GamesCom 2009: Tropico 3 Hands On Preview - Rule The Roost
Written Friday, August 28, 2009 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
Deep down we’ve all dreamt of running our own little empire but the 360 has hardly been awash with games that can turn that dream into reality, other than the rather watered down Civilisation Revolution of course. Thankfully that trend appears set to end as Tropico 3 looks set to fill all of your dictator style fantasies and then some, however the question over how well a PC interface will translate to the 360 controller is one that will never go away.
For those thinking that the 360 game will just be a bad port of the PC version, then let us reassure you that nothing could be further from the truth. After having a hands on with both versions – side by side – the only difference were the marginally better resolutions on the PC which, considering it was running on the best technology available, was only to be expected. That aside, the game was identical on both platforms, a point that the developers were keen to stress was the goal from the outset.
Right from the off there are no pretensions; you are a communist dictator, pure and simple. The most obvious inspiration would be Cuba, but frankly the game plays more on the ideals of communism than any set country or person. Your goal is simply to run your island as you see fit by building up dwellings, factories and entertainment venues in a bid to keep your residents happy and also to attract foreign investment and tourists. Like similar games of its ilk there is no set end game as you are free to keep on running your own little paradise for as long as you like, although the overriding goal is to siphon off enough money from the island’s budget to flee into retirement. Thankfully different challenge modes can set you specific targets to hit so that you are not entirely left to your own devices; so you may be required to export a set amount of produce or attract a certain amount of tourists.
As you begin the game you can tailor your dictator the way you see fit, with a number of different looks and attributes. The beauty here is that the background you choose for your character can have a dramatic influence on the way you play. So if you decide that you went to Yale, you will have good links with the US that means they can provide financial aid or military assistance. Conversely you could have gone to Moscow, meaning you have Russian assistance, but you run the risk of US aggression. There are a number of choices and they all impact on how you are viewed by the populace and the world in general. A fun touch is the fact that your dictator will also have weaknesses as well, so they might be a notorious womaniser leading to bad feelings from the ladies living on your island, or maybe you will be a gambling addict leading to your money revenues being reclaimed to pay off your debts. It makes your character more of a real person just knowing that they have actual strengths and weaknesses.
Playing the game is actually very intuitive and the controls are remarkably flexible, with most of the menus mapped to specific buttons. So the bumpers will bring up the building wheel, then you can zoom into the populace and select individual members to see how happy they are and what skills they possess. You can design the layout of your island from the off, including its general size and the range of mountains and resources it has. Then you start off with your own palace and a few slums for your residents, after which, it is up to you to do as you see fit. You can clear out the slums and build more attractive housing for your tenants, or you could ignore their needs altogether and build holiday villas for tourists. For any project you will need income so you will need to build farms to keep people fed, mines to dig for metals (precious or otherwise) and businesses to keep the money flowing in. The whole game is a careful balancing act, as you need to keep a fine line between having happy natives and also doing well enough to attract foreign investment and tourists (which is where the real money is at). To build an airport you need materials, but to get those materials you need mines, and to get the workers for that mine you will need decent accommodation. It is a case of setting your priorities and sticking to them.
Do not assume that your life is all hard work though, as you are a dictator after all. So if things are not going to your liking then you can bribe, bully or threaten people to get things done a bit faster. The ability to see people’s thoughts also means you can see who is plotting against you and who is impressed with how you are running things. Obviously you need to encourage people to support your leadership, but should they want to get rid of you then you can beat them to the punch. With the secret police, indiscriminate arrests and hitmen at your disposal, there should be no one to stand in your way.
With a tyrannical twist on the usual god simulator, this game promises to offer plenty of fun, though how many people will be lured away from the next Call of Duty or Halo game to play it is another question. It is a genre that hasn’t exactly flourished on the 360, but this game is certainly one that strategy fans should give a chance when it lands on October 16th this year.