Tropico 5 Review

Tropico 5 is an unfortunate step back for the franchise, ruining a golden opportunity for Kalypso...

Release Date: May 23, 2014Platform: PC (Reviewed), PS4Developer: HaemimontPublisher: KalypsoGenre: Simulation

Oh, city simulation games, how you tease me so–with your great ideas but somewhat flawed execution. Thus, the same story goes for the latest iteration in the Tropicofranchise, Tropico 5. While it isn’t as flawed as last year’s miserable release of SimCity,Tropico 5still feels like a small step backwards for the franchise.

The game’s biggest flaw is simply that it doesn’t feel different enough from Tropico 4to really be worth the $39.99 for the new game. And, the new mechanics that are introduced, such as constitutions and eras, ruin all of the progress that its predecessor made for the franchise. The introduction of eras brings you all the way back to the Victorian era and drags you through World War II, The Cold War, and the Modern era–which would be acceptable if it didn’t do so at such a snail’s pace. This new pace slows the campaign down dramatically, making completing the campaign feel more like a chore than anything else. Also hindering gameplay is the fact that your hand is pretty much held throughout the entire campaign, making you feel more like el vice presidente than the big chief, himself.

The Tropico 5 maps don’t provide for many different types of terrain, which may not be all that surprising since all of the maps are islands, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a major flaw in the franchise. One of the best parts about SimCityis that it provides the opportunity to play on many different terrains and sizes that create varied challenges based on the type of map you’re playing on. I’m just saying: limiting players to building cities on islands already puts you a step behind the other city builders (yes, even Cities XL).

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As far as being a supposed graphical upgrade, Tropico 5doesn’t look much better than Tropico 4.But, then again, it’s hard to really show improvement when you’re still looking at similar island environments for the game’s entirety. Even on max settings, I wasn’t blown away at how the game looked like I expected to be. That’s not to say that it doesn’t look good, but it feels like a slight refinement where it should’ve felt completely fresh and new.

But what Tropico 5does well is make building cities colorful in a world of boring simulation games. It’ll make you laugh at how ridiculous the entire thing can be. Being El Presidente of an island city sounds like it would be exhausting. The most amusing thing to happen to me while playing was having an illegitimate child, which created some tough decisions to make: whether to accept the child as my own and be proud, pay the mother to keep quiet, or do absolutely nothing. I chose to do nothing, but I’d like to pretend I brought my mistress onto an episode of The Maury Povich Show in an attempt to be able to do an “i’m not the father” dance.

Tropico 5is at its best in sandbox mode, where you can build your own city without the worries that accompany the campaign mode. You’re able to completely ignore your flow of money (if only you could do that in real life, am I right?) and just build a paradise the way you want it to be built. Unfortunately, though, it isn’t as strong of a city-builder as SimCity.For example, in Tropico 5, you can’t build bridges or adjust the size/traffic patterns of streets.

The general feeling I get when playing Tropico 5is disappointment. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the game’s release since its announcement, as I’ve been a fan of the franchise for quite some time. I’m not sure if the game feels so lackluster because I was expecting too much from it, or if it truly is mediocre. Kalypso really missed an opportunity to convert some SimCityfans that abandoned ship after its botched launch last year. But Tropico 5isn’t strong enough to convert. A Tropico 6would have to be a major overhaul to keep the franchise afloat, or it’s likely we’ll all be looking for El Presidente to be impeached.



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3.5 out of 5