Review: Tropico 5 (PS4)

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Title: Tropico 5
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (2.64 GB)
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Haemimont Games
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), €59.99 (EU), £49.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
Tropico 5 is also available on Xbox 360, PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

DLC Review(s) For This Game:
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This installment in the Tropico series is the first time it’s appeared on a PlayStation system and my first experience with this city-building and political simulator. My only other foray into the genre is the popular SimCity games on the PC.

Gameplay:
Becoming an evil warlord or benevolent ruler is the biggest choice in the game of Tropico, with factions, countries, and your own citizens all asking for different things it becomes a constant juggling act trying to keep everyone happy.

Almost every choice in the game has a beneficial and detrimental consequence, making it almost impossible to please everyone. As you play through the four different eras you’ll have to decide who to trade with, with whom to form an allegiance, and whether the new ranch you’re building should be for cattle, goats, pigs, or llamas.

Not forgetting to siphon some money into your personal Swiss bank account and to contemplate if you should kill, discredit, bribe, or arrest your opposition in the coming elections.

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The easy-going, relaxed look of the game hides a deep and complex system that produces a feeling of unrestrained power and control. There are so many choices, variables, and options that allow you to delve into the minutiae of each and every citizen, business, and even the finer details of the constitution if you so wish.

Some players could, for the most part, ignore many aspects of the intricate workings going on when you peer into the tabbed menus. They could get quite far into the game and enjoy every minute, building their little island town. Each mode in the game never really requires you to adjust or tinker with the finer details until you’ve made a fair amount of progress, and even then it seems to ease you in.

… it pulls you in and hours drift by …
For newcomers to the series, like me, I strongly suggest playing the tutorial before jumping into the Campaign, Mission, Sandbox, or Multiplayer modes. I should also suggest that newbies to the city-building genre shouldn’t hesitate to alter the economic and political difficulties to an easier setting and even turn the disasters off, at least for the first couple of games.

Controls are good and much better than I expected, my only complaint is that the roads that cannot be built in one square increments and annoyingly snap to junctions, so making small adjustments can be problematic. It even forced me on one or two occasions to demolish an entire section and place the road all over again just so it would accept the layout.

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Unlike the other popular city-building game, you cannot build on any kind of slope. You can only place a lonely road to the top of a hill with the hope that there is enough completely flat terrain to build on. You can have the game generate a random map based on a couple of options but sadly there is no way to alter the terrain yourself. So basically this game doesn’t allow you to be a God, mapping the earth as you see fit, just El Presidente.

Where Tropico excels is the way in which it pulls you in and hours drift by whilst you’re building, managing the happiness of your citizens, and protecting them from invasions and rebel uprisings. You’ll also be setting up trades with smugglers, pirates and empires. You might even issue an edict like the right to arms, a wealth tax, or a building permit where you skim a little off the top for that Swiss bank account.

… being voted out of power is a horrible moment …
That sneaky hidden account can be used across game modes and is tied to your customisable and upgradable dynasty. As you play, various incidents arise allowing you to gain a potential ruler which you then create and unleash into your game. You can even put them in a managerial role of a business you built or occasionally send them off to another country to study.

Tropico 5 has smatterings of humor in the comments from the advisors and information on the citizens. It keeps the game light-hearted and dilutes the serious political intrigue just enough to make it fun and enjoyable. For example the revolutionaries ask you to insult the King or face a revolt, doing the former allows you to pick the expletive out of a selection of three increasingly harsh remarks.

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Playing through the different eras and gaining independence, seeing the new buildings, technologies, and watching your town become a sprawling city is a delightful and engrossing experience. All the while keeping the majority of voters on your side can be nerve wracking at times, but seeing the percentage of voters in your camp drop too low and being voted out of power is a horrible moment, especially as it means game over and back to the main menu.

Even with my grumblings about the one or two things Tropico 5 gets wrong I still find myself enjoying this game as it gets many more things right. It feels more focused and keeps me engaged far better than its competitor can manage.

There are two last things I’d like to mention before I end this section, the first being the size of this game. I had to double-check as it’s only 2.64 GB which is tiny for what you get, gameplay wise. Second thing I always like to check when reviewing a PS4 game is Remote Play on the PlayStation Vita. It works perfectly with this game with one exception: the text is a little too small and can be hard to make out. Apart from that I really enjoy playing it on the handheld.

… it also frustrates me that every building looks identical …
Visuals:
From the smallest detail to the entire play area, Tropico 5 looks great. Zooming into a particular area can be fascinating, watching a woodcutter at work actually chopping a tree down and slowly changing the landscape over time, or a plantation’s crop grow, ripen, and then get harvested. Tropico 5 has a lush tropical landscape that is also pleasing from afar, I enjoy swooping the camera across the thick healthy green forests and out onto the beautiful blue sea as some gulls fly by.

There is a great little game engine that keeps it running at 1080p and 30FPS. It really shows when you pull the camera back and see a bustling city surrounded by countless trees rustling in the cool breeze and an inviting, tranquil ocean gently massaging the sun kissed golden beaches. All this without a screen tear or graphical glitch in sight makes you realize this game isn’t lacking in this department.

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When the game auto-saves it abruptly cuts to a full screen water-color picture of a Tropico city. While it looks pleasant enough the first couple of times it quickly becomes annoying and a jarring occurrence. Also it seems you can position some of the buildings facing in any direction and they don’t even have to be next to a road.

I know this is a largely cosmetic problem but one which I find absurd. Plus if I’m being completely honest (Editor’s Note: and you should be…) it also frustrates me that every building looks identical. Every house looks just like every other house and I cannot tell by looking if it’s vacant or the owners are poor or wealthy.

Audio:
A small collection of fun themed musical tracks fill the quiet moments but can easily be turned off if you want to listen to Spotify instead. There are several advisors that sound as stereotypical as their name and pictures implies. With some funny lines and suggestions I usually enjoy hearing what they have to say. Sadly not every paragraph of their pop-up is voiced, which means I sometimes have to pay attention and do some reading myself.

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Online/Multiplayer:
The game includes a good multiplayer mode where you can play together in co-op or against each other in opposing corners of the map. I didn’t spend too much time online but every moment played well and I didn’t notice any problems or issues. It’s a welcome mode with plenty of options and definitely adds to the longevity of the game.

Conclusion:
Tropico 5 is a solid and fun game on the PS4. Admittedly not being able to alter the terrain or build on any kind of slope really bothered me. Many people probably don’t care about the issues I had as most of them are purely cosmetic and don’t alter the fact that this is an enjoyable experience and a really good start to the series on PlayStation. It’s well worth your money and time.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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