My experience with city builders dates back to the original SimCity. I’ve always enjoyed juggling the various factors that come with building, managing, and monitoring an entire population. Tropico is a series that I’ve dabbled with before, but with Tropico 6 on PS4, I’ve finally had a chance to really dive deep into this city builder experience.
For those who haven’t played one of these games, you play as El Presidente, the leader of an island nation called Tropico. Your goal is to build a thriving nation that stands the test of time, and one that keeps you as its leader. It’s a monumental task, so should you elect yourself as Tropico’s leader, or leave this country to its own devices? Let’s find out.
A City Builder That Keeps You Busy
Tropico 6 begins by allowing you to create your own custom El Presidente. As you reach new eras in history (leading up to the modern era), you unlock new options, but there’s some room to customize yourself from the get-go.
After that you have a few choices. You can dive into the campaign, try the sandbox, or run through the tutorials. I myself always like to do tutorials first in these types of games. Having had little experience with the prior entries in the series, Tropico 6 really caught me off guard with the sheer amount of things I had to learn.
Now, to be fair, these are all things that slowly become relevant in any given playthrough or mission. Even so, running through all of the tutorials is a monumental task. I spent several hours learning everything from basic menu navigation to economic adjustments, attending to factions and citizens, and even planning routes for public transportation.
I respect Tropico 6 for the sheer amount of granular detail you have across the numerous mechanics and gameplay systems, but for those who are new to the city builder genre, I could see this being almost immediately overwhelming.
That being said, there’s nothing forcing you to do each and every tutorial, and they are divided into separate chunks, but I think I would have preferred that they had been woven into the campaign so it wasn’t such an information overload from the moment I pressed start.
For example, coming fresh out of marathoning the game’s huge number of tutorials, the campaign’s first mission had a refreshingly small scope. Not only was it set in the earliest era, the setting also afforded me less options that I would have if I were to dive into the modern era. Organically introducing concepts and mechanics into the campaign could have made the laundry list of things to learn more digestible.
Again, your mileage may vary here, and I must stress that the game never forces you do the tutorials, much less all of them back-to-back, but I know there are other gamers out there like me who want the full scope of the title before they test their skills.
A typical session of Tropico 6 involves managing a wide range of factors in quick succession. Established things like power, food production, trade routes, and public transportation largely run themselves, but you’ll need to keep an eye on how your citizens are doing while also appeasing the various factions and superpowers if you wish to stay in power.
You can dive pretty deep into these systems, with an entire almanac dedicated to showing you granular data on a variety of topics like the ones mentioned above. You can even look at colored overlays to get a feel for things like the military strength in any given area. There’s no denying that there is a lot of data at your fingertips, but using it to take action is easier said than done.
The tutorials do a good job of explaining what most of the numbers and graphs mean, and how to improve certain situations, but odds are you’re not going to remember by the time you get to that kind of scenario in the game.
Combine this with an insane amount of options per building and in some cases, per citizen, and you have a recipe that can sometimes feel like too many cooks in the kitchen. When you click on a building for example, there are multiple tabs of information to go through. You can adjust the policies surrounding the building, the budget for it, and even individually hire or fire workers if that applies.
You can even dive into the profiles of those individual workers and see how they are doing. It’s detailed, yes, but it represents a web of information that quickly gets tangled when you have so many moving parts.
In my opinion, this level of granularity and micromanaging is either going to appeal to you in a big way, or it’s going to become too much to think about at once. I fell somewhere in the middle myself, mostly because I’m the kind of person who works a mentally taxing day job and has limited energy for complex strategies when I’m trying to unwind at the end of the day.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a complex experience like this, but I do feel like Tropico 6 could have done more to more seamlessly and consistently teach the player about it’s wide-reaching options and data.
All of that being said, let’s talk about how it plays on PS4. Being a title that found its origins on PC, the game uses a combination of menus that you navigate with the D-pad, and radial menus that categorize and showcase your various construction options or sub-menus.
When you first open the radial wheel in Tropico 6, you’ll get a visual idea of what I mean when I say this game is incredibly complex. The options in the base menu, let alone the ones you get when you select construction (which opens into numerous categories and even further sub-options), are more than I’ve seen in recent city builders I’ve played.
The radial wheel has often been the go-to option for bringing PC titles like this to console, and it works well here, but like many PC ports, the text is incredibly small on a 60+ inch TV screen. I managed to get around this by using the PS4’s “zoom” feature that you can turn on in the Accessibility area of the system settings, but it’s still worth noting that those who play from the couch will need to consider the fact that the text is incredibly small from a distance.
As a city builder, Tropico 6 largely succeeds by offering all of the options you would want from this type of experience (and plenty more), but the way that it presents all of this information can sometimes be overwhelming or confusing to players who want to fix a problem, but have nothing but data to use but pages and pages of data in their pursuit of a solution.
The console experience is also largely positive, even if radial menus aren’t the most ideal way to navigate through categories, menus, and sub-menus. Seasoned city builder players or fans of the Tropico series will probably settle right into Tropico 6.
Beginners to the series or genre may find themselves overwhelmed by all the options and menus, but in situations like this I would recommend playing the tutorial missions in chunks as you explore the campaign missions that offer a little more story and better pacing in how they dole out tasks.
Details Abound in This Island Paradise
Tropico 6 leverages its tropical setting to great effect on the PS4 Pro. The graphics look great from a distance, with plenty of vibrant color and impressive detail in the buildings. Zooming into the world even reveals a good amount of people and animations happening in day-to-day activities.
There are some rough edges here and there, but overall I was impressed by the amount of visuals fidelity and the steady frame rate as the nation gets bigger and more complex. The music, as you would expect, is upbeat and fits the caribbean feel of the game.
Overall, Tropico 6 is an experience practically bursting at the seams with mechanics and complexity. For a city builder, that is certainly a positive thing. It welcomes veterans with open arms, but those new to the series will need to take it slow if they wish to become the unquestioned leader of Tropico.
Final Score: 8.0/10
A copy of Tropico 6 was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 10/30/19