Politics and pineapples.

Power has always been an alluring prospect for some people. The dictators of history may be known for wielding horrific amounts of it – not to mention performing some rather ethnically questionable acts with it – but what people often overlook is the years of struggle needed to obtain it, and later, to hold onto it. Tropico 5 is a game that teaches that lesson.

You start out as El Presidente, a customisable avatar sent to one of two islands by the King of England to start a colony that will bring in money for the British Empire. Tropico 5 is a construction and strategy game in the same vein as the Theme Park and Civilization series, so your first task as leader of the rock you’ve found yourself on is to build up homes, businesses, crops and military strength with the secret intention of telling the King to shove it up his royal backside and declaring independence. But before you can do so, you have to win the approval of your people, all the while struggling against financial hardships, a ballooning population and the King’s mandate, a period of time in which he will allow you to stay in power before throwing you out on your ass and replacing you with a more competent subject. The mandate can be extended by sucking up or doing tasks the King approves of, but this will often lower your approval rating with the revolutionaries on your island, whose support is vital if you’re to gain enough support for independence.

Power Play

That’s not to say that things get any easier once you’ve told the King to sod off, oh no. You’re fully free to experiment with how you want to run your little country and that’s where a lot of the fun comes from, but those choices will have consequences. Building churches will raise the quality of housing in the area but if your island is predominantly atheist this may have negative effects on your approval rating. You can draw up your own constitution but you’d better stick to it unless you want the people to start disliking you. Don’t build enough houses and your population will start becoming homeless, eventually leaving your island and dragging your approval rating down to the sewers. Let your approval rating drop too low and you could lose the next election (if you decide to hold them that is – you can also go the dictatorial route and do away with democracy), or face a military uprising.

Tropico5

There’s plenty to see and do throughout the ages in Tropico 5.

And that’s just the beginning. Tropico 5 allows the player to manage their country from its historical foundation in the colonial era, through World War I, up to the cold war and present. The two main superpowers change in each era, from the Axis and Allied Factions into the United States and Soviet Union during the cold war, opening trade routes with Russia, Middle East, China and EU following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Throw in natural disasters such as earthquakes that can level or damage your buildings and Tropico 5 is no meek challenge.

Political parody is a large part of Tropico 5’s charm.

It’s a surprisingly tough, political and entertaining experience. Political parody is a large part of Tropico 5’s charm – that and its swinging soundtrack – and the political commentary rarely falls short. There are some amusing digs at historical politics such as communism, capitalism, parodies of famous political figures and the economy. The game really hits its stride as the politics of the times explode around your little island, particularly the world wars and the advent of the technological age.

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The game has been well adapted to the PS4’s controller scheme, something that’s always a worry when a predominantly PC-based series makes the jump to consoles. Tropico 5 deals with this via option wheel-type menu systems that allow you to easily flick between the different things within each menu. The trigger buttons pull up separate menus which can then be scrolled through with the face buttons, making things like selecting which buildings to construct simple and quick. It’s still not as a smooth or intuitive as a keyboard and mouse setup but this is a damn good attempt considering console controllers weren’t exactly built with these types of games in mind. It can be difficult to understand which menu certain things are in at first, and some options in the game are determined by toggles that aren’t clearly shown as being toggled ON or OFF but that’s the only significant gripe to be found with the menu system after several hours of play.

Enjoy Your Reign