El presidente is back! Or La Presidenta, in my case!
I know I complained about Tropico 5 and called it a waste of my money. I later did play through it and grew to like it enough to change my mind about the wasting money part. However, I still went back to playing Tropico 4 over Tropico 5 and I really could not stand the whole dynasty part of Tropico 5. I also clearly remember saying that I wouldn’t buy a new Tropico game on release and instead, wait until I’d seen some gameplay or wait for it to go on sale even. And yet… when Tropico 6 got announced and I had heard some more details about it (e.g., being able to build on several islands), I knew I had to get that game! So, instead of waiting to gameplay videos post-release, I actually pre-purchased the game.
The previous games were developed by Haemimont Games (a company I still like a lot, because despite me not liking Tropico 5, they have made and continue making good games!). Development for Tropico 6 was handed over to Limbic Entertainment instead. The publisher is still Kalypso games. Once they started the beta for Tropico 6, I was a bit worried that I’d find I wasted my money again. However, from the first moment on, I was pleasantly surprised and the issues I did find were all solved before release. On the contrary, I feel that the developers used what made the Tropico series great, added the few pieces from Tropico 5 that were good, got rid of the bad things from Tropico 5 (La Presidenta forever, no more dynasty and weird-looking offspring!) and expanded the gameplay with some new features. It feels like a step forward and not the step backwards that Tropico 5 took. In comparison, Tropico 5 felt easier and more shallow than Tropico 4. Tropico 6 is not like that.
My first advice, if you’re playing the game, is not to turn off the music! The soundtrack is amazing and puts you into the right mood to lead your little tropical empire. You do not start the game being presidente, but instead, you’re a governor in a colonial holding which belongs to The Crown. You need to work hard to keep The Crown extending your mandate while collecting enough revolutionaries to support you claiming independence. So far, I have played through the Colonial Era and the World Wars which come once you’ve successfully become independent. Once you get to the next era, more buildings are unlocked and you get more options for research as well as more options for your constitution. You also advance technologically. Instead of only having a fishermen’s wharf, you can construct a fish farm. In the beginning, the industry buildings you can choose from are the lumber mill, the rum distillery and the tannery. Later on, more factories are added, e. g., a cigar factory, but also a pharmaceutical company when you reach the Modern Times era.
One big difference with Tropico 6 is that it does not have a campaign anymore. It does have single missions maps, though. The previous games had missions as well, most of them delivered via paid DLCs if I remember correctly. Tropico 6 comes with 15 mission maps. The first is unlocked immediately. Four more are unlocked once you’ve completed the first mission and so on until the very last mission map which unlocks after finishing nine maps. So there is definitely something to work towards just like you would in a campaign, but the stories do not depend on another and you get to choose which maps you want to play in order to advance. You can continue playing on each map, by the way. There is no reason to quit once you’ve accomplished the main goal unless you don’t want to continue playing on it anymore. I think I actually prefer that over the campaign.
Other than the premade mission maps, you can also choose a sandbox map or generate your own. The game also gives you several options to choose from and to adjust the difficulty of the map (e. g., the amount of starting money, victory conditions, frequency of disasters, starting era).
I’ve seen one good review on Steam which mentioned that this Tropico game comes with a lot more in its initial release than the previous games and I agree. There are a lot of buildings to choose from. The previous games gave you some of these buildings with their DLCs. I am curious whether we will be getting even more buildings with DLCs or if they will not do that. And I fully expect DLCs with more mission maps, of course!
As this is a First Impressions piece, I have not “completed” the game yet, so I can only share my first impressions (after 51 hours of playtime when counting the beta as well). As I already wrote, the soundtrack is amazing. I really like the graphics. Don’t get me wrong: This game doesn’t have fancy or high-resolution graphics! But it is consistent with the theme and it has some lovely details. I admit that one of my favourite new features is being able to customize the look of my palace. It has nothing to do with the gameplay, but it makes everything feel more like “mine”. Other than that, I like the ability to have several islands and the added infrastructure that comes with it.
The interface is easy to use most of the times. I do get confused with the building interface sometimes, as I keep mixing up the public services and the raids & military tab. It’s not a bad thing, it just means it takes me a while to find the building I want to construct.
My usual strategy used to be to have every single kind of plantation on my island and then wait for the profits to come in. This doesn’t seem to be too efficient in Tropico 6. I never dig into the numbers etc. behind the games, so I don’t know what is most efficient. I only go with “it works” vs. “it doesn’t work”. In this case, it didn’t work out. So now I’m putting a few plantations on the island with resources that give me something above 90 % efficiency. Then I add several ranches to get meat, hides, wool and milk. I also add a fishermen’s wharf to make sure my population gets fed. Then I try to add one or two industries. In previous Tropico games, I often did not get a logging camp because the Environmentalists hated it, but here, I don’t have them in the first two eras, so I put logging camps (they plant new trees, so it’s not like the island will be barren in a few centuries) and add a lumber mill. Exports are very important for your income! Tourism is impossible in the first eras as it only unlocks in the Cold War era. I also had trouble with healthcare at first, because the Colonial Era doesn’t allow you to build a clinic. It took a while (and a restart of a map) to realize that when you build a chapel, you can change the work mode from “Traditional Sermon” to “Help First – Preach Later”. Citizens entering the chapel with a low healthcare happiness will receive healthcare service. It won’t make them too happy or too healthy, but it does the job until you can get real doctors.
Another new feature in the game is the ability to raid and loot with a pirate cove. You can send them out to loot resources for you or to “rescue” people and bring them to Tropico. And you can send them on a heist to bring you back monuments from other regions, e. g., the Brandenburg Gate or Stonehenge. I have not tried the heist yet, but I did use the Rescue feature when I needed more citizens as too many jobs were vacant. And I usually send them out for loot because extra resources are always good.
One criticism that I’ve seen is that it’s not really possible to play as a bad dictator. I can’t say much about it, though, as I like being the communist dictator that puts Tropico first and the Superpowers second and who likes the challenge of always allowing free open votes. Be careful here, though: If you don’t have enough voters and lose the position of presidente, it is game over!
My verdict so far: I don’t think I’ll go back to playing Tropico 4 now that I have Tropico 6. It’s not that Tropico 4 is worse, it’s just that I greatly enjoy playing Tropico 6 with its expanded map features. I may turn on the previous Tropico soundtracks while playing Tropico 6, though, because I really love these songs as well. The price tag may scare you off: Tropico 6 costs 49.99 €. The previous games of the series are cheaper: Tropico 3 for 9.99 €, Tropico 4 for 14.99 € and Tropico 5 for 19.99 € – prices for the base games on Steam. If you want to set foot in the Tropico series, I’d still recommend getting Tropico 4, because you can find it for much cheaper and it still is a really good game! Steam also offers a demo for Tropico 4. I’d advice you to skip Tropico 5, though, because it is the weakest in the series.
If you want to buy Tropico 6, I think you do get a very solid game with lots of features. I will easily get to 100+ hours of gameplay. As I said, there’s a lot of buildings and features in the game already that previously needed DLCs. So for me, it’s well worth the money I spent on it. But I would still advice you watch some streamers play the game before getting it if you’re not sure this game is for you and try the Tropico 4 demo to see if you like this kind of game, because even though there are differences, essentially, you are always El Presidente.