Tropico 4 hands-on preview

Games offer a lot of fantasy fulfilment options, and while blasting aliens as a bald space marine is enough for some people, there comes a time in every gamer’s life where he/she’s gotta try something different. Put down your imaginary assault rifle for a minute and imagine you’re El Presidente, a Latin American despot in charge of a small island society. Will you rule with a totalitarian fist, crushing dissidents, and stashing bribes in your Swiss bank account? Or will you barter with foreign powers, give your people free education and attempt to create some sort of Utopia? If you’re like us, you might have a 17 year old school teacher assassinated because you misclicked and feel really terrible about it later.

Tropico can be a little daunting to get into, given the number of menus you have to manage and the scale of the operations you’re responsible for. As the figurehead leader of the government, everybody comes to you for matters of economy, education, defense, culture and more. Fortunately, your advisers and the various faction representatives take it pretty easy on you in the beginning, giving you subtle hints like “BUILD A SCHOOL YOU MORON.” and “STOP ASSASSINATING RANDOM PEOPLE.” If things get too hectic, you can slow down time and get your bearings, but unless you’re willing to shell out some big cash, buildings still take time to get built and supplies still need to get shipped in.

Even if you approach the game with the most kind-hearted of intentions, someone is always out to get you; keeping everyone happy all of the time is pretty much impossible. While we were eager to take free money from the capitalist pigdogs in exchange for bumping up our rum production, the nationalists and the Communists were not happy with what they perceived as unnecessary foreign influence. They were probably also a little irked that we were skimming 100% of the money intoour personal coffers. But come on, just because we accept bribes all the time and have dissidents jailed and disappeared doesn’t make us bad guys right?

Tropico 4 has added even more details to your rule since 3, allowing you to hand pick employees for each of your buildings. Hiring locally is always the best choice, but in the opening months of our fledgling empire we were forced to import experts for some of the more mission critical positions. We did have to skimp on some of the jobs though, which explains that poor assassinated17 year old teaching at the local high school. There’s also a group of ministers you can defer to to see what various factions want, what the public’s opinion of you is, and whether the amount of people that want you dead is “everyone” or “literally everyone”.

Above: The distraction he had been waiting for had finally arrived, now was his chance to have a smoke.

Of course, just as our budding empire was getting on its feet, an enormous tornado decided to rip through it, knocking down a number of buildings, and more importantly, interrupting my personal cash flow. It turns out that you should probably wait a little bit before you start skimming 100% of the island’s profits, as people seem to get pretty mad when their homes are destroyed, they don’t have jobs, and there’s no government money or resources to help them in any way. Fortunately the demo wrapped up before the filthy masses coulddrop some street justice onour particularly awful El Presidente, but he’ll always live on in our hearts, a short-sighted, monstrous asshole with a huge beard.

Tropico 4 launches August 30 in North America and will be available on PC and Xbox 360.

Aug 18, 2011

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