We Just Played Tropico 4

We return to the islands of Tropico to test our skills as a tropical dictator in Tropico 4.

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Tropico 4 is a real-time strategy game loaded with sand, surf, and simulation. After seeing the game at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, we finally got the chance to try our hand at Caribbean island management. Thankfully, we didn't run into the catastrophic disasters that were hinted at during our E3 demo, but we did attempt to brave the unsteady tides of island politics.

If you want to produce more expensive goods you'll need to educate your populace.
If you want to produce more expensive goods you'll need to educate your populace.

While Tropico 3 may have left some players feeling lost after its shallow tutorial, Tropico 4 wasted no expense with its extensive, five-part tutorial. From building a simple farm to analyzing an island's economic infrastructure, the tutorial left us feeling ready to take on whatever the game could throw at us. Our first, and perhaps most important, task as ruler was deciding on our avatar. The list included historic figures such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, as well as more-exotic characters, such as Voodoo Pizzaman. The decision was obvious. Dressed with a coat and top hat, Pizzaman was a capitalist and hotel tycoon whose political leanings would win us some points with the Americans, as well as hurt our standing with the Soviets.

When we arrived on the scene, the island city of St. Clara was in pretty bad shape. Only the most basic economic infrastructure was in place and most of the citizen's needs weren't being addressed at all. That meant we needed to get some tenement housing and corn farms up as soon as possible. While we held ultimate power, our advisers were always eager to help direct that power toward one project or another by offering numerous missions. In this case, our economic adviser suggested we either convert or build an extra farm to produce tobacco, which our city could then export for profit. Doing so would not only fetch us a cash reward for completing this mission, but it would also further improve our standing with the United States, thus affording us even more financial aid in the future.

With the basics covered, we flipped open the almanac to take a closer look at the condition of our citizens. This tome detailed everything that was happening in our city, from our standing with the city's numerous political factions to our monetary earnings. Looking under the people tab called up a list of all the factors that influence the mood of our citizens. There were noticeable improvements in food and housing, but health care was in the red. To further reinforce this issue, one of our advisers called us up just as we exited the almanac to request that we build a clinic or two. However, to staff the clinic, we would have to pay a little extra and hire some foreign doctors because we lacked the educational facilities to produce our own.

Not having any higher education also hurt our chances of finding any good candidates to staff our ministry. Of the five minister slots available, we were only able to fill two of them with people who weren't cowardly or dumb as a brick. Having a minister of the interior let us issue edicts, for a small fee, on issues of environment (anti-littering policy) and personal privacy (wiretapping). We ended up forgoing all other options and went straight for the gold by issuing a special building permit edict, which would slightly increase the cost of constructing future buildings but also drop a steady stream of money into our private Swiss bank account.

Numerous advisers and other political leaders will give you special missions to complete.
Numerous advisers and other political leaders will give you special missions to complete.

Despite its comedic trappings, Tropico 4 looks like it's upholding the deep strategic elements of its predecessors. Balancing your political relations both at home and abroad, as well as building and maintaining a strong economy, is still a very daunting task. You can fill the shoes of El Presidente yourself when Tropico 4 is released August 30 on the Xbox 360 and PC.

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