I used to spend my time dreaming of what it would be like to live in a tropical paradise. No concerns in the world except for when my next umbrella drink was to arrive and how long I could nap before flipping over and beginning the whole process again.

The leisurely island lifestyle seemed to be the perfect escape from the non-stop chaotic life that has become my own. Getting my hands-on Tropico 6, developer Limbic Entertainment’s latest installment of the popular city-builder series, quickly turned my peaceful dreams into a hectic, fast-paced adventure.

Now instead of wondering what the difference between SPF 15 and SPF 30 in my sunblock are, I was forced to quell revolutions, ensure that my people had enough entertainment and housing, and promising improvement in healthcare…all in the hopes of getting re-elected and I loved every minute of it.

Tropico 6 takes the familiar city builder game and turns it on its head a bit.

You begin your life as El Presidente with the ability to customize the look and feel of your miniature ruler. Not only dealing with his/her physical attributes, but also defining their personality type. This provides special in-game bonuses which can affect your influence with the super-powers or even the internal factions themselves.

Your next option is to design what your palace will look like, everything from roof-top holographic images of yourself, to the type of wall that surrounds your palace. While these are really nothing more than decorative facades on which you will build your spanning empire, it’s these little touches where Tropico really shines.

For those who haven’t played Tropico before, there is a two-hour tutorial that takes you through not only the basics, but some of the advanced concepts as well. It introduces the player to not only specific buildings, but also some of the more in-depth features that are provided. Concepts such as firing an individual from a building and closing the opening job requisition or identifying rebels and putting down uprisings are all covered in detail here. The tutorial however barely scratches the surface as to all the things that can be done. Thankfully Tropico 6 includes fifteen story missions that take you through numerous game concepts and challenges to build upon what the tutorial has taught you.

There are essentially two ways one can play Tropico 6, there are the story missions as well as the sandbox mode. While players will likely be quick to want to jump into Sandbox mode and begin cultivating their own island, there are compelling reasons to play through the story missions first. The story missions are not truly connected to one another, and while you must complete several to unlock them all, there isn’t an order in which you need to play them. If you go in order, the game will take you through the various “Era’s” that are new to the series.

Starting with Colonial times where you regularly need to appease the crown until you can raise enough revolutionaries (or money) to claim your independence. Working your way through the World Wars (which roughly cover the events between World War I and World War II), into the Cold war and finally Modern Times. Each of the Eras unlock access to specific technology and buildings, ensuring that each Era provides a unique challenge to overcoming certain obstacles. Each story mission tasks you with a specific goal and places several obstacles in your way. Everything from claiming independence in the first mission, to going after the seedy underbelly of crime and bringing down a notorious kingpin. The story missions themselves last anywhere from one to several hours, ensuring plenty of game play in each one.

Tropico 6 brings a lot of new concepts and gameplay to the series. The game now takes place on a series of islands interconnected with docks and bridges. It’s easy to focus on your main island only to forget your others, and some missions will task you with specific goals that can only be created outside the main island. It’s a good introduction to thinking on a wider scale. Additionally, you can build a pirate cove that allow you to send pirates on raids. These raids involve everything from “rescuing” educated people or stealing wonders from around the world, like the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty.

A new character known simply as “The Broker” provides opportunities to raise cash for your swiss bank account. The swiss bank account is a private account for El Presidente’ and allows him to purchase items from the Broker. These can be anything from blue prints that unlock buildings at a cheaper price, or the opportunity to automatically complete a demand without having to do the grunt work behind it. Election speeches also make their return to Tropico 6, elections are held every ten years to ensure you are keeping the people in your island nation happy. Lose an election and you lose the game, fairly straight forward. One opportunity to sway your people is to craft election speeches from the four categories. These include acknowledging an issue (like entertainment or health care), praising one of the four factions that exist on Tropico, blaming a super power (Axis or Allies) for the current state of affairs and finally making a promise to address a specific issue.

Be warned however, that each of these choices can hold severe consequences and note that a promise to address a concern means you’ll be focusing on that before the next election.

Each of the folks who inhabit the island are individuals. You can literally select any person walking down the street and identify who they are, how they are leaning in the upcoming election, what political party they belong to and even where they work. If someone is a political rival you can bribe them to choose your side, if a particular set of rebels are causing issues you can have them arrested or locked up in an asylum. You can even execute any individual you want; however, this will have lasting consequences. The amount of detail is staggering; however, Tropico 6 does an excellent job of allowing you to be as micro managing as you want to be. While you can certainly go in and fire individuals from the various businesses that pop up, you certainly don’t have to.

Graphically Tropico 6 is a spectacle in itself. Everything from the waves as they slowly crash upon the shoreline, to the awe-inspiring sunsets. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful city builders around. Each building is unique enough to identify it easily and each has its own unique flavor all to itself. Even with all of this, I never encountered any hiccups in performance, and load screens are pretty much left to new games. Its soundtrack has a distinctive island flair to it, and while the longer you play the more repetitive it becomes, I never felt the urge to simply mute it. In fact, I found myself humming some of the tunes while doing chores around the house…yes it can get in your head like that.

Tropico 6 does have some flaws, but nothing truly game breaking. The road construction tool, while doing it’s very best to identify the best path you wish to take, will sometimes go a bit crazy. Spaces between buildings which should allow for careful road placement will be blocked for unknown reasons, which can force you to destroy existing buildings if you haven’t planned for expansion appropriately enough. With so much to do, some of the specific tools or buildings can be a bit difficult to find, in particular once you “acquire” a world wonder it took me several attempts to locate where you can go to actually place it.

Again, nothing that stops the game in it’s tracks, and certainly some things that can easily be patched in later releases of the game.

Tropico 6 is all about freedom, the freedom to rule your tiny island kingdom the way you want. Well… at least the way you want as long as you can appease the numerous factions and ensure you get re-elected in the next general elections. You are free to do as much or as little as you want, and you are free to dig in as deep as any city builder type game allows you to go. The included stories ensure that you have at least 40-50 hours of defined content, but it’s the limitless playability of the sandbox setting where the game truly shines.

The game isn’t perfect, but it’s about as close as city-builder games can get these days. It’s mix of humor, city management, and that one-more turn itch will keep you playing long after you told yourself you should go to bed. Long live El Presidente’! Viva Tropico!

What I liked: Variety of Story Missions, Excellent Tutorial, Amazing visuals

What I liked less: Road tool seems a bit finicky, some items are difficult to locate

4 out of 5 stars

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