Fidel Castro led an army of 800 guerrillas to take power
in Cuba. Juan Peron won an election to take power in
Argentina. Anastasio Somoza Sr. was installed as head
of the National Guard by United States marines, taking
control of Nicaragua. How will you seize power on the
Caribbean island Tropico?
This is just one of many questions you will have to
ask yourself when playing this game. Tropico,
not just the name of the game, but also the name of
the island you will take control of, is a fresh addition
to the builder market, taking the idea somewhere entirely
Gathering of Developers
32 MB RAM
820 MB hard drive
The game takes place on the fictitious Caribbean island
of Tropico. Somehow, the previous "El Presidente" has
fallen out of favor, and somehow, you have taken over.
This brings you to the question I mentioned before,
how will you seize power? It may seem like a small detail,
but it can make a world of difference in the long run,
as the effects of your rise to power include the people's
opinions of you as well as some other potential side
effects. For example, if you seize power in a military
coup, the military faction will think highly of you,
and crime will generally be less pervasive. On the other
hand, people will feel much more oppressed (they seem
to think you care). Supposing you won an election fair
and square, having run a "family values" campaign, religious
people will respect you more, people will feel they
have more freedom, and more tourists will come to your
island. The downside is that people will expect a lot
more democracy, and if they don't get it, they will
Such is the manner of El Presidente creation in Tropico,
a give and take relationship to get the benefits you
want and the detriments you can live with. Choosing
between backgrounds such as Harvard grad, Chief of Police,
or leftist author will affect factions' opinions of
you, as well as some other aspects of your rule. Similarly,
your method for power seizure, your traits and your
flaws will all effect the coming years.
Let's talk about those factions I mentioned. There are
six different factions in Tropico: military,
religious, environmentalist, intellectual, communist,
and capitalist. Know now that it is practically impossible
to keep all of them happy. Communists and capitalists
tend to have opposing views on what a good leader should
provide, so if you please one you will likely anger
the other. For example, if you have a large income disparity,
the capitalists will be generally happy with the situation,
as the higher educated workers such as doctors are making
the wages they deserve. However, the communists will
start complaining about failure to keep the people on
an equal footing.
In general, there is not exactly a "safe" faction to
anger. The intellectuals tend to be the smallest faction,
but you don't want to make them mad, as they tend to
be the educated workers in the most sensitive positions
of society. Clearly you don't want to anger your own
military, as many a dictator has discovered. While the
environmentalist or religious factions may not have
a lot of power, they tend to make up for this in numbers,
and you definitely do not want to alienate large numbers
of your citizens. Finally the capitalist and communist
factions tend to be very close to the US and USSR respectively,
and these two countries make better friends than foes
for aspiring dictators.
Of course, how much the people's happiness matters to
you will really depend on what your goal is in Tropico.
While it is possible to play an open ended game, Tropico
has much more to offer. You can choose between a variety
of goals for a given game, ranging from happiness to
economy to the size of your own personal Swiss bank
account. If you want to make yourself fabulously wealthy,
who really cares if the average citizen of Tropico is
Similarly, you may wish to choose your attributes with
your goal in mind. If you choose to play towards an
economic powerhouse, it would be better to choose traits
that enhance the economy, and flaws that do not hamper
Every random map game starts you off with a set number
of citizens, a palace, a construction office, teamster
office, dock, and some farms. The first thing you should
do is switch one or two of the farms from corn to a
cash crop. By checking the very useful info mode, you
can see which areas of the island are best for each
type of crop. Tobacco, coffee, and sugar are among the
most profitable crops (particularly when factories are
built later on), so these are the ones to shoot for.
Either way, no profits will be turned for a few years,
as it takes awhile for crops to be grown and hauled
to the dock and such. There are plenty of choices for
what to spend the first bit of cash on, and the decision
is important. As I always tend to have money problems
in this type of game, I tend to immediately construct
buildings that will get me some more money, such as
logging camps and mines.
about two years, various factions will start complaining
that you aren't building what they want. Intellectuals
will want a high school then a college, religious folks
want a church and a cathedral, and just about everyone
wants a clinic then a hospital. Depending on your goal,
you may wish to please certain groups first, and build
things in your own particular way. I have found that
building the high school as soon as humanly possible
is a good idea. This is because most of the moneymaking
buildings (i.e. factories) require high school educated
employees. Since most of the other buildings that people
want are expensive, a good way to fund them is with
Of course, these factories are only as useful as their
influx of raw materials. No point in having a cigar
factory if you aren't growing tobacco. Tropico
allows you to export all sorts of things, but you do
not get any imports.
