Gaming Frequencies: Tropico 6 | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Gaming Frequencies: Tropico 6

Sep 27, 2019 By Austin Trunick
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In the ten years since the console debut of Kalypso’s “city building/dictator simulator” Tropico, the game seems to have become frighteningly less far-fetched. (Indeed, the comic El Presidente promises to “make Tropico even greater” in the game’s announcement trailer.) It feels like only a matter of time before the franchise has players overseeing one of the world’s superpowers rather than its fictional banana republic. In that same span of time, though, the series has continued to improve upon its gameplay and add new features for players to explore and experiment with.

If you’re new to the series, Tropico is a very tongue-in-cheek approach to the city building genre. Players are tasked with leading a small, Caribbean island from the colonial period through the modern era. You’ll build a local industry, establish a trading economy, and gradually build up your military to the point where you’re strong enough to declare independence from your European overlords. As the years (and decades) go by, you’ll have to jockey for the favor of the various island factions who desire conflicting things from their leader, and who will vote you out of office (or stage a full-blown coup) to remove you from power if you can’t appease a majority of your citizens. You’ll also find yourself torn between the big kahuna countries of the world, each of whom want to impose their specific ideals on you – or leverage your trade goods against their enemies.

That all sounds serious, but it doesn’t feel that way when you play the game. Tropico handles world politics in a silly way, portraying opposing leaders as cartoonish caricatures who would be more at home in the War Room of Dr. Strangelove than at any real-world global summit. Nearly every piece of dialogue or box of text contains at least one joke, lending Tropico more laugh-out-loud moments than any other simulation game we’ve played.

The other core gimmick of Tropico is that you’re allowed to play a complete despot. While the game does give you the option to go about things squarely and democratically, players can take the downright evil route when they so desire. You can cancel elections, imprison or assassinate dissidents, or funnel government money into your private, off-shore bank accounts. If you do this, though, you’ll need to be prepared for blowback, and ready to squash any armed uprising that result from your actions.

As someone who has always played Tropico on consoles going back to Tropico 3 (2009), I was happy to find how much the controls have been re-tooled with the console player in mind. Menus now branch without the need to hold any buttons down, and the default mapping of commands is the most intuitive it’s ever been. Even with the graphical improvements, the game ran smoothly in our experience on the Xbox One without any of the prohibitive slowdown that’s common in many similar, sprawling simulation games. The console port certainly doesn’t feel like an afterthought, and we appreciate that. This is the best a Tropico game has ever played on a console.

Tropico 6 takes the familiar gameplay of the prior entry and significantly expands on it. One of the new elements is the opportunity to build across multiple islands. Where in the past you were contained to a single piece of land surrounded by water, now you’ll find maps containing entire archipelagos. Islands will host different resources for your exploitation, but will require separate infrastructures to fully make use of them. This logistical juggling presents a new challenge, and a fun one at that.

The game also places a greater emphasis on piracy, or in making covert operations when the era advances into later periods. One of the sillier raids you can send your pirates on is stealing world landmarks from other nations, like you’re Carmen Sandiego. Add this on top of the series’ widest selection of buildings to construct and there’s more than enough reason for someone who owns and liked Tropico 5 to buy into this latest sequel.

Finally, we want to talk about Tropico 6’s sound design, which is the reason why we’re highlighting the game as part of our Gaming Frequencies column. The series has always featured an upbeat, salsa-flavored soundtrack, but its true star is the voice acting. “Radio Tropico” is back, which provides a humorous play-by-play on many of the bigger events in your game. World leaders, advisors, ambassadors, and faction heads are all mostly voiced, too, giving the game a sizeable voice cast who all do a good job carrying on Tropico 6’s humorous tone.

Tropico 6 is now available on Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Mac – you can find purchase information at the link below. 



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