Tropico 3 Review (PC)

Iíve never really been much of a dancer. Being the socially inept and naturally awkward person my hobby dictates I am, randomly gyrating on a dance floor full of strangers has never really been one of my favourite pastimes. That said however, within minutes of starting up the latest title to find its way onto my desk, I found myself not only jigging away in my chair, but I was so overwhelmed by the soundtrack I just had to get up and do the hokey-cokey. Caribbean style. Half an hour of random gyration later, I was finally calm enough to get down to business: the critical evaluation of Tropico 3.

The true sequel to the classic Tropico that was released in 2001, Tropico 3 takes the franchise away from the clichťd pirate shores of the second game, and back into the hands of the Cold War. Underneath its satirical and light hearted exterior, Tropico 3 exudes all of the facets of any decent city management game. Unlike the also recently released Cities XL, Tropico focuses more on personal success than the success of your city (although one can translate into the other if you allow it); it also has way more personality, and is on a smaller scale than that other vast metropolis of a game.

Provided you donít pollute the place, you can turn your island into a tourist resort.
Like all games of this type, placement is important. Watch as your city grows.

Those of you who remembered the original title with fondness will love this modern update, and despite not being the original developers, Bulgarian based Haemimont Games (known for the Imperium Romanum titles, among other things) have done a decent job in this latest rendition. If we were to be extremely picky, it would have been nice to see more evolutions or additions on top of the ones they did initially, but thatís a minor point.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, a brief rundown is in order: put into the shoes of ďEl PresidenteĒ (a nameless Caribbean dictator/avatar which you can customize his looks and attributes), the player must take command of his newly acquired banana republic and develop it into a major local player. City building is the name of the game, and you must develop your fledging town by expanding your industry, exploiting natural resources and agriculture, and catering to foreign demand. At the same time, you must keep your population happy and ensure there are enough jobs for the people (as well as enough people for the jobs). Other concerns such as health, food, liberty, housing and education also come into effect, and a competent ruler must make sure all needs are met.

This all takes place upon the back drop of the cold war, and naturally the two great powers of the US and USSR will have a vested interest in your little island, especially as it grows. The political aspect of Tropico adds an interesting dynamic to the game, even if it is slightly underplayed. A ruler must try their best to keep both sides happy lest face invasion, although you can shack up with one of the major powers for added protection, even if it means you lose face with the populace. During play, there were several occasions where the island was surrounded by hostile warships, and it took some serious diplomatic butt-kissing to make them go away.

At the beginning of each game, you get to generate and customize your avatar.
Military strength plays an important role, although it could be better.

One of the great things about tropic 3 is that each map has the potential to be really dynamic. You can rule in a number of different ways, whether it be a true democrat, military despot dictator, or social revolutionist. Some paths are harder than others, and eventually youíll settle into a pattern, but the depth is there for those who want to find it. Random events pop up that force you to make drastic decisions for your island, and can have a profound effect on the gameís overshadowing political plain. If youíre an incompetent ruler, you could face a rebellion, uprising, coups, or even intervention by a foreign power.

Tropico 3 certainly has a lot of charm to it. The aforementioned soundtrack is very catchy, and fits the tones of the game perfectly. You may hear some grumbles over the fact that the tracks are limited and repetitive, but thatís more down to your taste in music than anything else. Worst comes to worst, you can always mute the backing tracks, although youíre missing out on the best part of the game (He says whilst bouncing in his chair). The game maintains the tongue and cheek vision of the cold war from the original game, with everything having a satirical twist to it thatís best highlighted by the comments of Tropicoís resident DJ, Juanito.

For some however, even the games tropical charm may not be enough to carry it through. Despite all its intricacies, itís not perfect. The global market isnít really that dynamic, and is often just a guide to what will earn you the most money (and as such is rather linear). The political landscape isnít engaging enough, and money constraints early on may take you a while to even bother looking at that aspect of the game. Even the military aspect could do with some work, as you canít actually control any of your troops during a rebellion or an invasion (and the AI isnít exactly a tactical genius). Eventually, youíll have seen all you can see, built all you can build, and it will lose its appeal.

Your avatar is always physically on the map, and can tour the island and help out.
And what game would be complete without some handy overlays to tell you what's up?

The lack of a competitive online mode also reduces the replay value, although you can compete indirectly by getting high scores, and you can even visit other playerís islands. The game is divided into 15 campaign missions that look at the various aspects of the game, and also involves a sandbox and challenges mode, so with any luck youíll get your moneyís worth at least. There are also built in achievements; however these lack meaning outside of the Games for Windows or Xbox Live platform.

Tropico 3 is available on PC and 360. Whilst there are no major differences between versions, city management games like this are another genre that may not gel too well on consoles when it comes to handling. If youíre considering getting the 360 version, stay tuned for our 360 review before you decide. For PC users, this is a must try if you like the genre, and even if you donít, this has enough personality to provide a good entry into the genre. Remember, Strategy Informer is always right, even when weíre wrong.

Top Game Moment: Successfully fending off an invasion or surviving an uprising is pretty satisfying, even if you had no direct hand in matters.


By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on May 15, 2010
Just picked it up on STEAM for USD$7.50. Can't pass up giving it a go for theat price, so Viva El Presidente!