If the SimCity franchise ever had a diabolical twin brother, it’d be Tropico.
Where SimCity has always been a wholesome sandbox in which to play, Tropico offers collegiate-level political satire and complex engine building. When it works, the game is laugh-out-loud funny and makes you feel like you’ve got an Econ degree… until everything inevitably falls apart. The game needs some small tweaks, but overall it’s a solid entry in the perilous political simulation genre.
How I’d describe it to my friends: It’s a city building game with a twist. It’s not the kind of game you can pick up and play, but it really rewards you when you learn the systems.
What I think it does really well: Thematically, Tropico knows what it is and plays up its highbrow political humor while still poking fun at the player for wasting time in a sandbox simulator. The missions (what I consider the game’s bread and butter) are super well put together and offer a good balance of OH SHIT I’M GONNA LOSE moments and moments of perfect synergy where everything comes together.
What I don’t think it does well: Unfortunately, when things are going wrong economically, Tropico doesn’t really explain why. Often you’re hemorrhaging money on infrastructure, but there’s no real visual indication of why your bank account is dropping down to zero. Unless you learn how to read some of the more complicated menus, it’s probably going to be tough to get through the first few missions.
Who should buy it? If you miss SimCity and love the idea of playing a Fidel Castro-style leader for at least 40-50 hours (each of the main missions takes three-to-four hours), then by all means it’s worth buying. If you’re looking for something a bit faster paced or something a bit more beginner-friendly, I’d look elsewhere.
Score: Three Pino Fingers out of Five