Tropico 4 is a city building simulator from Kalypso Media with you as the role of El Presidente, a dictator of a fictitious country of islands in the Caribbean.
You strive to manage your small island economies, keep the people happy and receive global recognition for your incredible leadership. How you actually do this is up to you because there is no one way to run a country. As El Presidente you help your island develop from a natural wilderness to an economic powerhouse as you choose how to lay out building projects to employ your citizens and see to their various needs, which you are free to change, exploit or ignore as you see fit. Will you keep them happy and productive as a benevolent leader? Or oversee their lives with a brutal junta?
There is so much variation here. Each island has resources that can be mined, farmed, fished, harvested, etc. You can work those resources with cheap labor and sell the raw materials, or invest in higher skilled workers to build factories to change those raw materials into finished products for export on the global market for higher prices. You can also focus on a tourism economy, building hotels and attractions to bring in foreign visitors to spend their loose cash on your lovely tropical island. This micro managing as you decide the people’s fate may be too complicated for some but I find it totally engrossing. Luckily you have trusted advisers to help you along when, not if, problems arise.
Your Tropicans are needy people. They want food, adequate housing, religion, entertainment, decent work and more. If their needs are not satisfied they get angry and may go on strike or become rebels, challenging your authority! So you can keep them happy by building markets to help distribute food, churches for them to pray, pubs for them to have fun, etc. When a person has a need to fill (like food) he’ll go looking for the nearest building to satisfy that need. If that building is full he’ll keep looking, and the longer he looks the less work he does, so you’ll find that planning ahead is important to keep your people happy and productive. On the other hand, you can increase your military and crack down on any grumbling citizens, even arresting anyone and throwing them in jail for reeducation. There are just tons of building options, and many buildings have more options on how you want it to run.
Each person in Tropico has its own political leanings, such as Communism, Capitalism, Nationalism, Loyalists, Intellectuals, etc. How you develop your island affects how they feel just like their basic needs. If you lean towards Communism, the Capitalists on your island will be discontented, etc. You’ll have some work to do if you want to keep each political faction happy with your rule.
Don’t forget about the international community. Various countries have connections with Tropico and will ask for various favors, contracts and even bribes to keep your relationship positive. Bad relations could result in less imports/exports or even worse a foreign invasion. Keep them happy and/or keep your military strong. Yes there is combat in Tropico 4, but most of the time is will be with local rebels. Any soldiers you have will move out and engage enemy forces, even in the streets if it’s a major attack. If your forces are defeated El Presidente will be overthrown and you will lose the game. It happens…
As El Presidente, you can declare dozens of various government edicts such as a Literacy Program to increase schooling, Free Housing to keep the people happy, or even Social Security to ensure people love you. Each program affects the game and can be very useful to your rule, but many of them require considerable cash and ministers to run them so you’ll have to train or hire them first.
In additional to sandbox mode there is also a campaign where you develop the different islands of Tropico in increasing amounts of difficulty as you face various challenges from the terrain, the people and even foreign influences. Each scenario has multiple objectives to accomplish as it tells a story of your rise to power, your fall from grace and then your rise to power again as supreme leader. When you’re done with that, there are plenty of player created island scenarios to download and play.
If you enjoy the thought of building your own slice of paradise with a city building simulator then you should be happy with Tropico 4. It’s single player only so you don’t have to share your glorious rule with any of your greedy friends. The glaring problem some people have is that Kalypso Media requires you to register an account with their servers in order to play the game. It’s just an annoying step before having a blast as dictator supreme El Presidente.