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The return of El Presidente is a great triumph, but with perhaps one or two major flaws
Review (with Spoilers)
I started my interested in the series with Tropico 4 and spent hours building up my island while fending off factions seeking to impede my progress. With Tropico 5 my goals are no different, but the challenges are escalated as there are less clear ways to make the people happy, and you are tasked with more micromanagement. But being that I am El Presidente, surely a few obstacles can’t stop me right?
Characters & Story
Once more you are El Presidente, controlling an island and trying to make sure it stands the test of time. However, rather than international forces being your advisory, it is a group known as “The Order.” Though allies at first, your disagreement with their leader means traveling back in time to try to stop them. But, with an island to manage, the need to wrangle yourself from foreign control, and then this organization trying to stop you, will El Presidente prove himself the greatest of all time, or just a footnote in history?
Without a doubt, Tropico 5 is far more difficult, even on medium difficulty, than Tropico 4. In Tropico 4 I could establish a basic economy, get a jewelry factory, import gold, and pretty much be set for the rest of the mission. In this game, however, there are way too many problems, and obstacles, to ever get through a mission that easily. Part of the reason, which I hated, was that you can’t rely on any one building to suit the whole island’s needs. One high school covers around 8 students at a time, and even with upgrades they don’t graduate fast enough to really populate all your factories, so you have to build multiple high schools. The same goes for docks. In the past, you needed one dock and happy enough dock workers so that you could export $100,000+ at one time. Now, around $20,000 – $40,000 is the max a dock maybe able to export, without upgrades, forcing you to not only build more docks but consider where to build them, as well as the stuff they export.
Leading to another interesting addition which is the micromanagement of the game. For one, while there is a general export of excess materials, you are tasked with setting up trade ships which provide real income to your economy, as well as import ships to bring in supplies you need. For in this game, being that you are playing 4 eras, any finite source you have will be depleted by Modern Times if you don’t upgrade your mines, research certain technologies, and use certain edicts. Thus adding a new layer of difficulty for while Gold usually ran out quickly in Tropico 4, now everything has the potential to run out and potentially cripple your economy in the process.
As for the actual campaign, while I liked the storyline, I must admit I skipped through damn near every cut scene because they weren’t written in such a way where you really cared. Not to say the idea of going against what seems like an Illuminati organization wasn’t fun, but the story behind it just made me want to roll my eyes.
One thing I didn’t like off the bat was that the Almanac has been changed to the point it is a bit harder to understand how to make factions happy. Currently, all you get to know about factions is what constitution policies they agree with, as well as what edicts they may agree with. Otherwise, the almanac really gives you hardly any idea on how to make them happy, if just because it seems to want you to focus on the happiness of the population. With this, though, you have to assume what would make the more powerful factions happy based off past Tropicos, which isn’t a fool proof plan. Also, when it comes to foreign entities, being that you get more money if you and them have a good relationship, it sucks that the almanac doesn’t help you fully know how to please them.
What makes the almanac issue even worse is that the game doesn’t have a multitude of side missions which can help you boost your standing much either. For while you can build an embassy to boost relations with foreign entities, when it comes to factions, even when your standing is horrible, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to correct this.
Then, my final issue is that you can’t go through all four eras in one mission. In fact, you complete an era and then usually the mission ends and you jump to another island. Which for me was annoying since if you, as I stupidly did, play the same island back to back, the third time you are forced to play the 2nd island and then have to catch it up. To me, it would have been better to just have you use one island for Act I and another for Act II and then there would have been replay value in seeing if you could have survived with the other two islands provided.
I’m not a big multiplayer gamer, so honestly I didn’t even check out that aspect of the game. As for the single player experience, as fun as it was, there is a slight learning curve which the tutorial really doesn’t adequately help you with, and then with the issue of the almanac. While this can be mastered, it does take some fun out of things. But what makes this a rental is the campaign. As interesting as the story was, I wanted to fully experience, in one shot, going through the eras as challenges were thrown at me. And being that I am a single player type gamer, the fact that the campaign doesn’t present any type of replayability makes this a rental which you beat and return.