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Tropico 4 - Great New Addition to the Series
on September 7, 2011
I've read people saying "should have been an expansion" - just like Tropico 3, etc. and I have to wonder how long they played it before they wrote their review. I've played through all the missions (20 in total) and I can say that Tropico 4 holds its own as a new addition to the series. There are a ton of differences. Here are all the NEW elements of Tropico 4.
1) All new radio announcements/announcers throughout the game. Yes, Juanito is gone, but he does get his "revenge" on you in one of the missions. My favorite radio line after I ruled for 50 years... "it is with great sadness that I must announce the passing of El Presidente (pause)... JUST KIDDING! We all know El Presidente will never die."
2) Voice acting. This is separate from the radio announcers. All the characters now talk, something they didn't do in Tropico 3. And there are a lot of characters too. This alone is a huge improvement over Tropico 3.
3) Interactive Disasters (plus several new disasters too). What's an "interactive disaster?" It's where you play a role and your decisions dictate some of the disaster effects. For example, during an oil spill, you determine how much you want to clean up. That dictates how polluted your waters become. During a drought you have to manually water your fields if you chose to conserve water. And the disasters are all animated. You see the tsunami hit your island and it even deposits a crashed ship somewhere on your island. You may get anywhere from 1-3 tornadoes hitting your island at once.
3) Tons of new buildings. I think I read there were 20. And these aren't puny buildings either. The Stock Market, for example, allows you to control the privatization of your island. So one building comes with an entire network of new features to give you another approach to making money in the game. The weather station helps forecast disasters so that your citizens can be warned. You'll still lose buildings, but your citizens will get out of harms way and loss of life will be minimized. The fire station helps put out fires. Fire trucks race to the building, and little firemen get out with their hoses and fight the fire. These are all huge advances over Tropico 3.
4) Rebuild Feature. In Tropico 3, when you lost a building, you had to go search for it again in the menu, rebuild it, then reapply any upgrades you had on the building. In Tropico 4 when a building is lost, you have a little Rebuild icon that shows up. Click it and your building is automatically rebuilt with all the features you had applied to it before (you have to pay for it, of course).
5) Quick Build. One of the frustrations of Tropico 3 was trying to build a bunch of buildings and having to wait forever for your builders to get them all done. Tropico 4 has a Quick Build option where, for a premium price, you can instantly construct the building. I probably use this more than any other feature.
6) A new in-depth campaign with several cut scenes. The campaign is the most in-depth storyline in the history of the Tropico series. There are 20 missions on 10 maps (wish it was 20 maps). Now the interesting thing about this is that after you start the campaign, through the course of the first several missions there are "cut scenes" that help move the story along. Now this is great and a huge improvement over Tropico 3. HOWEVER... it appears that the developers ran out of time or got lazy at the end because as the missions go on the cut scenes get fewer and fewer then disappear altogether. So I have mixed feelings about this. But as far as stories go, this is a pretty darn good one.
7) Remembering your deeds. The game remembers your deeds. So something you do in one of the first several missions can come back to play a role in missions later on when you least expect it. I like this feature.
8) Instead of just dealing with the U.S. and USSR, you are now also dealing with China, Europe, and the Middle East. Now unlike the U.S. and USSR, they don't send you financial aid. But your relationship with them does have import/export ramifications.
9) In game challenges. One of the biggest new additions to Tropico 4 is in-game challenges that have an effect on your relationship with different factions or foreign countries. The USSR may want you to quietly send them exports of Iron. The environmentalists may want you to build new gardens, etc. These challenges appear as icons over buildings. You click it, read the challenge/reward, and decide if you want to take on the challenge or not. This helps you dictate the direction of your game and improve with factions your having problems gaining respect from.
10) You can now import! If you're lacking a resource on your island, you can still build an industry around it by importing. You can also dictate what countries to allow importing from and how much to import. It's a huge new feature for those dependent on Industry to win games.
11) Skill Upgrades. Before you would select a skill and the effect would be the same for every mission. Now when you select a skill/trait and complete a mission, you get an additional star next to that trait (up to 5 stars) which improves its abilities.
All put together, those are huge improvements that obviously took thousands of hours to program, much longer than it would have taken to create an "expansion pack". I wouldn't be surprised if the developers are put off by people saying it should have been an expansion. I'd hate to see the company stop developing the game altogether. There are many more new things I didn't mention like all new music and the Facebook and Twitter integration. Thank goodness you can turn the Facebook/Twitter integration off if you don't care for them. :-) There's the new Challenge editor, online leaderboards, etc.
Now, with that said, there are ways the game can be improved going forward:
1) They need to deal with the transportation issue. Roads are built the same way as in Tropico 3 and there are no new transportation methods to get citizens from point A to point B. Ideally the developers would add things like Buses or highways and also increase the SQUEEZE to get to the shore where the docks are. Yes, I said docks (plural). Unlike past Tropico games, you can now build multiple docks! Another thing I'd like to see is the ability to build bridges.
2) I'd like to see them allow you to work on multiple islands at once. The game screens/islands are getting huge. Why not make one that has four islands that you can develop at the same time on the same map?
3) One of the key features of Tropico is to have your own Swiss Bank Account (Slush Fund) that you can channel money to. While this is fun, it serves no purpose. You can't do anything in the game with that money. I'd like to see this flushed out so that El Presidente can buy things with the money. One idea is to be able to buy luxuries for yourself (i.e. yatch, plane, etc.). Another completely separate idea would to build your own Presidente Mansion. You have a piece of land set aside that is El Presidente's "home" away from the palace. You can continually buy upgrades with your Swiss Bank Account and watch your mansion grow. Being able to spend the money would make the game more fun and interactive.
I really like this game and hope that people buy it so that we see more expansions and versions in the future. I hate to see good games die (i.e. SimCity and the Roller Coaster Tycoon Series - although rumor is that Atari is in the pre-production stages of bringing the Roller Coaster Tycoon series back to the marketplace). Tropico 4 is definitely a five star game and does stand on its own.
Update: 10/3/2011 - This game is still a blast. One new thing I discovered is that Kalypso completely overhauled the map/game editor in Tropico 4, allowing people to make challenge missions that others can download and play. I created one titled "Texas Tea" and am getting ready to release another. While this is a great feature that keeps playability going after the game campaign, I must admit that I wish there was more content from Kalypso. There's a section in the Tropico 4 menu called "Extra Missions". When you click it, you get a message that says, "there are no extra missions." :( In addition to the campaign, there should have been some stand alone missions to play. However, I'm not complaining too loudly about that as I'm having fun creating my own missions for others to play.
Update: 10/17/2011 - I just released another custom challenge called "7 Flags Tropico" that includes "cut scenes" (via YouTube) and is the first part of a campaign.
I should also add that Tropico 4 has Facebook/Twitter integration. The reason I didn't post that in my original review is because it was the very first thing I disabled and thus I forgot it existed. If you want everyone knowing what El Presidente is doing or want to share pics of your island then this may be a feature you enjoy.