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Retro Review: Tropico 4


There are many city building games out there, some of them better for example Impression Games “City Building” series  and others are worse. But not many of them are as much fun as the Tropico 4, developed by Haemimont Games. It is an older game, of course, and it does have a more recent sequel (Tropico 5 was released in 2014) but there is something unique about this one that makes it an endlessly interesting and entertaining choice. It is addictive, it has a great sense of humor, and it even has a lot of replay value. So, let’s dig in.


With every iteration, the gameplay of the Tropico series has become better – and much better since Haemimont took over the reins of the franchise. It has beautiful graphics – you can zoom into street level if you want, almost enough to see whether the Tropicans roaming the streets read an SMS or play Gaming Club online roulette on their phones (yes, there are smartphones, internet, and social networks in this game).

Tropico 4 has a number of “missions” where you start with an almost uninhabited island (you have your presidential palace, of course, a handful of basics like a garage, a construction office, and a dock, and one tenement for your residents) and you have to build a working society, complete with economy, from scratch. There are many things trying to hold you back – there are various factions on the island, all of them with their own views, policies, and demands, there are superpowers like the US, Europe, Russia, China, and the Middle East that you have to be on good terms with (or else), there are criminals, rebels, natural disasters, strikes, terrorists, and many other things you need to keep an eye on. Not to mention your own ministers that make big mistakes quite often.

Of course, you need to provide everything your people needs – food, shelter, work, education, healthcare, entertainment, to name just a few. You can make money by exporting pretty much anything, from canned fish to flavored rum and cigars, even weapons, cars, and electronics. You can build yourself a majestic mausoleum, a golden statue that gracefully rotates for everyone to see, and even a space program to put a Tropican on Mars. The game is pretty complex but easy to learn and play – and it is filled with jokes and humor all over the place.

You can choose to complete all the game’s 20 missions (plus 12 more in the Modern Times DLC) or choose an island and play in “sandbox” mode, without any goals defined.


The graphics of the game are halfway between Tropico 3 and Tropico 5. The environment is pretty realistic, with trees, grass, animals, and such, the buildings are believable, the people have faces, voices, and names, so it’s more than decent. The game has a pretty basic set of system requirements by today’s standards – it requires at least Shader Model 3.0 and DirectX 9.0c. If you are like me, you’ll probably play the game pretty zoomed out so you won’t notice the finer things – the natural light, the shadows of the trees swaying in the wind, the waves of the ocean, and the shadow of the clouds overhead. But they are done very well – trust me.


The background music of the game will make you feel like actually being on a tropical island. It is worth noting that the music is often interrupted by interviews and announcements – make sure to listen to them, as they are often hilarious. The voice acting is great, the accents are amazing, and El Presidente’s speeches are worth waiting for the election year.


If you prefer a tranquil and relaxing game over a high-speed racing game or FPS, give Tropico 4 a try. And you must also try it if you enjoy a game of Sim City or Civilization – it is a wonderful, hilarious twist on the city building genre. It is a single-player game, perfect to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon with.


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