Tropico: Paradise Island Review

Paradise Island is an expansion that every Tropico fan will be pleased to own.

Tropico was one of the best strategy games last year. It took the familiar city-management-simulation genre and infused it with a great premise and an interesting political element. You not only had to preside over a Caribbean island, but you also had to deal with vastly opposing factions within your populace. Tropico had personality, charm, and a robust system of simulated individuals that could be coddled, terrorized, and manipulated in a variety of ways. And it was the first management game in which a certain subset of your population would never fully support you simply because you could choose to play as a fascist pop singer with a predilection for drink.

Tropico: Paradise Island adds a number of welcome new features to the original. The majority of the expansion's additions involve tourism: There are more types of hotels and attractions and even more types of tourists. But Paradise Island also fills in some gaps from the original game by introducing new edicts, buildings, music (another hour of excellent songs from Daniel Indart and Latin Music Specialists), and Presidente backgrounds and traits. Moreover, it fixes some minor problems and includes a slew of new and improved scenarios to challenge your ability to keep your people in line and your Swiss bank account brimming.

Paradise Island is a worthwhile purchase simply for its surface improvements to the core game. Building construction is noticeably faster, and canceling buildings now refunds the full price. Plus, more buildings can be rotated, and support graphs are shown before you must decide whether or not to hold elections. It doesn't fix all of them--roads are still next to useless, and you'll still have people taking yearlong vacations from their jobs. But if nothing else, Paradise Island is a great patch.

Most of its more substantial additions are just as great as its gameplay tweaks. Though there isn't much in the way of new industry or housing, the few additions are useful. You get one new industry building--a furniture factory that lets you make a better income from your preexisting lumber industry. Movie theaters are now available and provide a high entertainment rating. Condominiums, the new residential building, are higher-quality mass dwellings that can be used to house your people or as tourist time-shares. Entertainment gets a few new additions, including a movie theater and El Presidente's childhood home.

The most useful new building is the army base, which lets you amass a large military in a central location while providing housing, religion, and health care to its residents. The benefits of the base are numerous, but the most notable is that it lets you significantly increase your standing with the military faction on your island. It also ensures that average citizens aren't forced to stare at guard posts while they walk to the pub. Building the army base also lets you enact one of Paradise Island's new edicts: conscription. This removes the high school education requirement for soldiers. The other new edicts are just as good--for example, social security is expensive but increases your popularity and keeps retirees from living in shacks.

Other new edicts, the spring break package and the world geographic special, help attract tourists to your island. Most of Paradise Island's additions serve to make tourism a much more substantial part of the game. You get one new hotel type, the beach villa, and several new tourist attractions. These include a nature preserve, tennis courts, a miniature golf course, duty-free shops, and a marina. There are two new types of tourists--spring break tourists and ecotourists--as well as the addition of some Presidente traits, which help improve your tourism rating from the get-go. All of this helps create a much more diverse means of generating income through tourism, an element that was relatively underdeveloped in the original Tropico.

Many of the new scenarios will challenge your ability to attract tourists and their traveler's checks to your island, while others will have you defending against rebel attacks, rebuilding dilapidated economies, and much more. The scenarios make good use of the scripted events introduced in the v1.03 patch, often offering you interesting moral dilemmas that will improve your island's economy at uncertain cost or allow you to siphon needed money into your own coffers. Breakaway Games took these events one step further, adding random events such as storms, changes in the prices of goods, and diseases to the regular game. Unfortunately, these events don't seem well balanced. The damage done by storms is random and will occasionally destroy most of your structures, prices tend to drop much more than they rise, and a particularly devastating plague can ruin your island's productivity for years. These disasters can suddenly present huge challenges in a game in which keeping a balanced population and economy is already a high-wire act. Luckily, the frequency of random events can be adjusted or just disabled completely.

Though the focus is on tourism, the additions to the other areas of the game are just as notable, if not as numerous. Paradise Island is an expansion that every Tropico fan will be pleased to own. And if you're not a fan already, pick them both up and save yourself the return trip. Tropico was a great game, and Paradise Island does exactly what you want from an expansion--it makes it even better.

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The Bad

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