Tropico 3

Review

posted 12/14/2009 by Tom Bitterman
other articles by Tom Bitterman
One Page Platforms: PC
Every citizen has political opinions. They each belong to one or major factions (e.g. militarists, industrialists, ecologists, religious and so on) and the things you do can make them like you or hate you. This is one the best parts. Tropico 3 is one of the best games in terms of simulating the way domestic politics actually works. Running a nation is not like playing Civilization, where everybody just does what you say. These factions have identifiable interests and can take (some) action to make you see things their way. Of course they may (and often do) oppose each other, and you can't make everybody happy all the time, but that is part of the game.
 
So what happens if you fail and enough of them hate you? If an election is coming up they vote you out of office (and you lose the scenario). Otherwise they take to the jungles and become rebels. Not only do rebels not do any work, they will actively attempt to destroy buildings and try to kill you. Yes, you, the beloved El Presidente!

You can build regular police and secret police and an army to oppose the rebels but these all cost money. So you will need to augment your revenue stream. The simplest way is to start manufacturing finished goods. Build a distillery to turn your sugar cane into rum, or a lumberyard to turn your logs into lumber. Of course the environmentalists will hate you but you need the money, right? The tech tree is shallow, but there's not much that can be done with an island in any case.



The other major revenue stream is tourists. If you have some beaches you can lure tourists in to visit. Tourists can really help the economy, but it takes a lot of infrastructure and it will take a while to get things going before seeing a return on that investment.

To really get the money in you will need to build an electric plant. Pretty much everybody hates the electric plant. It's noisy and polluting and hurts both native and tourist happiness. But good luck building a luxury hotel or major factory without one.

Tropico 3 is like that a lot. Every decision you make (what building to build, what immigration policy to put in place, how much education to offer) has benefits and drawbacks. You will spend a lot of time thinking “Is it worth upsetting the nationalists in order to import some foreigners who can help me expand faster?” or “Is it worth making the intellectuals unhappy by squashing the newspaper so that I can keep unrest down?” and the like. The decision itself is clear, the groups affected are clear, and you generally have a pretty good idea of when you can politically afford to do something or not.
 
The major drawback lies on the economic side. City builders tend to be micromanagers, or at least very interested in the statistics of how the economy is functioning. A few numbers are available to tell you how much some thing has been exported but some important numbers are missing. For example, how many sugar plantations does it take to keep a rum factory fully stocked? How long is the average commute for workers in this factory? What percentage of college-level jobs are filled? Did the last farm I placed clobber the old farm's fields? A lot of information that would help guide planning is not provided.


To some extent the graphics make up for this. They are clear and informative, often providing a visual representation of important game information. It's not enough. You will get tired of the music, too.

Another problem lies in the difficulty setting. It cannot be adjusted. Some players will find it too easy, some too hard, but there is no way to change it. This was a strange omission.

In summary, this is a good city-builder which doesn't sacrifice much depth while providing a bunch of fun. Bursting with too many good ideas to list, plant your tongue firmly in cheek and sail on down.


B+
A good-looking, surprisingly deep, charming city-builder. Lots of good ideas that make intuitive sense. More than worth the price of admission. Only some minor issues keep it from a higher score.


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