impressive. The streamlining of gameplay elements would suggest that it will be friendlier than ever, and far more enjoyable, while the new features look set to make this an experience that drags you back in time and again. The concept of heirs and eras could potentially suck dozens of hours of your life away, and the addition of multiplayer may do much the same.

In short, Tropico 5 maintains all the elements that made the series so enjoyable in the first place. They’ve just made it better.

Last five articles by Keegan


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