Kalypso Media



Haemimont Games



T (Teen)



October 20, 2009



- Good consistent visual style

- Nice sampler of Latin tunes

- Multiple aids for building placement



- Music selection gets repetitive after a while

- Lack of visual feedback on certain actions in game

- Mediocre sound effects and voice acting



Review: Tropico (PC)

Review: Trine (PC)

Review: Civilization IV (PC)



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Tropico 3

Score: 6.5 / 10


Back when the Cold War was in full force, most people would have looked to Europe as the focal point for potential hostilities and shadowy duels between the CIA and KGB.  The region of the Caribbean wasn't what most people would have thought was a potential hotbed of low intensity conflict or subtle spy games.  In fact, most people would have told you that, with the exception of Cuba and Haiti, the Caribbean was a pretty quiet place during the Cold War.  In Tropico 3, you have the chance to play things out a little differently.


tropico 3          tropico 3


The third entry in the Tropico series puts you in charge of a Caribbean island as any one of several historical dictators and Cold War strongmen from Fidel Castro to Augusto Pinochet to Eva Peron.  Playing through the campaign, you're faced with a different scenario on each new island that you rule over with different primary


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objectives and multiple bonus objectives that appear as you progress further into the scenario.  You must balance the basic needs of the people for food, shelter, and decent medical care with their more personal demands such as job satisfaction, religious freedom, and general human rights.  Various factions on and off the island affect how well you do your job, how much money you pull in for the country,


and how much you can sock away in your Swiss bank account.  If the campaign doesn't grab you, or you have some strange aversion to using a historical dictator as your alter ego, there are options for a randomized sandbox and for creating your own personal dictator with his or her own strengths and flaws.


From a visual standpoint, Tropico 3 looks decent.  The architecture for the buildings in the game has a predominant Spanish flavor, which is perfectly fine, and there all manner of little touches like the cars that bustle through the island to help sell the concept that the game is taking place during the Cold War.  Character models are fairly well done but they're not superdetailed, which works just fine for a SimCity-style game of this sort.  While I can understand making the character models fit into a general design based on the occupation a Tropican currently has, the amount of variety could have been improved on skin textures.  There wasn't much in the way of problems like texture cracking or collision problems that I could make out.  The game had some neat weather effects here and there but there wasn't a day/night cycle which would have really made buildings like the cabaret and night clubs really pop visually.


The game's audio elements are generally underwhelming.  The soundtrack for the game does have some nice tunes, and one or two of them are definitely catchy, but I think I would have liked a larger playlist with more variety, some reggae and calypso beats and more diversity in the Latin stuff.  The sound effects are serviceable but they feel a little flat.  Likewise, the voice acting in the game is exceedingly sparse.  Aside from the DJ who makes radio announcements every so often when certain game events happen, there's only a few canned responses for the sim citizens of Tropico and some very obvious cut-and-paste clips when your despotic alter ego makes a speech prior to an election.


tropico 3          tropico 3


Gameplay in Tropico 3 doesn't quite hit the sweet spot of "easy to learn, difficult to master."  On the plus side of things, you have several tools at your disposal through overlays to help better focus your efforts when it comes to setting up buildings to exploit the island's natural resources or managing crime.  This is particularly helpful when you're trying to set up farms for different kinds of crops and you need to get the right ones in place.  On the minus side, you seem to go through a lot of trial-and-error and multiple restarts of each scenario because you didn't quite get things laid out like you wanted the first time, or even the first few times, and it becomes a practical impossibility to just level everything and start over short of a scenario restart.


While the sim citizens of Tropico have various needs modeled, there seems to be a lack of prioritization of how those needs get fulfilled, and often to the detriment of building your island empire.  On several occasions, building projects might go an entire game year or more without being completed or even started for no discernible reason, even when there was plenty of money in the treasury and the construction priority was set to high.


Another problem seems to be that there's a lack of visual feedback in the game.  Sure, when rebels attempt to storm the palace and empty a clip into your own presidential self, it's pretty obvious.  But what about when you execute some of the special policy actions in the game?  If I blow a few grand on Mardi Gras celebrations, I want to see parades in the street with colorfully dressed simizens and floats.  If I decide to host the Pan-Am Games, I want to see at least some of the competitions.  And if I target my political enemies for assassination by my secret police, there had better be gunmen on grassy knolls taking potshots till they get the job done.  I don't want to just hear about any of that through a radio announcement by smarmy DJ Juanito.


Tropico 3 isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination.  But for some reason, it takes all the potential fun out of being a Caribbean dictator.  The tongue-in-cheek tone of the game almost seems to mock you as much as it mocks the real life despots of the Cold War.  If you can shrug that off, you'll find a decent little sim.


- Axel Cushing

(November 23, 2009)