There’s a certain charm to games that give the player freedom to build civilizations and manage their livelihoods. It’s not a genre for everyone, but for those that are detail oriented, it can be a truly exciting type of gameplay. The Tropico series has been going strong for almost two decades now, and Tropico 6 continues to build off of the foundation of the previous entry.
Players take the role of their custom “El Presidente”, the leader of the fictional country of Tropico. Tropico is always set on an island in the Caribbean, though new to the sixth installment is the possibility to have multiple islands in the nation. Players can eventually build bridges to bring the masses of land together and unite the entire nation. Of course, getting there requires a good sense of management and foresight.
There are many different options for playing Tropico 6. Players can take on one of 15 missions, each with their own criteria. Starting with a handful, more will unlock as players complete more. Another option is the Sandbox mode, which places players on an island mass of their choice to start a nation from scratch. Players can even make their own maps and share them with others online. Finally, players can play multiplayer matches with up to four players, the host setting up the conditions for victory.
Missions are pretty straightforward, as each mission takes place in one of the four main eras. There’s the Colonial era, which is the most primitive time period. The World Wars era picks things up by adding new technology and industrial measures. The Cold Wars era takes things even further by adding more military advancements and new breakthroughs. Finally, the modern era brings players to the present day, giving current technology and more creative building options. The mission structure is similar to Tropico 5, but Tropico 6 allows new elements to effect the citizens of the nation.
Even though each mission has an end goal, they’re full of various objectives that give players plenty to work with. For example, players might do the first mission, where they must gain independence from the Crown. Reaching that point involves a lot of tasks, like constructing various types of buildings, performing various trades, and conducting research. Each task is presented by various characters, each essentially a caricature of a stereotype (both in appearance and in voice). These missions can take a lot of micro-managing, but those with patience will find plenty to work with.
It can be a little overwhelming with all the information to digest. Luckily, the game has a pretty good tutorial to set players up for success, at least in the beginning. That being said, victory isn’t an easy task, as missions can be quite challenging. Most of the difficulty will relate to resource management and maintaining funds. As problems in your nation develop, it gets trickier to solve them. Sometimes a building will be on fire and there’s no fire house. Sometimes a cannery needs to be made for an objective but you’re missing a coal mine to supply it. It takes a little practice to figure out all the tools necessary, and that requires a large time investment. Again, the tutorial is recommended for newcomers.
As players develop their nation, they can watch it flourish in three different speeds. To cut down on time, the speed can be doubled or even quadrupled to make events happen faster. This is rather useful, and pausing is super helpful too, but it’s best to not get carried away. Many objectives have strict time limits and having four times the speed can make that time go by in the blink of an eye. Completing objectives is important to maintain funds, resources, citizens, and even relation points.
Speaking of relations, Tropico 6 does a good job of giving players freedom to ally with whoever they wish. As the nation grows, various other superpowers and factions will present you with different tasks. Sometimes, it will be a standalone objective that relation points with whichever group. Others might use dual demands, where two different opposing groups will ask the player to take a side. Whichever group you choose to ally with will determine who will help by contributing funds, and it will even improve trade relations.
One thing to take note of is that citizens are all fully simulated. They’ll move across the map, go to work, perform daily routines, and go home. This adds an extra layer to the game and allows for more complex situations. It can make productivity a bit less efficient, but again, it adds an extra layer of detail. Players may not even notice it given all the management of their island nation.
Graphically, Tropico 6 doesn’t look significantly different from the previous game, but now it runs on Unreal Engine 4 and it looks great doing it. The game has plenty of fun and engaging music and the sound design works pretty well. You’ll always know when something goes wrong or when a challenge is completed. Menus and the overall interface is slick, though some menus might have an information overload.
Overall, Tropico 6 sets itself as a fun, albeit formidable challenge. Fans of the genre will likely have a lot to appreciate in the game. As said, it’s not a game for everyone, but it does what it needs to do and it does it well. It may have a lot of striking similarities to the previous game, but it might still be enough for fans. Newcomers might need a little patience, but once they take the time to learn the systems, even they can be a proper El Presidente.