It’s re-election time for El Presidente! There will be plenty of baby kissing, hand shaking and militant rebellions this time of year, as Tropico 6 finally makes its way to PS4. The PC stalwart has patiently waited since March to launch an all-out assault on the console, and its high time that we get the chance to see what the newest installment in the quirky world-building/dominating simulation has in store.
It’s Good to be the King
Running a country is fucking hard. Pure and simple. Contrary to what you would expect, at least based on the current political climate, not everyone’s cut out to run the world. This also applies directly to the world of Tropico 6. Before I go too far down the rabbit hole, it’s important to call out that this is a strategy game that has more layers than an onion sporting a bullet-proof vest. It takes a special kind of broken person, present company included, to be able to appreciate a title of this complexity without finding it overwhelmingly off-putting. Thankfully the game features plenty of humor to help dull the edge of its sharp learning curve.
The series of tutorials do a very solid job of introducing players to the game’s shockingly nuanced and complex mechanics. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s the ability to dive another level deeper. Not impressed with the production levels at a factory? Maybe it’s time to raise salaries, in hope of improving performance. On the other hand, you could also take a look at the location of the factory, relative to the raw materials being produced. Maybe relocating to a more centralized location could improve the turn-around time? Or there’s always the more brute force approach where you look for the single employee with the highest morale, shit-can them, eliminate their position, and warn the others that they’re next if performance doesn’t improve. The firings will continue until morale improves! Thankfully that’s not how things work in real life, right? The possibilities are seemingly as limitless as the player’s sadistic streak.
These branching paths are what makes the tutorials so necessary. The problem is, they throw so much out there in such a short period of time that it’s damn near impossible to wrap your brain around every potential micromanagement opportunity. Furthermore, for every mechanic that is highlighted in this extensive walkthrough, it feels like there are two more levels of complexity that go unexplained. Essentially, the only way to fully understand how all of these systems work together is to trial-and-error your way through the campaign, with an emphasis on the error side of the coin.
Let’s Do the Time Warp!
Bypassing the route of a traditional narrative structure, the game focuses around providing a series of scenarios, with very specifically targeted outcomes. Apparently El Presidente is far older than he appears, because the collection of scenes play out across numerous eras of world history. Due to this, the action never gets repetitive enough to fully grow stale. This isn’t to say that there’s a tremendous difference in the mechanics between these unique time periods, but the presentation is just different enough to keep the gameplay fresh. There also seems to be some form of randomly generated geography at play, which further augments the replayability of each set of missions.
The key to succeeding across the board is to decide how you want to lead your little corner of the globe and then stick with it. Though there are opportunities to lead virtuously, it certainly seems like things are skewed towards being a world-class dick…tator. Even when I was attempting to stick to the straight and narrow, it still felt like I was being steered towards the dark side, kicking and screaming the entire way. (Editor’s Note: Maybe it’s designed to be a reflection of real-life politics?) Luckily this also plays into the humor of the game, otherwise it would be depressing beyond recognition. If you’re looking to get the most out of this tropical vacation it’s probably best to start out by going all-in on the assholery. Changing course mid-session is a recipe for disaster.
Regardless of what the objectives explicitly spell out at the start of each mission, there’s a single undocumented mandate that’s perpetually simmering in the background: Survival. While obviously you want to remain above ground, in this case you want to do everything in your power to ensure the continuation of your regime. Trying to satiate all of the groups that are loudly calling for your head on a pike is nigh impossible, so I found a better approach to be siding with the sides that had the biggest guns and hoping for the best.
Spinning Out of Control
I may have been facing constant opposition from both mission objectives and the rising tides of political aggression, but one area where I wasn’t expecting to face so much push-back were with the controls. On one side of the coin was the actual “building” UI, which was as smooth as silk, and made a surprisingly straightforward transition to the living room configuration. Navigating menus were elegant enough, especially when you consider the overall complexity of the mechanics, and proved to be a reasonable enough facsimile to a keyboard and mouse.
However, the same cannot be said for the camera controls, which were both erratic and inconsistent. In order to be able to place units on the map, there needed to be a standard perspective used. The problem was that regardless of the scenario, it seemed like the camera chose the least helpful angle and distance from the action possible. Especially when attempting to place structures, where proper location tends to be critical, this proved to be distracting enough to pull me out of the experience damn-near every time. Ultimately you end up spending far too much time babysitting the camera.
Though the wonky perspectives were irritating, they did highlight the fantastic visuals. When fully zoomed out, the vistas and color palette really pop in HD. The same cannot be said for the texture work, however. When focusing in on the finer details of environmental objects, this is where the colors on this canvas begin to get a little bit fuzzy, in both the literal and figurative sense. Look no further than the character creation screen to see this issue take focus, front and center.
Despite some of its difficulties, Tropico 6 is a perfectly adequate port of an impressively layered and comically disarming PC experience. It isn’t going to be lighting the world on fire, as far as innovation is concerned, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see El Presidente try it on the forts of his opposition. If you’ve been hankering for the next chance to embrace your inner fascist, this should be a fantastic way to satiate the bloodlust.
Tropico 6 review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.