Remember the two competing camps of city-builders, back from the Cities XL review? No? Well, I have a few minutes so you can go back and review.
Back already? Oh good. As I was saying, Tropico 3 is primarily in the Caesar camp – the most important thing is how far your little people have to walk. This makes a lot of sense, as your city is actually Florida an unspecified banana republic somewhere in the Caribbean.
As the beloved leader of your very own island nation you will be presented with many challenges. Some are standard for the genre such as balancing a budget or winning an election. Many are specific to running a banana republic as envisioned in a B movie such as putting down rebels, attracting tourists and exploiting natural resources.
The game itself plays out as a series of scenarios. Each scenario has a primary goal to accomplish and several pitfalls to avoid. For example, a scenario might require you to lure 500 tourists to the island over a span of 20 years while simultaneously avoiding bankruptcy and assassination. Each scenario is scored on several factors and you can submit scores to a central server. This leads to a sort of “high score” competition along the lines of more arcade-style games.
Before you actually run the island you get to choose your characteristics. Male or female? Intellectual or moron? Army leader or pacifist? Each choice can provide benefits or handicaps based on the scenario. A playable set of historical leaders is provided for your amusement.
Then you can begin ruling your country. Tropico 3 has a nice set of overlays to help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of your island. Taking a few minutes to determine the mineral deposits (e.g. iron, gold or bauxite) and the climate (for growing crops like sugar, bananas or corn) can start you on your way to a basic economy.
You'll start out with some housing, but you'll want more to house the workers for that new gold mine you're building. Of course, if the housing is too far away the workers will not work at the mine, but if the housing is too close no one will want to live there (as the quality of life is low due to it being next to a working mine and all).
The solution is to build a parking garage near the housing and another near the mine. Then, every morning, your workers will get up, walk to the nearby garage, turn into a car, drive to work, and get going. Of course this happens in reverse at the end of the day. Watching the little people go about their business is one of the best parts of the game. They have thoughts and hopes and dreams that you can see by clicking on them. You'll want to do that from time to time to see how you're doing.
So that's great – you have a mine and some apartments and it's all good. Except that all cost money and you're broke. Dang! Turns out most things in Tropico 3 are mined/grown/created for export and the trading ship only comes in from time to time. There is a balancing act to be done between expanding too fast (and spending the money required to do so) and waiting for the ship to come by and getting income.
Of course it is not that simple. Your citizens also want services. Things like health clinics and high schools cost money. And these are not the sort of people to take being unhappy lying down.
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