When playing any sort of city builder like Cities Skylines or Sims City, I’ve tend used them as proxies for building amazing cities while neglecting god knows how many needs of the citizens. To me, those games are the perfect creative outlet to build to my heart’s content without consequence, but then something happens. As an omniscient ruler in the skies, I start to grow weary of my perfect cities that were tailored to fit my desires. I could care less about trash collection icons hovering over the buildings, I had no true consequences to worry about.

That’s where Tropico 6 differs, a game where my greedy tendencies got me kicked out of office in the colonial ages, a few ruthless demands from the rebels and the crowns and overall just getting my ass kicked by the system. The best thing is, I loved it. Tropico 6 is a construction and management game jam packed with political intrigue, colorful visuals, even more colorful characters and an intriguing gameplay loop that is both frustrating and rewarding.

I played my first Tropico in 2001, where I experienced the dark comedy and satire of being an autocratic leader of a nation. I could build homes, services and if someone didn’t agree with my decisions, I could ensure they would have an “accident”. It was a lot of power for a nine-year old me that’s for sure. Fast forward to now, Tropico 6 retains its cheeky satirical representation by adding welcoming changes, an expansive new choice of worlds to rule over and a fantastic civilian simulation system.

Welcome, To Paradise

Writing this article in-doors while the weather is still a bit chilly outside, makes me wish I was in a place like Tropico 6. The Tropico series takes place in the beautiful, warm Caribbean islands filled with stunning locations, a natural warmth and so much character brimming from every corner of the in-game world. Tropico 6’s flexible choices can put the player anywhere from the beginning of the colonial times, the world wars, cold war or straight to the modern era. Also for the first time ever in the series players are not restricted to one island when building their nations, but have access to an entire archipelago of smaller islands which adds a welcome change of pace and sense of exploration.

Larger worlds with islands to lay your claim.

The way buildings look also evolve as players cross through the eras, which is nothing ground-breaking in the genre, but it is visually stunning when you can zoom in and see all the painstaking detail on the streets, rooftops and cornfields scattered throughout the world.

Tropico 6 is a treat for the eyes thanks to good visuals and an even better art direction: the color pallet especially is so well done adding tinges of warmth and depth to make the world look both alive and somewhere you wish you were right now. The game also runs quite smoothly on PC with a few stutters here and there. Zooming in and out in the world feels effortless and smooth thanks to the fantastic optimization the developers have done for this game.

The attention to detail is fantastic.

Tropico 6 also has some fantastic audio design, with some wonky dialogue here and there. The ambient sounds in the game make the cities feel lived in rather than faking density that I notice in other city building games. The sounds of waves crashing against the shore, the sounds of a tavern when you click on the building all sound real and fitting to the setting of the game.

Another great aspect of this game is the music: Tropico 6 has a fun, vibrant soundtrack that has made me, on more than a few occasions, dance around in my seat. The infectious soundtrack can be a bit tiring in long stretches though, making me wish there some slower beats to listen to. But then every time I fire up the game, I’m back to dancing my seat.

To Be A Leader

Customizing your leader feels personal.

While I can dance in my seat without worry, I don’ think El Presidente has that luxury in his precarious position. El Presidente is the undisputed ruler of Tropico world, and the main-character that the player controls. This begins by a surprisingly fun character customization system that allows you to change the gender, outfit, hat, accessory and facial features of your character. While the standard look for our leader has a more traditional dictator-esque aesthetic I opted for something a little more casual and laid back.

Deeper options to customize what kind of leader you will be.

My El Presidente seems more relaxed: a man of the people who knows how to work hard and play hard. I embodied this philosophy through a colorful floral shirt, bright red shorts while keeping the standard hat and swapping the cigar for a pipe.

This level of customization may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but for me, it adds another layer of role-playing where you embody the leader itself. The same happens when you start customizing your palace with a fresh coat of paint, a nice backyard garden and a helipad just in-case I need to take a little trip due to unforeseen circumstances.

Customization goes beyond visually, and deeper into understanding what kind of leader you want to be. Do you want to be a corrupt leader who rules with an iron fist? Or a charismatic one who uses his words and compassion to build his nation? Hell, do you want to just be “Kind of Normal”? Well, that’s a choice too!

Tropico 6 allows you to determine the kind of leader you want to be in the beginning through various choices, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Adding this level of depth before even setting foot on the island is a great way to get the player involved.

The menu can be a bit, confusing.

When you do get started, Tropico 6 is a city-builder game that allows you to build a nation as you see fit. This can be sometimes a bit complicated since the menus can be a little perplexing especially if you haven’t played the series before.

I usually tend to ignore tutorials and jump straight into the sandbox of any city builder games, but this is the first I have actually felt a bit los. This is not necessarily a negative thing, it’s both praising the depth of the game as well as warning players to be mindful of it: it’s not easy being a dictator in this game. Like many city builders, you have to be aware of resources points, the happiness level of citizens, pollution, resource needs and so much more.

Tropico 6 is a very involving experience, and will stump you if you don’t touch upon the tutorial (which is what I’m doing right now after I ran out of money and couldn’t assassinate my opponents anymore).

