Tropico has always been the city building sim for people who find others too sane and honest; instead of building services and infrastructure you build huge factories and secret service headquarters, instead of making civilians happy you instill them with fear, and instead of making the city prosperous you fill your foreign bank account - these morally dubious objectives are the fun of the game.
That’s no different in Tropico 6, the newest instalment in the franchise - but whether that’s because new developers Limbic Entertainment added to the original games in a faithful way, or because they didn’t add to the previous Tropico games at all, is the big question at the heart of the game’s quality.
In Tropico 6, as in all other Tropico games, you play as El Presidente, the dictator ruler of a Caribbean island nation, as you grow the country’s wealth and build up your town - and whether you do that by appeasing the people, or repressing them, is up to you.
In a technical and artistic sense the game is great - there’s a clear vision that runs from the aesthetic design to the music and mechanics, which creates the perfect joyfully nihilistic tone you’d need for such a subject matter, and we didn’t run into any bugs in our time with the game, other than the odd frame rate lag.
New features in Tropico 6 include the ability to customise your dictator’s appearance and palace, the addition of ‘raids’ in which you can instruct your secret service to embark on missions for extra resources, and the inclusion of extra islands on each map, which you can link up via boat services, tunnels or bridges.
This latter feature is the most interesting, as the other islands can have different features or reasons to colonise them, creating an Anno 1404-like situation in which you create an archipelago and an infrastructure to support it, all to benefit the mainland. This brings the biggest gameplay changes, as expansion is now a bigger part of your objective.
A slight geography change is the biggest new feature to a game from a long-running franchise, despite the developers being fresh blood - the main problem with Tropico 6 is that it just doesn’t feel enough like a departure from its numerous predecessors. It has the same music, the same ‘quirky’ tone, and the same mechanics and systems.
That’s not to say it’s a bad game - far from it, the gleeful and anarchic fun is translated as well from the other games - but it doesn’t feel as much of a new game as it needed to to be truly perfect.