El Presidente Comes To The Current Generation
If you’re a fan of action and FPS games, then the current console generation has been a world of goodness and nurturing light for your soul. If you’re into strategy games, then you should probably be playing on PC, because console gamers are like orphans standing in the rain, looking into windows where said PC gamers are enjoying the warmth and succor of strategy games ladled out like soup on a cold, wet, English evening. Then there’s Tropico which is now out on the PS4. It’s not quite the same as being invited in, but warm soup in a cup is still welcome during unfriendly weather.
Tropico 5 has already been out for quite some time, even enjoying a spin on the Xbox 360. It’s an old fashioned simulation/strategy game where players take control of a backwater, tropical colony and raise it up over the generations to be a little slice of dictatorship heaven, complete with revolutions and squirreling funds away into personal Swiss bank accounts. It’s detailed, it’s substantial and it’s got a light sprinkling of satire about governments and banana republic dictatorships everywhere. In short, it’s still Tropico.
As to be expected from an old strategy game running on a new generation of console hardware, Tropico 5 is a mixture of competent graphics with blazingly good, 60 frame per second performance, regardless of how many buildings are on your island. This isn’t going to make anyone “Ooh & Aah” over your home theater set up, but you’ll get the same no-holds barred smooth gameplay that PC users enjoy.
As far as the game itself goes, this might be damning with faint praise, but considering the dearth of games in this genre, Tropico 5 is easily the best strategy game on the PS4 right now. There are a lot of things Tropico 5 actually gets right, such as a wealth of choices, large amounts of control and micro-management, and an comprehensive range of activities for players to perform at an infrastructure, political and economic level. However, what really stops this series from joining the heavy hitters in the genre such as Sim City or Civilization is way the game discourages players from solving problems quickly and efficiently. For example, the game will quickly tell you that have a growing homeless population, or that you’re losing money on a business, but it will not tell you why this is happening. In order to discover the solutions to these problems, you usually need to pause the game, go on the Internet, and research what other Tropico 5 players have discovered through experimentation over the last four years in order to implement a strategy to reverse these situations.
Obviously, this isn’t required for more straightforward problems, such as invasions or criminal activity. But when you’re losing money on a monthly basis, despite having mines and factories full of goods to sell, you shouldn’t need to go online to read a forum from three years ago saying “You need to build more teamster buildings so that someone will actually PICK UP the goods and transfer them to your ships.” This is something the game should be telling you. It never breaks the game, but it occurs frequently enough you sometimes need to just stop playing and do your homework online to find out how to solve your current woes. There’s also a decided lack of variety in the buildings and options available to players despite the march of time. Restaurants, for example, will always look like thatched huts regardless of building them in 19th, 20th or 21st centuries. Even though the game strongly encourages players to exploit tourism for their economy, there’s no option to create shopping malls, or product-based shops of any kind, really.
Despite these limitations, Tropic 5 has a very strong, substantial base concept. It manages to pack in sizable depth to its political, economic and infrastructure mechanics that players will spend hours carving out their private little tropical dictatorship. If, for some reason, you’re starved for a good strategy game on the PS4, Tropico 5 is it. It might not reach the heights of Civilization or Sim City, but it has its own charm and beefy gameplay that sometimes impedes, but never breaks, the flow of the game.