Tropico 3 Review

I played the original Tropico and I was hooked. The game was a grand mix of economic simulation, political simulation, city builder and with a sprinkling of RPG-elements. Add to that it is set in the Carribean during the Cold War and its tongue-in-cheek humour, and you've got yourselves a classic. Tropico 3 aims to recreate the experience of the original by updating the graphics engine and also adding a few extra touches in the gameplay department. Does Tropico 3 do the original justice? Read more to find out.

Sound (4/5)
The ambient sounds are great really capturing the essence of the Carribean islands. Alerts about the situation of the island are given via a radio DJ called Juanito, which I personally think is great, since it furthers the immersion but he can understandably get annoying at times (like all radio hosts - my apologies to the radio hosts out there ;)). When you compile your speeches the subject matter is even played on the radio (e.g. if you promise to build a High School, that's what will be broadcast on the radio).

Music (4/5)
The music isn't as exceptional as the original and doesn't quite capture the Buena Vista Social Club style, but it's still pretty good and definitely got a Latin American sound to it.

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics have improved over the original by leaps and bounds. The game is now fully 3D whilst still maintaining lots of detail. You can zoom in right onto street level to see what your citizens are up to, or zoom out to maximum and see the entire island from the sky.

Tropico 3 Game Setup Video

Plot (5/5)
The setting for this game, just like the original, is quite unique in gaming - I don't think there are many games out there which allow you to be dictator of a Carribean Island during the Cold War! Many of the edicts are related to real life events (e.g. the releasing of prisoners from Cuba which are sent "off to Florida!", the Pope's visit to Cuba, securing alliances with superpowers etc.) and it really makes you feel like you're recreating history on your own little corner of paradise (or "paradise" as the case may be ;)).

There have been many improvements to gameplay, but first, I'll explain to the newcomers what Tropico 3 is all about.

The game is a mixture of an economic/political/city-building simulation and sees you taking the role as El Presidente of a banana republic in the Carribean. Like SimCity games, what you do in the game is pretty open-ended (provided you're not playing a scenario). You can generate income in the game from an agricultural industry, a mining industry, a manufacturing industry or from tourism. With the money you get you can either pay it in providing human services that helps the lives of the people or you can oppress them by spending on the police and Army. All the while you'll be trying to balance the needs of various factions on the island who react to your every action - and certain factions, i.e. the Communists and Capitalists, have sway over how the USSR and USA view you, respectively. Make any superpower mad and you could face an invasion!

Okay in terms of new features, well you no longer build paths in Tropico 3 but instead build roads since your citizens now all have motor vehicles. This allows them to get around the island much quicker provided you place garages around as well (otherwise they have to resort good ol' fashioned walking). However, this also brings new challenges since densely populated areas will eventually have overloaded garages (which means people will resort to walking) and too much cars on the road leads to traffic jams, which could potentially bring your economy to a screaming halt if it gets too bad - this is usually resolved by providing more roads however. The game also introduces election speeches which get played on the radio! But more importantly they can temporarily sway support in your favour that allows you to easily win elections (perhaps a bit too easily, as is mentioned in the next paragraph). Finally, you can now micromanage your avatar to visit buildings which has various effects: visiting a pub will increase its service level for example, whilst visiting an armoury will have you award a general with a medal increasing his respect for you. Your avatar can also quell rioters and fight rebels!

On the downside, the game actually feels a little bit too easy when compared with the original. In the original I remember rarely ever actually surviving more than a couple of elections before being kicked off the island, whereas in Tropico 3, besides the final scenario, the others were quite simple including sandbox play. Also one sadly missed feature is the ending cinematic - Tropico 3 doesn't have one. In Tropico the ending cinematic was great since it would outline your achievements, which factions liked you the most and which of those didn't. It was a great way to give an overview of how you fared. I suppose they got rid of it in Tropico 3 due to it being incompatible with some of the scenario plots...

Tropico 3 Gameplay Video - Part 1

Replayability (4/5)
Having more features and allowing you to customise your avatar even more than the original results in the game being an improvement in replayability on the original (even if it doesn't have the choice cutscene at the end). There is even a scenario editor you can use to make your own challenges, however I found it was quite confusing and not very user-friendly - so you'll need lots of help if you want to make heads or tails of it!

Polish (2/5)
The game isn't too bad in the polish department, although the interface does have issues. For example, the mouse-wheel is usually used to zoom in and zoom out but when it comes to placing buildings, it somehow switches the mousewheel to rotate the direction of the building with you stuck on the zoom level you were last on. A bit annoying at times.

Also my game crashes occasionally when submitting islands, whilst other times it doesn't. I have no idea why this occurs but I suspect perhaps the server which stores all that data is perhaps down the times I've tried to submit and it crashes. When I asked about the issue I got no support at all from Kalypso Media which is a definite thumbs down.

Finally, it seems that Haemimont Games have forgotten about the female El Presidentes out there. Yes you can get a female avatar but firstly she has less customisation options in terms of appearance, she also gets the "Womanizer" trait just like her male counterpart, and her speeches are exactly the same as the male El Presidente, which brings into question her sexuality as she has a preference for "the ladies" - so not a problem if you want to roleplay a lesbian, but not so much if you don't!

Tropico 3 Gameplay Video - Part 2

Overall - 72%
While Tropico 3 makes some great improvements on the original it does cut back in some areas and it's not quite as polished. Still if you've ever wanted to try your hand at being Fidel Castro, this is the best game for it.

If you want to get the game, you can check out your purchasing options here at the official website.