As a leader there are several different approaches to running a country. You can be a benevolent ruler, preaching peace and prosperity across the lands. You can rule your country with an iron fist, extorting your citizens for all they’re with and tossing them aside. Or you can have no idea what you’re doing and run out of money in a few months. This is exactly what happened to me in my first playthrough of Tropico 6: Nintendo Switch Edition.
In Tropico 6, you play as El Presidente, the leader of a small island nation called Tropico. You’re in charge of building up your nation’s resources, managing trade routes with other countries, and keeping up the happiness of your citizens, all while a pleasant upbeat Latin soundtrack plays in the background. The way you go about this is completely up to you. Just know that your decisions will have consequences. Too hard on your country? You could find yourself with a rebel uprising. Too easy on your citizens? You’ll be out of money before you know it, trust me I know. There’s a delicate balance to maintain if you want your country to be successful.
There are three modes of play you can choose from, tutorial, missions, and sandbox. If you are new to the city/nation building genre, I recommend starting with tutorial for obvious reasons. There are a lot of different mechanics and concepts to navigate, and the tutorials are useful to help out beginners. Despite this, the complexity could leave some people confused for the first few hours of the game.
Once you’ve finished with the tutorials, it’s time to move on with the main game. Missions are the overarching story of El Presidente and his trusty aide Penultimo through several different tasks, with a limited amount of time to complete each one. You’ll be given small quest-like objectives in each mission that will guide you through the process. These objectives do a great job of guiding you through the beginning of the missions and keeping you on track.
Sandbox was my preferred way to play. Sandbox mode lets you build your country however you desire. At the beginning you decide all the parameters of your country, making the game as easy or as hard as you want it to be. There are many different island layouts and sizes to choose from as well. These range from your basic three island setup to multi-island archipelagos, or even primarily volcanic islands. Sandbox also lets you control things like the amount of money and citizens you start with, how frequently you’ll have foreign aid, or how often natural disasters happen. For the players that want to just build up their country with no restraint, you can set it to infinite money and zero opposition in modern times. The amount of options give the game much needed replayability.
As enjoyable as this game can be, they’re are some glaring issues with the Switch version that can’t be ignored. One of the biggest issues is the controls. Moving the camera around your country feels slow and clunky, which is a shame since 80% of gameplay is moving the camera around your country. Trying to zero in on a single building and make the changes you need can be a nightmare. This can consist of clicking over and over until the camera finally decides to work with you.
Another control issue has to do with the menu system used for building. Tropico 6: Nintendo Switch Edition opted to go with a radial menu to control your resources and construction. This system has worked for many other games perfectly fine. Unfortunately, Tropico’s radial menu is too overinflated. There are far too many categories and items, and on top of that the categories aren’t named within the wheel. Simple pictures take the place of each category. This often leads to confusion as you fumble through the wheel trying to get the cursor to land on the right category.
Graphics are mediocre at best. While the Switch is in TV mode on the dock, your islands look decent enough. Nothing really stands out, other than those occasional moments where you get the sun to shine perfectly on one of your cities. Those are the moments that make you sit back and admire your country and the work you’ve put into it. Then the sun changes position and you’re back to mediocre visuals again. Once you change to handheld mode, everything goes downhill. The framerate drops dramatically, textures become flat, and menus become even more difficult to navigate, as the framerate can barely even keep up with the radial wheel. The quality drops to the point where I recommend not even playing in handheld mode, which is unfortunate as playing this style of game on the go is the main appeal of the Switch Edition.
Tropico 6: Nintendo Switch Edition is a difficult but enjoyable game that’s held back by it’s unfortunate controls and flawed handheld mode. Fans of city management type games will find this a welcome addition if you haven’t already played it. If you’re looking to start in this genre then give this one a try. Just make sure you keep the Switch docked for the best experience. If you happen to own a PC, Xbox One or PlayStation 4 (or next-gen consoles), then those versions would be ideal.
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