Tropico 4 Review
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On 11/19/2011 at 08:34 PM by Nick DiMola
El Presidente would fire the UI designers - if he could find the menu to do it.
For those who enjoy games like Sim City and Civilization – though it's probably best consumed on the PC.
I have some amazing memories of construction/simulation heavy games, like Sim City 2000 and Dawn of Discovery. When done right, games in this genre are absolutely captivating. Tropico 4 comes extremely close to hitting the nail on the head, but stumbles in its implementation.
It's becoming something of a trend, but increasingly complex console games are incredibly complicated to control. Tons of menus activated by a combination of button presses and stick movements aren't what most would deem user friendly. Tropico 4's menus aren't quite as bad as some of the recently released titles, but they are daunting enough that even after repeated play sessions it isn't likely that they'll feel second nature.
Thankfully the game's pacing isn't quite rapid enough that this becomes a major problem in terms of completing tasks, but it does reduce immersion in the experience, which is unfortunate because the game is structured in such a way that time will easily melt away.
I can't speak for past titles in the series, but Tropico 4 segments your responsibilities into bite-sized tasks making them all feel simple and achievable. As a game overall, you are tasked with both controlling and building up your own Caribbean island as a ruthless dictator. Split into 20 missions with 10 unique maps, there's plenty of variety in your quest to absolute supremacy.
Throughout the missions you'll both accomplish tasks as suggested by your advisors and build the island. In an effort to do something like increase fishing exports, you'll wind up building a wharf. However, a wharf isn't enough - you'll need a road infrastructure to even get your construction crew to the location. Once it's built, you'll need workers – this means housing and garages. People mean you need food, resulting in a need to build farms.
Before long all facets of society will start being worked into the picture. You'll also have to expand your work forces to accommodate increasing needs and eventually police, entertainment, and tourist locations. As you accomplish tasks, you'll be rewarded with an immediate sum of money, but you'll also reap the benefits of a more productive island that's growing.
Completing all of the tasks in a given mission results in success, but the game allows you to keep playing and building your growing island until you decide to stop. There's no associated reward aside from the inherent joy of seeing something grow at your command – which is undoubtedly a rewarding experience regardless.
For those looking to make progress, the next mission will open allowing you to move on to bigger and better missions. Micromanaging the various tasks during a mission can be a daunting task, because they accompany your overall requirement of keeping peace, order, and profitability of your island.
As stated earlier, you'll have to manage quite a bit, all through a number of often unintuitive menus. Employee wages, outsourcing, building, and even on foot travel of El Presidente (your character), must be done to match the demands of the missions. Because the menus are so convoluted, you'll often fumble when trying to take on the challenges at hand. For a number of hours, it's quite easy to forget how you pull up that one menu or what you must do to accomplish a given task.
Pair this with the simple fact that you don't have menus to show you potentially important information, like the locations of a given type of building or the area of effect each of them has. It's even possible that these functions exist, but it wasn't made clear how to access them, even after an hour plus long tutorial.
The buildings are also incredibly hard to differentiate from one another, which makes it tough to pinpoint exactly what you're looking for. This just adds to the overall frustration of the experience, which could've been otherwise fantastic if the tool set were better.
And that basically sums up Tropico 4 - it could be near flawless if it were just better equipped. The mission structure lends to an incredibly organic play session wherein you constantly make progress and build up the world around you. It's addicting and inviting, when it's not tripping over its own clumsiness.