DEVELOPER: Limbic Entertainment
PUBLISHER: Kalypso Media
EXPECT TO PAY: $70 AUD ($80 AUD for the El Prez edn)

Found you! It’s been a long road, many months in the making (at least it has been in the hyper-sped-up game world). I’ve had to construct police stations, build prisons and even erect guard towers and security checkpoints; all of which erode my populace’s (false) sense of freedom. Let that sense of freedom slip too low and there’s a real risk of armed revolt, which would have to be put down by the police and the military, leading too – you guessed it – even less freedom. It’s a vicious cycle I’ve been careful to avoid. But now, this brief flirtation with disaster has paid-off. Towers, checkpoints and police have all worked in concert to identify one of my citizen’s secret roles: crime lord. This is one of the major players responsible for the crime-wave gripping parts of my tropical paradise. Now I could, with a presidential wave of my hand from palace headquarters, have this ne’er-do-well arrested. I could even have them locked in an asylum for ‘rehabilitation’ or assassinated (well, I could if I had bothered to invest in the necessary infrastructure). I could arrest them... or, I can bribe them and let them keep their liberty in exchange for $100 deposited into my private Swiss bank account each month. Decisions, decisions.

Welcome to the world of Tropico 6, where you get cast in the role of the most noble and virtuous El Presidente. Tasked with managing Tropico’s numerous small islands, you construct buildings, manufacture goods, export them and let the money roll in, all with one overarching goal: to stay in power. In true Machiavellian fashion, nothing else really matters: you can be benign, tyrannical, corrupt, or anything inbetween. Even running out of money is a temporary setback (resulting in delays to construction, and foreign aid hand-outs). While missions will require you to achieve certain goals for victory, defeat only ever comes when you’re ousted from power. Lose an election (which you can rig, but at the risk of civil unrest), irritate the superpowers enough that they declare war and invade, or fail to quash a revolt, and it’s game over.

City management is very hands-on in Tropico 6. Roads, buildings, basically any structure is under your control – including where and when it’s built, upgrades, wages, and number of staff. A good thing too, as it’s primarily by these that you can control and manipulate Tropico’s populace, politics and finances. Food distribution lacking? Build a grocery. Grocery out of supplies? Import or grow your own food. Crime too high for your purposes? Build police stations and prisons.

The number of systems (food, politics, religion, fun, living quality, jobs, education...) and how they interact can, at first, be daunting. Especially when you’re running a decent-sized island, with thousands of virtual citizens and hundreds of buildings. Fortunately, what could be a totally overwhelming task is made more than manageable by Tropico 6’s brilliant Almanac system. This give you an easy to understand and intuitive interface with all the data you need to run your island – right down to individual buildings and citizens. If you’ve got a building you need to modify the settings of, it’s so much easier to use the Almanac to find it directly, especially when you’ve got several of the same type and you can’t remember exactly where you placed the building in question. Coupled with a brilliant system of overlays – allowing you to easily see, amongst other things, the most fertile ground for your Banana Republic’s banana plantations – and the ability to pause or speed up time, means you can plan and play at your own pace.

Accompanying all of this is a light touch and fun sense of humour. Whether it’s the customisation options for El Presidente (I spent a few minutes getting him to resemble Groucho Marx in Duck Soup), the silly guidance from your second-in-command, the loyal Penultimo, or the crazy building upgrades, there’s sure to be something here that will put a grin on your face. (For example, you can steal Stonehenge – and other iconic landmarks – in order to boost your tourism revenue, and install ‘Pompous Bells’ in your churches, reducing the amount of times your citizens will spend there instead of working.) There are also plenty of islands and scenarios to try your hand at.

All in all, Tropico 6 is a fun, deep and enjoyable city simulator. If you’re a fan of the genre, it’s well worth your consideration. ■

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