After a five-year siesta, Tropico 6 sees the series return with monument heists, added complexity, and shiny new graphics. But how much has been added?
Title: Tropico 6
Developer: Limbic Entertainment
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
Release date: March 29, 2019
For fans of the series, Tropico 6’s stunning vistas, quirky humor, and simplistic gameplay won’t be a surprise. The general formula is the same. You, El Presidente, must move your Carribean island away from the power of the crown and into your own dictatorship. It requires management of construction, but also of relationships with world superpowers as you move through the eras.
Visually, Tropico 6 retains the bright colors of its predecessors, but the cartoonish style has been ditched. Instead, this iteration has a stronger focus on detail and realism while crucially avoiding serious performance pitfalls.
It looks beautiful, but it’s let down by terrible anti-aliasing solutions. At 1080p, FXAA does very little to smooth the jagged edges. Temporal AA does a much better job, but with a significant amount of blurriness and visual artifacting.
Regardless of settings, fans will note improvements to character simulation, each citizen holding their own routine with individual needs. When work gets too much, they’ll walk to a nearby venue for entertainment, pray at the local church, or head home for the night. They’ll take time to travel, and buildings only output at full efficiency when everyone is present.
As a result, housing to workplace distance and transport and is far more important, and Limbic has added a number of new features to help with that. Parking garages, bus routes, metro stations, cable cars, and tunnels can all be placed to increase efficiency or just look cool. Despite this, Tropico 6 is missing hardcore traffic simulation. Congestion doesn’t appear to be an issue, meaning it’s more about getting your resources to the dock for sale as quickly as possible.
It’s in that balance between difficulty and simplicity that Tropico 6 thrives.
Roads are placed through a grid system, but placing them is extremely cumbersome. They take up a lot of space, aren’t particularly flexible, and it’s all but impossible to put buildings on a curve. Because of this, there’s not a whole lot room for city layout beautification, though it does keep things nice and simple.
It’s in that balance between difficulty and simplicity that Tropico 6 thrives. You’ll rarely find yourself bogged down in the numbers, and can mostly just watch the ebb and flow of your city, expanding regularly.
The beauty of all this automation is that you won’t find yourself constantly pausing the game. You can comfortably play Tropico 6 on any of its three speed levels, with fast-paced gameplay at x4, and a relaxing (but not painfully slow) experience at x1.
However, that’s not to say there’s little to do. The game does a fantastic job of ensuring there’s always something going on. If you’re not expanding your economy, you’re attempting to keep citizens happy for the next election, running raids from the all-new pirate’s cove, or negotiating with superpowers.
It makes it all too easy to spend hours building, trading, and generally terrorizing your population. When things are going well, that’s a blast, but the game tends to kick you when you’re down. Stray dangerously into the red, and your citizen’s quality of life will go down, while superpowers will make constant demands you can’t meet, naturally bringing your game to an end.
In my experience, long-term success was defined almost entirely by what I did in the first, colonial era.
Generally, game balance is a little skewed. In my experience, long-term success was defined almost entirely by what I did in the first, colonial era. If you ignore the progression milestone, it’s possible to stay almost indefinitely. Due to the lack of elections and military threat, you can quickly create an economic juggernaut that will carry you for the rest of the game.
Conversely, it can be difficult to tell where things are going wrong if your economy goes downhill. Tropico 6’s Almanac gives the player all kinds of numbers about their civilization, but it lacks good visualizations.
Pie charts of revenue and expenses really wouldn’t go amiss, as well as further subcategories or filters to really separate relevant information. The UI as a whole is clunky, and there’s still work to be done.
At times, it feels like your money is inexplicably draining away with no clear reason. Often, graphs fail to load, or numbers aren’t arranged in any semblance of order. Kalypso tells us the game’s balance, bugs, and performance will be improved before release, but we can only review what we’ve played, with the review build updates so far not seeming to address all the game’s issues.
All that said, Tropico 6 at least has various new ways for you to fine tune your experience. The usual sandbox mode is available with resource sliders, starting era, and political challenge modifiers. It also introduces new landmass options. Users can now randomly generate anything from a single large island to archipelagos while defining their climate terrain type.
The technique ensures no two playthroughs are the same, but it also gives more control over difficulty. Having a series of small islands forces the player to be extremely conservative about what they build and where, and is a first for the series.
Consequently, I have no doubt players could rack up a hundred hours, not including the campaign, which is nothing to write home about. The limiting missions on different islands feel somewhat at odds with the most fun part of the game – evolving your bespoke paradise or dystopia.
In that regard, Limbic has listened to criticisms. Customization in Tropico 5 launched in a sorry state, and six features with more outfit, hairstyles, and beard options. Players can also modify their palace, attaching mazes, bunkers, shark tanks, and swimming pools while switching colors.
This is joined by more options on the political side. As well as deciding their constitution, players can research various edicts. You can force workers to do overtime, give everyone a free car, declare martial law, legalize drugs, or kick start nuclear testing. These will all affect the game’s various modifiers, from efficiency to transport time and food scarcity.
The game also re-introduces work modes, which were cut in 5, meaning you can pay to increase the efficiency of buildings, siphon funds into El Presidente’s Swiss bank account, or change production methods.
All of these little steps go a long way. Some of the changes here will please hardcore fans, implementing the best parts of Tropico 4 while keeping some of the newer additions. It feels like what Tropico 5 should have been, but there have again been some casualties along the way.
This time, Tropico 5’s interesting dynasty system has been wiped from existence. You can no longer maintain a family, so siphoned funds are instead used to bribe factions and unlock blueprints, export routes, or building blueprints.
On top of this, Presidente is now limited to a single trait, of which there are only eight. This reduces playstyle variety but is somewhat mitigated by the ministry building, which lets you elect various government representatives with different modifiers.
Ultimately, Tropico 6 does enough to be considered an improvement, but it’s offset a little by a lack of polish. Balance feels off, the UI unfinished, and none of the new features are truly exciting. Despite its delays, it feels like the game could have done with a few more months. Though it’s a very strong position from which Limbic can build, that’s rarely what you’re looking for in a sixth implementation.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.