The citizen simulation is fantastic.

Speaking of assassinations, Tropico 6 features a surprising rich citizen simulation system. The only time I have experienced this personally was a mod for Cities: Skylines where players could click on one of the citizens and see their name, occupation, and family lines. Tropico 6 takes that idea many steps ahead and adds a realistic simulation system that does the same as the mod, but by adding the option to bribe, kill or even conspiracies to cause “accidents”.

At one point in the game, a large crowd gathered in front of my palace where they were protesting my rule upon the land. I clicked on the characters, each with their own unique name, trying to decide how to squad this uprising. This level of detail allows players to feel involved and a part of the story that’s unfolding on the land, which is something that makes me want to keep playing.

Political tensions

Faction missions change how you play the game.

Citizen simulation, the building aspects and the general ebb-and-flow between leader and its people is only heightened by the political tensions in the game. Many city-builders are usually just “here’s money, go build”: in Cities: Skylines the player is given hints on what to do with the city and how to take care of its people in the form of charts, data, overlays and little icons over buildings where you can see whether people have the right services like police and fire. The same goes for Tropico 6, but with an added layer of political intrigue.

Guidance in the game, come as requests and threats from the various factions and world powers in the game. You can receive a demand from the revolutionaries to provide a new Tavern for the people: fulfill the request and you can choose one of three rewards, fail and you lose a bit of standing with the group.

In the colonial age, the crown who placed you in power over this land will demand that you fulfill a trade agreement with them. Early on I found this challenging since you have count-down on your position as a leader. But if you can manage to fulfill their demands, you can get an extension on your rule.

This tension comes forward within the dialogue in the game where the colonials wave their power over the small nation, demanding from them whatever they want. The comedy in the game is still there, but has taken a bit of a backseat to some interesting commentary about colonialism and its effects on smaller nations in the past. At the end of the colonial age, you’re given a choice to either stay with the crown or succeed from them by either force or a $15,000 fee.

The political commentary is funny and well told.

After this, depending on your decisions, you can start trading and making relationships with other nations in the world. Tropico 6 and its efforts to create political tension between nations as the players try to carve their own niche on the world, is an interesting aspect which makes Tropico 6 stand out from the pack. This, however, can sometimes prove to be a bit difficult.

It Ain’t Easy Being El Presidente

Another day, another protest.

As mentioned earlier, Tropico 6 is not an easy game. Between the complex, interwoven systems of city, resource, demographic management you also have the addition of the political tension which creates a game with a series of checks and balances where you can’t just go around free of any consequence.

Do you want to be a brutal leader who uses his iron fist against those who oppose him? Well, that can work for a little while, till you’re either ousted from your seat or lose all your money. Or do you want to be a good leader? That can also work for some time, but then the revolutionaries or other factions can take advantage of your good graces.

Tropico 6 can sometimes have difficulty spikes where requests from factions feel like logicless loops rather than requests that actually better their faction. This can sometimes feel a bit gamey, but fortunately, it doesn’t happen enough to detract from the full experience.

Raids are rewarding when you can save up enough for them.

The game also features “raids” which are missions where you can send our pirate ships to steal resources and even landmarks. Yes, if you want to you can have the State of Liberty flown in by helicopters and placed somewhere on your island. While it is a really cool concept, grinding for raid points can sometimes feel jarring and not fun: It took me quite some time to get enough raid points to get some resources. It is a really fun concept, I just hope they can make it more accessible for those who don’t want to grind for so long.

A Worthwhile Trip In Paradise

Perfect game for a cold, lazy day.

Tropico 6 is a worthwhile sequel in the Tropico series, and a game for those who want a slice of political intrigue, comedy, intriguing commentary on top of their city building experience. I am nowhere even close of getting to the end-game of the modern-era so I can’t wait to see how the world will look during that timeline.

While the scale of the game is not as impressive as Cities: Skylines with its cities stretching for hundreds of miles, Tropico 6 is a focused experience that relies on players to dive into the role-playing aspect of the game to become a ground level leader who gets their hands dirty with the day-to-day aspects of being a leader, instead of an omniscient presence like other city-builder games.

Tropico 6 Review
The Good
  • Robust city-building features
  • Vibrant, detailed world
  • Citizen simulation system is excellent
The Bad
  • Difficulty spikes in some areas
  • Overtly complex UI
  • Some minor-bugs
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
9.0

About The Author

Robin Ghosh (a.k.a. SpectreRobin) is a Sr. Staff Writer at GAW. He is a published writer, photographer, videographer and budding filmmaker and is currently the content director of TABOOZAPP. Having recently finished his masters in media production at Ryerson University, he is gearing up to take his career to the next level (ha, gaming pun). Robin is in love with role-playing games, sim-shooters like Deus Ex and Prey and has a soft spot for survival games like DayZ. He will play anything with a good story and a compelling world to explore. That being said no matter what year it is, he will probably at some point have a craving to play Skyrim again for the 3rd time..4th? Who knows, he really....really likes Skyrim.