Title: Tropico 6
Available on: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PS4, and Xbox One
Developer: Limbic Entertainment
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Genre: Construction and Management Simulator
Version Tested: Xbox One
Official Site: https://www.kalypsomedia.com/us/tropico-6-standard-edition
Release Date: September 27th, 2019
Where to Buy: Steam, Xbox Store, Playstation Store
Tropico 6 is the latest installment in the Tropico series which began in 2001. The series lets the player become “El Presidente”, the ruler of a fictional Caribbean Banana Republic called “Tropico”. Although the games have their tongue planted firmly in cheek, like most humor they are based on real-life problems such as populism, authoritarianism, and corruption.
The Tropico series is a construction and management simulator (or, as a friend of mine put it, a “spreadsheet simulator”). Other popular games in this genre include the Civilization and Sim City series. Because of the complex nature of these types of games, they can be difficult to translate to consoles, which necessitate simplistic controls (unless you have extra peripherals, which I do not). Does Tropico 6 stand up to this unique challenge? Let’s find out!
Tropico 6 does not have much going on in terms of plot. Or, more accurately, it has an infinite amount of plot.
The tutorial (which I highly recommend, especially for anyone not familiar with the series) follows “El Presidente” as you become dictator of the nation of Tropico. As El Presidente, you will help bring your nation into the modern age, forge alliances, and keep your country afloat economically.
After the tutorial, the game allows you to play several missions. These are all vignettes. Some examples include becoming a pirate nation or navigating the Cold War.
There is also a Sandbox mode that is similar to older iterations of the Sim City franchise. In this mode, you are free to construct your nation however you like and run it for as long as you can.
Also included is an online multiplayer mode where players race to achieve objectives.
The first thing you get to do in Tropico 6 is customize El Presidente. In addition to aesthetic choices–hairstyle, sex, clothing, etc., many of which are unlocked by completing challenges throughout the game–you will also choose El Presidente’s personality type. This choice will have an impact on your gameplay. Will you be sexually attractive, which will increase your standing with members of your population who are attracted to you (but decrease it among those not)? Will you be militaristic, which increases the power of your military garrisons? There are several different options that you can use to tailor your specific experience. You can also choose a neutral personality type, which will provide no buffs or debuffs.
As I stated earlier, porting a game genre designed for the free movement and versatility of a mouse and keyboard to a console provides some unique challenges. The only game type I can imagine being more difficult to adapt successfully would be an old-style text-based adventure. On this front, I actually found Tropico 6 to be surprisingly successful. The trigger buttons open option wheels which then open more specific wheels. When the option wheels are opened, game time stops, giving the player flexibility to examine their options and act accordingly. This is important because even the smallest action can have game-changing consequences.
Tropico 6 also requires you to work with different factions. These can be rebel groups, other governments (the game splits these between “Eastern” and “Western” powers with Communist or Capitalist representations, respectively), pacifists, militarists, and many other “-ists”. In my playthrough, I modeled my El Presidente after the Transmetropolitan protagonist Spider Jerusalem, so I tended to fund and import plenty of rebels and reporters while shunning global superpowers. I didn’t make it easy on myself, but I had fun!
I burned days and weeks on similar games in my more carefree days in High School and college. In times when I should have been studying or thinking about a much more profitable career than “freelance internet writer”, countless civilizations rose and fell under my fingertips. I built Stonehenge and the great heads of Easter Island and sent nuclear payloads screaming toward a surprisingly warlike Gandhi in Civilization. I abused the wealth cheat codes and, when that grew boring, the natural disasters in Sim City.
But now that I have more life obligations and actual spreadsheets, I find that I’ve lost my taste for the spreadsheet simulator. I’ve been reflecting on what exactly it is that caused this. It’s certainly not that I’m not willing or able to pour hours and hours of time getting familiar with a complex game. Anyone who’s read my work even semi-consistently knows that I adore brutally involved games like Dark Souls III and Sekiro.
What I’m trying to say here is that I am having a difficult time deciding if the indifference I felt toward Tropico 6 is due to my own personal tastes or the game itself. On one hand, if a game is truly transcendent it should be able to hook the player regardless of their taste. On the other hand, if you don’t like shellfish, you won’t be enticed by even the best fried clams in all of Maine.
Verdict: Tropico 6 is a very funny and gorgeous game that plays well, even on console. If you enjoy this type of game, I recommend picking it up. Otherwise, feel free to order a burger.
- Infinite Possibilities
- Difficult to master