Luxurious islands separated by a vibrant salty sea and exotic trees complimenting the shores. Mountains are packed with rocks, surrounding a warm volcano, with some around a plunging waterfall. Mildly happy homeless people wander these islands, desperate for El Presidente to construct some buildings for shelter. I am that Presidente of Tropico 6, and I was ready to bring happiness to my people.
When I got the chance to play a few hours of Tropico 6, I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with the initial gameplay because previous titles have never really stuck with me. At least, not in the same way that management titles such as Theme Hospital or Rome: Total War did. Hell, I even lost hours to Caesar 3 back in the day. With the beta of Tropico 6, I had already decided I was going to fail by the time the main menu loaded up.
After quickly going through some of the intricate tutorials that cover the building system, politics, economy, and a range of other things, I jumped into the story with confidence. As originally expected, everything I had learned started overlapping in my mind and I resorted to treating the game like Age of Empires II. Suddenly, I thought I could grow new people in my palace, use sheep to traverse the land, and get my army and have them linger around my peasants.
After getting my bearings, I realized I had 90 homeless residents, and no one seemed to be building my Rum Distillery no matter what I tried. After about half an hour of trying to get my distillery built, I took a deep breath, closed the story campaign, and decided to see how far I could push myself in Sandbox mode instead. I chose to start from the Colonial era with everything set as default, except with unlimited funds. I now had unlimited riches to help me see if I could build and sustain a working city without the worry of finances.
Sure, that probably takes away the fun of juggling all the various elements that make Tropico 6 a Tropico title, but I was determined to build a pretty city with happy people. I thought it might also show me how easy the title is to just jump right in with little knowledge.
Straight away I built up a landing bay with a nearby tavern and a few bunkhouses. Suddenly I assumed I’d need a lot of wood at some point, so I began construction of a logging camp. With my unlimited cash, I started placing down some of the main buildings available for the colonial era: teamster ports, a library, plantations, more bunkhouses, and country houses were among the many I placed. I was looking through panels to see what upgrades were available for those buildings, and even adjusted living arrangements. I wanted the buildings the best they could be for my wonderful citizens.
As I grew more plantations and arranged trade routes with the Crown, I grew excited to eventually see the first election day and was fairly confident I’d win. But then I realized that while I had solved the mass unemployment situation, I seemed to have well over 100 homeless people on my islands. How was this possible!? I’d made more than enough bunkhouses, mansions, and country houses to suit various financial living situations.
The overall happiness was sat at 39%, which seemed low, but I’d placed cheap Opera houses, a big park, and taverns near every village. There was no threat of rebels, and my faction standings weren’t too bad. It was becoming confusing: everything in my Almanac was telling me I was doing badly, but my overall support was at 100%.
In a hurried haze, I started to construct various ranches and even more plantations in the hope that increasing food supplies would somehow help my miserable population. I had placed so many houses to the point that I had built a cul-de-sac of bunkhouses and mansions. It didn’t matter: Lord Roger Wyndham popped up and told me I’d failed and was being kicked out of my palace.
I reloaded the checkpoint with only a few months to go and tried all I could to stay in power. I built more ports, more working environments, more trade routes: anything to complete the trade route with the Crown and get extra time. Every time though, Lord Wyndham appeared to kick me out while my trade route with the Crown remained unfulfilled.
Dragging my fingers down my face with frustration, I waited for a new sandbox map to load, the same settings as before: unlimited money, default everything else. This time I figured I’d pause the game and build a load of stuff before resuming time. So I got busy.
I set up a housing district, a small city, another island focused on lumber and more housing, another island focused on livestock and mining. I was on fire, I was a raging missile of productivity. I was positive and satisfied enough to hit resume and let the world run its course.
I watched as the tiny people hobbled along to their jobs with free meals waiting for them at work. I smiled at the busy sea as pirate ships left to loot and other ships brought supplies. I gave myself a complimentary pat on the back as I watched my coffee supply get boarded onto a trade ship for the Crown. Things were going well from a glance. I was at 100% approval, no one was unemployed, but there were still homeless people. What on earth was going on?
I got carried away building more houses and spent ages trying to battle with the awkward road placement system in Tropico 6 that I didn’t realize my time at the palace was running short. For some reason, like the last attempt, the Crown trade route wasn’t being fulfilled. I started placing more plantations and opened more trade routes with the Crown, but I had only months left in the palace.
I expected I’d be kicked out by that pretentious Lord Snob, so I went berserk in my last months at my Tropico 6 haven. Something within me since my first failed attempt had been growing, scratching at the walls of my defeated exterior. Something I didn’t expect to see set free, until this very moment came forth.
I assigned a large number of workers to be killed, then filled their roles with hired immigrant workers so more people would remain unemployed. I then fired a few people who were sitting comfy at their homes, in the hopes that they’d be kicked to the curb for not being able to pay rent. I redacted my edict for free food at work and made everyone have to pay, knowing they’d starve. My approval started to sink, but in my final months I wreaked havoc and it felt weirdly good.
My eyes lit up as I started demolishing some homes, thinking that more homeless people would be good for the Cold War era when tourists can finally visit. I felt evil, I felt ruthless, and then I sat watching the last eight months go down, waiting for good old Lord Roger Wyndham to tell me it’s time to vacate. With two months left, Wyndham appeared only to tell me that I had been granted an extended mandate.
Everything I had just ruined was now a large regret cut deeply into my progression and a worrying revelation of myself. I had no idea where to begin rectifying this situation: I tried placing some houses to get people homed, but remembered I needed to fix the employment situation and get the hired help out. My extension period was only small, and it wasn’t enough to right all my wrongs. I couldn’t do it and as the months were crashing down, I realized I had failed my islands with my crazed flurry of power.
Tropico 6 is an incredibly in-depth city management title that delves into politics and economics in ways that are too in-depth for me. It’s also a title that I didn’t expect to change me into a ruthless dictator of tiny pixelated people.
Tropico 6 is expected to release for PC, Mac, and Linux in January 2019, followed by a release for PS4 and Xbox One in the summer.