Reader Reviews: Tropico 3

Reader Reviews: Tropico 3

Despite the fact that it’s hardly a blockbuster release, I’ve been hearing good things about Tropico 3 – a recently released dictator simulation – so when Adam Ruch, PhD candidate, and sometime Kotaku contributor offered to write a Reader Review on the game, who was I to say no!

Thanks to Madman – the best written Reader Review receives a selection of the latest DVDs and Blu-rays from their selection.

Take it away Adam!

Tropico 3
You mean you haven’t had power fantasies about ruling a late 20th Century tropical island from a position of tyrannical pseudo-communism? That’s weird. For the rest of us: Tropico 3! This game is a bargain on Steam, considering the hours per dollar I’ve sunk into it. A middlish complex city-building sim, Tropico runs a little faster than Civilization, a little slower than a real-time strategy game and gives me that hit of power trip, Rube Goldberg system building I need occasionally.

The tight focus of this game on the fictional island of Tropico during the second half of the 20th Century means this game is not as wide open as the likes of Civilization, but means there is a lot of detail in what is presented. Your Caribbean island nation will always face similar concerns, mostly to do with your position as a banana republic looking to set up its own economy somewhere in between the great Russian Bear and Uncle Sam and a constant state of near rebellion from the population. There is a lot of character in this game from its Cuban inspiration that you just don’t find in other city-sim titles. Visually, the detail is great. I honeymooned in New Caledonia last year, and I can tell you the tiny tropical island aesthetics are spot-on.

There is just enough complexity here to keep things interesting: the economy can basically be funded through agriculture, development of natural resources into industry, or tourism. Pure agriculture is farming or ranching of a wide variety of crops: sugar grows in some places, coffee in another. Industry turns raw materials into exportable goods like rum and furniture. These get carted from their respective production houses to the dock, and exported a few times a year, so a good roads network can be very important. Tourism works by attracting visitors to your island paradise, and generates income from their spending. Build cheap motels and you get cheap slob tourists. Build an airport and expensive luxury hotels and you attract big spenders, but you have to have power plants and high-class entertainment for them!

I hated very little about this game. Really, it was great fun. However, learning the mechanics is pretty hit-and-miss. I had to download a scanned version of the manual, and even that didn’t explain some of the really important mechanics to me. The biggest revelation I had was the importance of controlling immigration. Without management of who gets through customs, you simply can’t keep up with the demand for housing and workplaces brought on by the new arrivals. So be prepared to hunt around for the how’s and why’s things happen in this game.

Overall I had a great time with this game. The scenarios and achievements gave me a focus that I find lacking in games like this sometimes (I have a habit of playing through Civ games with the same strategy each time because I know it works!), as well as adding to the humourous character of the game. Be warned though, the humour doesn’t extend to the mechanics: you do need to be an astute manager, not a crazy tyrant—though you can have the army *ahem* control certain members of the population. Or better yet, your secret police can arrange accidents…

I love that we are approaching the necessary computing power to support these kinds of sims, where every little citizen running around on the screen is a ‘real’ person, that goes through an entire life cycle including birth or immigration, education, work life, religious persuasion, health care, and eventually death. That makes these simulations so much more immersive than representations of people moving around that are really just covering up for steady trickles of numbers ticking up like clockwork.


  • This game must be like 2 years old now surely, I remember playing it ages ago, it’s good. Confusing but good…And 2 years old..

    Can I do a readers review of Frogger?

    • Adam, I’m a bit obsessed with Civilization Revolution atm on 360, mostly for its ability to play whilst lying on my couch (ie: call of duty is the polar opposite of this luxury.)

      Should I get Tropico 3?

      • That’s a hard call to make for me, cause I’ve not actually played Revolution. Its a translation of Civ for the consoles, so would have been streamlined a little, but may still be more complicated than Tropico.

        Tropico runs in real time like an RTS, rather than turn-based like Civ. I like that in this game, because it gives each little citizen a real sort of feeling as they have to go to work, go home and sleep, drive along the roads in a more or less real physics way. ie if your roads suck you literally watch the traffic jams develop. I like it because its faster than Civ, more responsive so I don’t have to think quite so far ahead as Civ makes you. (I really like Civ sometimes, but it is a bit of a mental investment.)

        But for $20 you can get the gold edition of Tropico 3 with the expansion and there are lots of scenarios to play through. Just doing that will rack up maybe 100 hours of play!

        • Just taking a quick second out of this busy-ass day to share this for everyone’s enjoyment:

          tropico for 360 is just $19, so if you like civ rev then you won’t really be risking your money at all – at that price you just can’t go wrong.

          And yeah, i think EB has the gold edition for pc for $20 at the mo, but i could be wrong.

          • EB has it at $28 in their current sale. They’ve dropped a few of the $50 titles to $28 now like Blood Bowl Legendary Edition and Elemental as well.

  • Its a great game but it seems a little too easy and things can get repetitive, fending off Rebel attacks or attempted coups has for the most part been amazingly easy and you can secure your position for the most part simply by ignoring the needs of your people for the first year by investing solely in an economy and from there developing them parrallel.

    Most of the time ive ended up with booming industry as well as being able to splash out on tourism with no repurcussions.

  • Good review, I bought this and a lot of other games when they were cheap on Steam recently but haven’t had a chance to play it yet. Think I’ll bump it up a couple of places on my play-list.

  • Good review for a good game.

    I love games like Anno 1701 and Evil Genius to 100-plus-hours-bits, but Tropico 3 was much too Sim City for my tastes. Due to the difficulty of keeping your population happy, and more importantly the USA and USSR, most games I played were an uphill battle to get the basics established, before even thinking about the mission specifics.

    I guess I was expecting more Evil Genius type comedy/fun gameplay. The “combat” in the game is terrible/nonexistant, as is the YOU GOT INVADED BY THE US/USSR game over screen.

    Wanted to love it, enjoyed playing it, but overall underwhelmed.

  • Admittedly I haven’t tried the Absolute Power expansion and I have completed several of the campaign missions but how in the heck do I give these idiots more liberty except building a newspaper?

    Some of the mechanics could really use a little more explanation…

  • I was a catalyst! Hooray!

    Still sounding pretty good to me, like Arkham Asylum, probably something I’ll pick up next time it’s on sale on Steam.

  • One thing i didnt like regarding this game was the issues whe controlling what was built and i found hald the time my workers were walking aorund the place doing nothing usefull 🙁

    Overall good agme and still play my steam version from time to time 😀 always fun playing Sim-like games 😀

    • Did you ever click on a worker, and read their thoughts? I think they spend a lot of time doing things like coming or going from home to sleep, heading to the church or other activities to keep their morale up.

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