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Tropico 5: This revolution is more of a refinement

Hayden Dingman | May 23, 2014
Tropico 5 is still the best Caribbean dictator simulator on the market (whatever that means) and honestly one of the most refined city builders out there. However, the series has backed itself into a corner by choosing such a niche idea for a game—it's increasingly clear there's not a lot of ways for Tropico to evolve as a franchise.

Your colony starts out as an agrarian powerhouse, with plenty of plantations and ranches. This is just the way of things in colonial times. By the World War era, however, industry is far more important and you'll start building up a "downtown" area.

Because of your city's history, you'll find yourself in weird situations where there's a cattle ranch and a sugar plantation located next to your city's brand new hospital. You'll have to demolish the old and keep forcing farmers further and further from the city center—or, you know, just leave that plantation downtown forever.

It's the most interesting progression I've seen in a city-builder in a long time. Cities grow organically from one era to the next as you trash old buildings and rebuild.

I've seen you here before
Despite the new eras system, Tropico 5 feels...well, pretty similar to Tropico 4. That doesn't make it a bad game, and if you've never dipped into the franchise before then I highly recommend this latest entry.

But if you're a seasoned Tropico veteran with a fake beard and army hat you wear every time you load up Tropico 4, you won't find a ton of innovation here. This is a refinement on the previous game, which itself was a refinement on Tropico 3.

Eras, new art assets, a streamlined user interface—these are welcome changes, but nothing to get excited over. And once you figure out the era system, it works like any other tech tree in any other strategy game. It's just couched in a more realistic reason for progression.

The save system is also obnoxious. The game autosaves seemingly at random points. At one point in the campaign I lost an election and had to start over, but I couldn't just restart the level. I had to reload an old save. My options? Reload an autosave from about five seconds before losing the election, or reload an autosave from midway through the last level.

Needless to say, I never relied on the autosave system again. You'd expect it to at least save at the start of each campaign level, but no. I had to manually make that save every time. I'd say "It's not a big deal," but when I lost an hour of progress to this system for absolutely no reason you can bet it felt like a big deal. At the very least, I'd like to see a patch address that in the future.

Bottom line
Tropico 5 is still the best Caribbean dictator simulator on the market (whatever that means) and honestly one of the most refined city builders out there. However, the series has backed itself into a corner by choosing such a niche idea for a game—it's increasingly clear there's not a lot of ways for Tropico to evolve as a franchise.

 

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