Developed by:Limbic Entertainment Published by: Kalypso Media Genre(s):
  • Simulation
  • Strategy
  • Platform:
  • PC
  • Cost:$49.99 ESRB Rating:TEEN Players:1 Release date:March 29, 2019 Reviewed on:PC

    Tropico 6

    During Tropico 6’s loading screens, facts about historical dictators drop in the lower left corner. One swapped his country’s driving lanes believing it to shift political views from right to left. A Romanian leader banned Scrabble, deeming it too intellectual. In another, an entire calendar was restructured and renamed out of pure vanity. True. All of the facts are true.

    Tropico satirizes dictators. It’s remarkably fluent at it by this sixth entry. Developer Kalypso knows well their history. On this island nation, like others before him, the dictator is portrayed as brittle, fragile, and skimping by on a public persona. Primarily, he’s an idiot. A fashionable one, but still an idiot. Tropico 6 isn’t wrong about the personality type – from their rise to power through to their eventual desperation to hold office when people rise in protest.

    It’s hilarious. Or not, given Tropico 6’s truthful mockery. In building your island nation – patterned off of, say, Cuba under the charismatic Castro – you can issue an edict titled “Good Old Days.” In doing so, your citizens must wear old-fashioned dress clothes, primarily to impress (and profit from) rich, conservative tourists flocking to beach side resorts, secondarily to make the national right-wing party feel comfortable. This, while the penniless (but snappily dressed) shovel coal from mines in top hats and tuxedos.

    Tropico 6 is shrewd in skewering contemporary politics; it’s about perception, not truth. State controlled radio, new, and broadcast TV feed influence. Even if the island runs functionally well, inevitably someone suffers – and no one will have a home scaled to even a fraction of Tropico’s El Presidente. In the opening cinematic, Presidente states, “Instead of walls, I’ll build bridges,” a none-too-subtle jab at Donald Trump’s fear-laced isolationist policies. Of course, actually following through with an open border will infuriate Tropico 6’s conservatives.

    Note Tropico 6 isn’t discriminatory to right or left. It’s entirely possible to turn the island into a socialist paradise of cost-free healthcare and government-provided food. Then, watch the entire population switch from apartments to tin shacks, homeless as the economy strangulates itself and government funds collapse into debt. Suddenly, those perfect beaches and glistening waters mean nothing. In homelessness though, at least everyone can have top hats.

    Either way, El Presidente, optionally dressed in an all-too-appropriate mob suit, can give speeches, exert military power, or even commit dissenters to asylums – anything to hold onto power. What Tropico does is make sure it’s comically easy to fail. It’s a game of ego, with missions stretched from colonial to modern times, playing to familiar Cold War cliches and introducing modern cyber tinkering.

    Rewriting history and aligning with the Soviets is unlikely to end well but it is possible. The sight of two communist countries battling against a democratic superpower takes truth and popular media to task. Imagine Rocky IV turning into a handicap bout, with Stallone staring down not only Iron Curtain-superstar Ivan Drago, but a steroidal Castro too.

    The idea is to squish this down into a traditional strategy game, taking the foundation laid decades ago by Sim City, ignoring the urban planning lesson for something comically virile. That works. Pop-up dialog plays to selfish, insecure vanity, everyone congratulating and thanking El Presidente to get what they want. Or, Tropico 6 turns into a chest-puffing military exercise to prove who has the bigger… tanks.

    Regardless, Tropico 6’s greatest quality lies in how ludicrous it is to run a true dictatorship. Bribery to silence critics is costly. Keeping an armed, intelligent militia under your control is a risk prone to backfire. Keep people stupid, but uneducated citizens can’t produce a sustainable economy. There’s no ethical way out, no matter how strategized a game of Tropico 6 is. Dictators lose, leaving at best with ill-gotten money in their Swiss bank accounts, forced into exile – and probably soon to rise again on another island.

    There is one of bit of hurtful truth that’s important to note. During re-election speeches (assuming there is to be an election), El Presidente makes promises. Maybe, fixing pollution or offering to solve food shortages. Fail and people remember. They hold El Presidente accountable, either at the ballot or via protests.

    Imagine – a shrewd, self-absorbed, populist political leader with hypocrisy held to their face. And with consequences! That’s just too absurd to consider.



    Mixing satire and strategy, Tropico 6 doesn’t alter its formula of balancing control with island planning, but it doesn’t need to.



    It’s quite lush from a distance with the wealth of greens intersecting with perfect blue water. Lighting gives life to waves and zooming in shows a dazzling amount of texture rare for a strategy game.



    Propaganda speeches blare over the island, with gentle ambient sounds playing under a chipper Latin soundtrack that will likely turn redundant.

    Replay Value:


    While the story-driven scenarios don’t offer much, they don’t need to as the deeply customizable sandbox mode holds the possibility of endless play.

    Final Score:


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