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Tropico 3 is out this September and it is one of my most hotly anticipated games of the year. In order to whet your appetite for the new release publishers Kalypso have released all of the old Tropico games bundled into one big juicy package called Tropico Reloaded. If you managed to miss them first time round this is a great chance to try them out for a budget price.
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The original game was the pick of the bunch and it cast you as the proud new leader of a tropical island. Set during the cold war you could choose a background and your own political approach. You could develop your country along whatever lines you wanted whether socialist, educational, military or capitalist. The characters were all based on the leaders of various South American states and the Cold War battle for foreign governments was parodied with the player given the option of trying to win US or Russian favour or walking a tightrope in between.
The basic gameplay was tycoon style management simulation but there was some strategy mixed in. You had to develop a working economy and provide housing, education, religion, healthcare and all the other necessary services for your population. Your power had to be maintained which meant keeping a balance between the various factions and stamping out coups. It also meant winning elections.
The freeform options available allowed you to take a stern militaristic approach, industrialize the island, and turn it into a tourist haven or take a more relaxed approach and build a socialist paradise based on exports. Each game was different and at the end of the day you’d be given a rating by your population and leave for a luxury retirement (assuming you’d managed to squirrel away some funds during your presidency).
Graphically the game was attractive with a view down on the action and your lush island. You could zoom in and examine individual citizens and your bustling economy with various workers was easy to observe. The menu system had a nice style to it and the adviser voiceover acting was terrific. The package was completed by the excellent musical score.
Tropico was a terrific game with a great sense of humour. An island dictator simulator which allowed you to try random maps and set up the conditions any way you wanted. You could even choose your own victory conditions or play without them. It was a fresh approach to the genre with a terrific style and setting. There were a few flaws with the AI and the slow build speed could be very annoying at times but for the most part it was a highly polished title and if you missed it then it will likely still provide a few hours of fun.
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Tropico: Paradise Island
This was a small expansion pack for the original game which gave you a few extra options in terms of laws and introduced some new building types and characters. The developers added some new scenarios and potential disasters. They also made some welcome tweaks to the gameplay such as increasing the slow build time which could often prove an irritation in the original game.
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Tropico 2: Pirate Cove
The sequel was a real surprise after the satire of the original game as it completely changed direction and cast you as a pirate king. The basic engine underneath is still recognisable as you construct buildings and manufacture goods but the purpose is completely different. This time you are lording it up over a villainous hive of pirates and you need to make sure they stay equipped for their raids out at sea.
The humorous touches remain and you can make wooden legs and parrots for your men. Your aim is to prepare pirate voyages and send them out to capture booty. Sadly you take no part in the actual pirate action and instead you remain on the island. There are captives to deal with and the occasional raid from angry monarchs in the world beyond. You maintain your rule with one simple tactic – fear. In order to keep everyone scared you build various symbols of control such as gallows.
This release stripped down the original game and made things much more straightforward. The political complexity and choice of the original is gone. You employ slave labour so there are no elections. In some ways it plays better and if you are a fan of pirates you will surely get a kick from it but the first game had more depth.
The style also doesn’t hang together quite as well here as it did in the original. The production values are still good and the models and environment are nicely done. There are lots of touches of black humour and plenty of pirate related references but somehow it just doesn’t work as well.
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The games are quite dated now, the original Tropico was released back in 2001 and Pirate Cove followed in 2003. While they certainly have their flaws they are good solid titles and they are great fun to play. The first game in particular is very enjoyable. With the forthcoming Tropico 3 they have returned to the El Presidente styling, once again casting you as dictator of a banana republic or workers' paradise, or something in between. We can only hope it lives up to the original but while we wait to find out why not give these old classics a blast. To be able to pick up this pack for under $15 (on Steam) is a bargain and for just $10 on Amazon it is irresistible.