If you say to me that you’ve never thought about how the country would be better with you in charge, you’re a liar. We’ve all thought it at some point. Whether your country’s leader is a Twitter whore, a little posh bitch or a comedian, you’ve no doubt wondered “if they can do it, why can’t I?” The simple answer there is money and influence. You can have a go, though, and you can do it all without having to get on your knees for your Oxbridge professor.
All you need is Tropico 6.
Tropico 6 puts you in the hot seat as you attempt to run your new country. It’s not as simple as that, it’s actually a little more complicated than the game saying “have at it, son” and then leaving you alone.
First things first, if you’re new to the Tropico series, for the love of democracy, please, take half an hour to play the tutorial. I didn’t, but that’s because I’ve got a bit of experience with Tropico in general. Even though I’ve played the games before and given the game a whirl on the Xbox One via the Game Preview program, I was still left scratching my head at times. To the game’s credit, it does offer a very robust tutorial that covers just about everything you’ll need to know to make you a great, glorious leader of the people, but the sheer amount of information being thrown at you means that you’ll no doubt forget some of that info by the time you actually get into the game. That’s fine. I found that with enough fiddling around in the game’s menus, I was able to figure things out whenever I got a little lost. And I’m an idiot, so you’ll be OK.
Tropico 6 ships with a full single player campaign consisting of over a dozen different maps with their own goals and stories. I’ll be honest – this doesn’t interest me all that much. The idea of working hard to create a country only to give it up and start again on another map once I’ve hit my goals doesn’t sit well with me. I played through a few of the campaign levels before turning my eye towards the main meat of the game: sandbox mode.
It’s here that you’ll get the most bang for your buck. You’re free to choose from any map you fancy and set the game’s conditions to your liking. You can start off with a vast bankroll of riches, or you can play the game old-school and really start from the bottom, clawing your way to independence and then setting out on your own to progress through the eras, right up to modern times.
Each game starts with you taking over as leader, backed by The Crown who set you tasks and drip a little money every now and then. You’ll want to keep The Crown happy, as if you don’t you’ll find yourself out on your arse and, presumably, hung from the gallows. You’re on a contract and you can extend it by completing tasks set by The Crown. This is to your benefit as well as The Crown’s. Completing a task gives you a few rewards to choose from. You can choose to extend your run as leader or take a cash reward. However, The Crown isn’t the only outfit pushing you to do them favours.
While The Crown wants to keep you in place so it can manipulate you and rule the country without having to set foot inside it, the local rebels want you to do things for them – to start a revolution. You’ll have to juggle what tasks you take on as well as everything else around them. You’ll be managing the economy by creating jobs; ranches, mines, and farms to start off with, before moving on through to bigger industries such as textiles, oil, canned goods and lots more. But creating jobs isn’t enough. You need to house those workers. You need to make sure you’ve got deliveries carting goods from one place to another, and eventually to the docks to be exported for some of that sweet foreign cash. And then there’s healthcare, research, banking and, as your game evolves, political crises to manage and overcome. It’s fair to say, then, there is a lot going on in Tropico 6.
Once you’ve claimed your independence and The Crown has buggered off, things only get harder. You’ll have to deal with a number of local factions. The communists want this. The bible bashers want that. The militants want some new barracks. In short, everybody wants something, and if you’re not careful in how you deal with them, you’ll have a revolt on your hands before you know it. You can always throw a few dissenting citizens into the dungeons and prisons but, as I found out during my dictatorship, there are limited spaces and you can’t really imprison an entire country. Not unless you’re a little fat kid called Kim, anyway.
Tropico started out on PC – the natural home of strategy games and city builders – but the move to consoles hasn’t been as bad as one might think. The controls are, for the most part, excellent. Tropico 6 uses a wheel-based menu and it works beautifully. It may look complicated when you first play, but trust me – after half an hour you’ll be flicking around those menus like you own the place. That’s because you do, El Presidente.
I understand that by this point you’re reading this review and thinking “what the Jeff? Is this like a proper dictator sim?” I know it sounds grim but the reality is that the game is actually quite charming, despite the game being based on trade and politics.
The humour isn’t too over the top but there’s enough there to remind you that you’re playing a silly game and that if you fail as El Prez, it’s not the end of the world. But your country will surely starve to death and you’ll be eaten by the hungry children that roam the wastelands of a once popular nation-state. You know, that kind of humour.
Tropico 6 also includes a multiplayer mode which I took some time to try with my colleague Jason. It’s basically just sandbox mode with a mate. You can tinker with the game’s setting and decide on your own winning conditions. Me and Jason decided that the first to have $2 million would be the winner. I lost, but not because Jason was a crazy good economist with a happy workforce, but because I’m a blithering idiot who ran his country into the ground first. You win some, you lose most of them, or at least that’s my experience as El Prez.
Tropico 6 is an odd little game. I know I like it – I really like it – but it’s still a weird one. The whole premise is built around you being the leader who can do whatever he likes. If you want to siphon state funds off to your Swiss bank account, do it. I didn’t. Instead, I sat on my sofa one night until 5AM with one goal in mind: provide healthcare, schools and jobs on every island of my nation and then, instead of telling my citizens to fuck off when they asked for an election, I’d let them vote and I’d win by fair play. Sure I killed a few annoying idiots along the way and cut a few costs, but an 89% approval rating doesn’t come easy, and it was only poor people who died anyway. Long live El Chris!
Tropico 6 PS4 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8.9/108.9/10
Tropico 6 is a massively rewarding game for players who can wrap their heads around its systems. Once you start on your path to glory, you'll be hard pressed to put the controller down. Watching your fledgling nation grow into a booming economy is not my usual idea of fun, but I found myself giddy with excitement watching my trade ships come back to port, bringing with it that sweet trade money.
For those who are experienced in the city-building sim genre, this is without a doubt a must. For those looking to dip their toes in for the first time, have a little patience and you'll get many hours of gameplay from Tropico 6.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.