In essence, the building part of Tropico is quite
similar to the building part of most other games of
this genre. The people whine about wanting something,
then you build it. The only significant difference is
that not all people whine about the same things. While
capitalists will want the factories for an increased
economy, their smoke clouds will really piss off the
environmentalists if you are not careful.
Of course, there are other ways to garner the favor
of the distant faction. Issuing government edicts is
a good (and usually quick) way to influence your island.
Usually any given edict will have a positive effect
and a detrimental effect. For example, issuing the edict
of Mardi Gras will definitely make some people happy,
but it often results in a slight increase in crime.
Some edicts, like your attributes, please some people
but anger others, such as the Contraceptive Ban and
Anti-Litter Ordinance. Other edicts, such as the Papal
Visit have no real detriments aside from the cost.
There are a large variety of edicts, but while the actual
edicts tend to differ, issuing them tends to always
give the same vibe. I mean, when you have a Mardi Gras,
something should happen, but doesn't. No little cut
scene, no party happens on the main screen, nothing.
Try as you might, you will never see the Pope walking
around on your island after issuing the Papal Visit
edict. The gameplay effects still occur, but certain
edicts, particularly the one-time-only ones, should
have had some sort of visual output.
Overall, I think the political aspect of Tropico
is by far the coolest, be it the taking of power, the
elections, the relationships to your factions or foreign
cold war powers, the government part of the game outshines
the actual building aspects for me. However, I wish
it were developed a bit further. Some general way to
set general government policies would be nice. For example,
a screen with sliders for government attitudes towards
different factions and types of people would have been
excellent. Perhaps the rebel slider could have gone
from "forgiving" to "kill 'em all" or something.
The last thing I want to mention regarding the actual
gameplay is the fact that unlike other games of this
style, each and every one of your citizens has a name,
an age, a personality, and a family, all easily viewable
by you while playing. For instance, the leader of the
capitalist faction at the start of this game is named
Analisa Verde, and she is married to Frederico Verde.
Analisa Verde actually has a high school education,
and when you build a high school she begins teaching
at it. Frederico is one of the palace guards. After
many years, you will see Verde children entering the
workforce. Since the Verde parents are fairly happy
with your leadership, their kids will probably be fairly
happy as well. They will marry, and have children of
their own. Years down the road, you may notice that
a descendent of Analisa has taken over leadership of
the capitalists, or perhaps one of their children has
become the leader of the military faction, following
Frederico's military career path. Many times you will
notice children following in the footsteps of their
This family track is not only true for career, but often
for faction membership, and even overall happiness with
you as El Presidente. A family that hates you early
on may end up spawning your successor or a rebel or
two. Families remember how their members are treated.
Arrest a Verde, and the rest will lose respect for you.
Have a Ramirez eliminated, and don't expect support
from their family. Bribe a Del Rey, and not only will
the recipient like you, but his extended family will
lean more your way as well.
I really, really like the way Tropico brings
the citizens to the forefront of the game. Rather than
simply being numbers and totals, your citizens are citizens.
The leaders of friendly factions will become familiar
to you, as will the unfriendly leaders, though in a
completely different way. I find this system a much
more rewarding one to work with, as rather than simply
seeing the percentage of employed workers or happy citizens
rise, you actually see particular citizens get jobs
or become happier. This tends to make the gameplay experience
a bit more rewarding, particularly when playing for
the goal of happiness.
overall presentation of Tropico is pretty darn good.
Graphically the game is good, but not exceptional. People
are fairly well done, their jobs easily identifiable
by their attire (people are always dressed for their
work), various weather formations blow across the island
from time to time. Lightning strikes are fairly vivid
(and possibly will kill people, but I haven't found
a corpse struck by lightning yet). All these graphics
are accompanied by sound. The music is pretty cool,
but I think we could have used more reggae. The only
voice you will ever hear to any significant degree is
your advisor, who's voice acting is a bit hit and miss,
and his accent is a bit stereotypical. Aside from him,
your citizens will respond to a click, but don't have
a large repertoire.
While Tropico is, at time of writing, up to version
1.02, I have not experienced any technical problems
worthy of note. I have heard varied reports of crashes
to desktop, even after the patch, but have not experienced
these problems personally.
Overall, in my mind, Tropico is definitely one of the
more interesting governing and building game out there.
It is unique in a lot of ways, and the gameplay is excellent.
This game is a great one for aspiring dictators everywhere.
What idea is more original than being a Caribbean
Very fun and addictive; could have used more
development of the political side.
Good graphics, but not so good as to drive the
system requirements up.
Pretty good, if a bit stereotypical.
No problems here, but patch and complaints signify
others haven't been so lucky.
great chance to take control of your own personal