El Presidente returns in the fifth numbered installment of the long running Tropico series, and this time he’s bringing the power of next gen hardware. It’s been fifteen years since the original game released and by now I’m sure many gamers know what to expect. Unfortunately, I was not one of those people, I’ve always felt very intimidated by simulation games. Whether it be The Sims or Civilization Revolution, I have never felt confident in my game managing abilities. Dubbed the Penultimate Edition, this version of Tropico 5 includes a couple extra missions and 5 new maps exclusive to the XBOX One. While I won’t be able to compare this game to others in the series, I can provide a fresh perspective and evaluate the game’s accessibility for new players.
Despite all the different tasks and ways to progress through Tropico 5, your overall goal is typically the same, stay in power. As El Presidente you are tasked with creating, managing and upgrading your island; you must earn money through exporting goods, keep your citizens happy and make tough decisions in the process. This can be very overwhelming to think about when first beginning the game, thankfully there is a comprehensive tutorial that explains many of the tasks you will be doing. While the tutorial is very helpful, it will take time to get used to navigating the menus and understanding all the little gameplay nuances. The game does a great job of easing you in slowly by building basic structures and progressively gets more challenging. As I played along and got comfortable, the game became very hard to put down and seeing my island flourish was quite gratifying.
The game starts off in the colonial era, goes through the World Wars, Cold War, modern times and post-modern times. It goes without saying that your buildings, research, and technology will advance as you move into more current eras. When you start off you will be building plantations to harvest crops, houses, schools and researching agriculture methods. Later on you will be building skyscrapers, power plants, hotels and researching more complex things. You can control the budget of each building and appoint a manager who will add their own perks such as increased efficiency or buffs for neighboring buildings. In addition to staying in power, there are main objectives to each level such as: declare your independence, survive against rebel forces or earn a certain amount of money in your Swiss bank account. There are optional objectives as well for many things such as building certain buildings, proclaiming edicts, or exporting crops. Many times you will earn extra money, workers, or even research for completing these extra objectives, it’s always a good idea to finish as many as possible. For many of the objectives you will be able to choose your reward which really lets you customize the gameplay to your preference.
With so much to do in Tropico 5 it seems great on paper, but is managing an island any fun? I found myself absolutely hooked, surprisingly since it’s a genre I always shied away from. It was very rewarding and gratifying to see my island bloom with new buildings or landmarks. Exploring new areas and expanding my reach on the island never made me feel confined. There was the occasional time when I wasn’t reelected and had to start over, but retrying and making a few different decisions never hindered my progress for long. Tropico 5 does a great job of letting you build freely without a looming fear of failure. I appreciated being able to save the game at any point allowing for both short and lengthy gameplay sessions. There were occasional moments when a building would display an icon showing it being unproductive, or void of workers. I found this to be pretty confusing and needed to search online for how to fix it. Thankfully getting everything in order was pretty simple and before long my island was bustling with development.
Graphically the game looks very nice both zoomed in and panned out. Nearly all the buildings have distinct looks and with all the moving parts I never had issues with slowdown. There is voice acting from many characters but there is a catch. Typically, only the first sentence or two of the dialog is voiced and it’s up to you to read the rest. I didn’t mind because I usually can read the information faster than the character can speak it. The voices are very well done and have appropriate accents for the area. The music fits the game’s tropical feel perfectly, it’s a true highlight of the game. You might find yourself tempted to dance the tango and have yourself an umbrella drink because it creates such a fun vibe.
Most gamers already have a pretty clear idea if Tropico 5: Penultimate Edition is a game they will likely enjoy. The game hits high marks as far as content, fun factor, graphics and music; but on the flip side it’s a little late to the party on Xbox One. The game has been out in other forms on last generation consoles, PC and Playstation 4. The inclusion of exclusive content is a good start and I can vouch that the tutorial will get simulation newbies like myself building in no time. I can wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone who hasn’t burnt themselves out on the genre. The Xbox One version is the definitive edition of the game and I am eagerly anticipating future DLC.
+ Managing your island is both addicting and rewarding
+ Exclusive XBOX One content adds value to the package
+ Graphics look good and the music fits perfectly
– Previously available in other forms for a long time
– Occasional confusing moments when buildings are unproductive or unmanned