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Tropico 3 (PC)

Tropico 3 (PC)

City building games are a popular genre with the public and the Tropico series has always comprised a fine combination of traditional building with interesting and diverse directions. Tropico 3 has just been released and adds an intriguing layer of political action which brings another dimension to the overall strategy dynamic.

Right from the start, the city is alive and there are ships arriving in your docks, dropping off immigrants and collecting export goods to make money. Staying in power as the leader of this thriving environment means you have to work out a number of balancing situations, such as getting jobs for your people as well as making sure they are fed. Exporting items is an important way to ensure you have a decent cash flow to help fund your expansion and development. You start with a couple of little farms and a tenement but you need to develop new housing as the population starts to expand. If you fail to connect everything by road and ensure you have garages to provide transportation then the economy can very quickly implode.

When the food dynamic of the game is in your favour, you can dedicate workers to acquire resources, such as wood, oil and precious metals. These goods earn you money which is important, especially if you want to be in a profit based situation. After this then a focus on churches and health clinics is paramount to mental and physical well being. In the early stages it is often the case that your developing community will not have the dedicated professionals to man these buildings so you need to rely on hiring foreigners from distant lands. Building a school and educating your community is the best way to start developing skilled individuals within your own population. Entertainment buildings are also a way to keep morale high, as a population that is just working will quickly become unhappy. Revolts can then occur, so building an army base is a sure way to keep dissident portions of the public from acting on any ill feeling.

As your city grows and expands, you have a requirement to create more buildings and to ensure you have a robust enough anti crime system to keep things in check. This is when the wealth of buildings and options really begins to show its true scope as there are choices for furniture plants and tourist destinations – the developers really have thought about every aspect of a community based virtual world. Hiring an immigration officer is an important way to maximise growth and a diplomatic mission can open up more opportunities when you start dealing with Russia and the USA.

This experience so far could be quite intimidating to a strategy newbie and it is true, there is a lot to get to grips with. Keeping the society dynamic operating as you want is in itself a significant challenge. If you don’t have enough jobs then the workforce will become restless and unfocused leading to crime, unrest and even revolt. Yet balancing enough buildings and resources to keep most people employed is difficult, especially as the population grows and expands. Balancing religion and entertainment can also be a difficult proposition.

To help you manage all the various facets of the dynamic, there is a almanac which details everything from the financial situation of the community to listing which of the factions like and dislike you. Trying to keep as many of these factions even slightly in your favour is a long drawn out battle.

Tropico 3 also offers diplomatic and political options which enhance the overall appeal of the game. Players are given free reign to instigate a plethora of policies from everyday aspects such as social security benefits to more complex and slightly controversial matters such as allowing same sex marriages. Once the USA and USSR get involved then you are certainly getting help from well established and mature societies, but you are also opening the door to revolutionaries and nationalists. Managing all these choices is what defines the Tropico 3 experience.

The game offers a campaign which you can play through approximately 15 different islands with various objectives in each. The easier campaigns may ask you to handle a specific task, such as exporting a certain amount of goods by a defined date and others will ask you to remain in power for a long number of years to to ensure that your population reaches a high level of bliss. There are also some side missions you can try and complete but they can often guide you slightly away from the main goal, so this subsequently ramps up the difficulty throughout … although you can ignore them totally if you wish and just focus on the main task. You always start the game with money, some important developing buildings and a palace to sooth your ego. Once you get control you can push the development in any direction you like and watch how it all takes form.

What I like about Tropico 3 is that developer Haemimont Games AD have incorporated a key event system which actually comes into play through various parts of the campaign missions to focus on specific story based elements. Some of these occurrences are tied into the overall structure of the island challenge and they range from being small and interconnected to rather bizarre and far fetched.

To offer further options to the gamers there are sandbox islands on offer and a number of additional challenges you can source online. You can adjust the difficulty by altering various options before starting although some get a little tasteless by adding aspects such as sex trade to the mechanic.

The story will be directed depending on the type of leader you play – there are a lot of options such as Castro and Pinochet and each of them have character traits that will make specific aspects of the game harder, or easier to play. You can also make your own leader and working out the qualities you want them to have – you can pick their background history, their route to power and two from both advantages and disadvantages lists.

The UI is generally well thought out and I noticed no real issues with the interface on any level. If I was being picky I could say that the auto leveling features make it hard at times to link up the road network but its workable. Drawing a road with the tool however more than makes up for this as you can create some quite complex little networks which I don’t think I have ever seen utilized quite so well in another game.

So far it has all been quite a positive experience however the speed of the game is somewhat of an issue because even on fastest possible settings it does seem to be a tad too slow. Normal speed is pretty much useless for playing because it would take days to make any progress. The developer really should have thought about adding a ‘turbo’ mode to the settings to make progression through the more boring bits less of a chore. On the plus side, even when on fastest setting, the game kicks back via a smart autopause when you open the build menus or encounter something important.

Graphically the game has moved slightly more towards the realistic side of the equation which looks brilliant, but also makes it slightly more difficult to work out the plethora of buildings from an ‘at a glance’ view. Personally it was not a major issue for me as I appreciate the slight change in direction from the developer and I am sure most people will find the realistic buildings a very positive aspect of the game. The lighting is also marvelous and when you combine it with the ambient weather effects it all merges into a very complete combination of ideas. The character models are decent, if nothing out of the ordinary and it can be fun to zoom into street combat when it happens.

The audio aspects are very impressive with great attention to detail in regards to ambient noise and the soundtrack is also very pleasant as it sets a certain mood for the Caribbean environments. There are even radio voiceovers which comment on your game progress and the voice acting is top notch.

Tropico 3 is a very convincing game which arrives at a good time for the RTS genre as it is in somewhat of a hiatus right now. The city building aspect is robust and founded by logical principles and a cohesive and structured working mechanic. You don’t often end up building similar cities from game to game either as the freedom to work to your desires is one of the titles strongest assets. I had a blast playing the game, but it might not be very desirable to casual or inexperienced strategy gamers who fancy a “Command and Conquer” style experience.


Solid mechanics and very well tested.
Very attractive dynamic environments and weather system
Music and ambient effects are all impressive
The single player side is strong but the online experience is a little lacking.

Well worth a look if you are a strategy lover.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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