Tropico is a construction and management simulation computer game developed by PopTop Software and published by Gathering of Developers in April 2001. The game sees the player taking the role of "El Presidente," the ruler of an island in the Caribbean during the Cold War era from the 1950s onward.
Games based on Caribbean city-building have been created before[, but Tropico was the first to be centered around ]Cuban Revolution and Cold War themes. The game is tongue-in-cheek in its presentation of banana republics, using a great deal of humor while still referencing such topics as totalitarianism, electoral fraud, and the interventions of powerful companies (United Fruit is implied) and the Cold War superpowers (the United States and Soviet Union).
Tropico has several expansion packs and new editions, including Tropico: Paradise Island, plus a combined copy of the original and Paradise Island entitled Tropico: Mucho Macho Edition (released on June 27, 2002). A sequel, Tropico 2: Pirate Cove, was released on April 8, 2003. The third game in the series Tropico 3, was released in the autumn of 2009.
Regardless of any other stated victory condition, the main goal of any Tropico game is to stay in power–if the island's populace disapprove of the player's actions, they may vote their leader out of office, or even stage a coup d'état. If either of the Cold War superpowers becomes unhappy with the player's regime, it may launch an invasion to overthrow it. A successful leader will have to either meet the needs of the populace and the wider political world, or establish and police a totalitarian military dictatorship.
In random map games, the player can customize the map of the island, adjusting its size and steepness to personal preference. Many other aspects of game play, such as political and economic difficulty, can also be customized to make the game easier or more difficult.
The player is able to issue a number of governmental edicts, some of which require funding or the availability of particular buildings. Edicts are used to achieve various game effects, from appeasing one of the superpowers by openly praising them, to instating martial law or giving a tax break to the populace.
The game calculates a score for the player at the end of the game. This score is based on a variety of factors, including the happiness of the island's citizens, the health of the island's economy, how much money the player has set aside for his own retirement in a Swiss bank account, and the level of difficulty chosen at the start of the game.
- The tutorials are designed to help players learn how to play the game.
- Scenarios are predetermined game conditions with defined goals that must be accomplished in order to achieve a "win". The game includes several scenarios, each with a stated level of difficulty. Scenario goals are normally more complex than those available in a custom game.
- Custom games allow virtually all starting conditions to be controlled. These include the elevation, vegetation and water coverage of the island, and the probability of random events during play. The custom game also allows the player to choose how many game years the simulation will run for, and what conditions will determine victory (if any).
Politics and factions
While "El Presidente" has absolute rule over the lives of the Tropican people, politics play an important role in gameplay. The player must decide whether to hold free elections, attempt to manipulate the election by intimidating voters, or to reject democracy and run the island as a dictatorship. These decisions will have direct effects on the Tropican people's happiness, liberty, and respect for the leader. Often the player is judged on "democracy expectations" versus "democracy results," which will influence the public's opinion of their leadership.
Certain decisions while playing the game can boost or decrease relations with the super powering countries. If "El Presidente" manages to stay in positive view of Russia and the United States they will supply him with monthly supply of foreign aid money. Through the edicts it is possible to either create a military base on your island of one of the countries protecting your island from the other country and a monthly payment of money. If an army base is established the country may ask for specific tasks and if there satisfaction with you becomes to low they will attempt to overthrow "El Presidente."
If pushed enough the Tropican people may choose to rebel against "El Presidente", conducting guerilla attacks against various buildings on the island; if the rebellion grows strong enough this will result in the overthrow of the player. A sufficiently dissatisfied military are likely to instigate a coup. Often threats to power can be measured based on a unit's leadership qualities and his courage. For example, a citizen with poor leadership but strong courage may not be likely to start a rebellion, but may be willing to join it.
Most Tropicans are aligned into several conflicting political factions, with some citizens being a member of one or more such factions. The following is a list of the factions and their general demands:
- Communists: Generally one of the largest factions, they are most concerned with housing and full employment for the masses, and fair pay disparities between workers on the island. They also prefer a pro-Soviet foreign policy. Their leader is generally a farmer or other laborer.
- Capitalists: They stand in opposition to the communists and are a small, but influential faction. They are concerned with vast economic growth and higher standards of living for the upper-classes on the island. The capitalists prefer a pro-American foreign policy to realize their economic goals and are often led by a banker.
- Religious: One of (if not the) largest faction on the island. This is due to a high value that many Tropicans place on their faith. They often are concerned with access to and quality of religious institutions on the island, as well as the island's morality. Appeasing them can often result in major reductions in liberty as they are swayed by edicts such as "Book BBQ," "Prohibition," "Birth Control Ban," and "Inquisition." The religious faction tends to be led by either a priest or bishop. Having a cathedral or church on the island encourages the growth of this faction (when citizens go to church they become more religious), but not allowing any religious buildings can keep this faction's size down, though its few members will hate you.
- Intellectuals: This is one of the smallest factions on the island and tends to have the most detractors. They are most concerned with access to education on the island as well as maintaining a standard of liberty on the island. They can be one of the hardest factions to please and occasionally pose a threat to power, especially if the player is running an authoritarian regime. Their faction is often led by a professor or teacher.
- Militarists: This is a medium-sized but powerful faction mainly concerned with the size and well-being of the island's military. They are one of the biggest threats to power, as armed members of this faction may launch a coup against the player. Supporting the militarists will result in a decrease in liberty and can cause non-militarists to rebel. The militarist faction is generally led by a soldier or general.
- Environmentalists: A very small faction. They are most concerned with the natural beauty of the island. As such, they oppose logging and mining operations as well as most industry. Often they are in direct conflict with the interests of the capitalists or the communists. The leader can appease them by issuing edicts relating to the environment, such as pollution standards, but this will generally result in increased maintenance costs and decreased productivity. They can be pleased by frequent planting of trees (which can be done along the sides of roads prior to those roads being completed).
Factions can be manipulated both positively and negatively mainly through edicts and buildings. For example, the player may choose to bribe the leaders of factions to attempt to curry their favor or, if the factions' leaders become too much of a threat, he can have them assassinated or imprisoned. The island's media outlets can be directed to distribute propaganda for a particular faction, and schools can be either parochial or military in nature.
Before starting a custom game, the player may either design their own "El Presidente" character or select one from a list of pre-made leaders. These include real-life figures such as Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Augusto Pinochet, fictional rulers such as Hernando Blanco and Sancho Baraega, as well as miscellaneous rulers and even musician Lou Bega.
After the player has chosen a leader, the player can customize their profile by specifying the strengths and flaws of their character's personality, the means by which they came into power and their social background. These choices affect the attitudes of factions and superpowers towards the player, and can also alter the costs or consequences of in-game actions.
List of real life personas
The following lists real figures featured in Tropico, the most of whom are associated with Latin American politics during the Cold War:
- Che Guevara
- Fidel Castro
- Eva Perón (called Evita de Peron in game)
- Hernández Martínez
- Violeta Chamorro
- François Duvalier (called by his nickname, "Papa Doc" in game)
- Juan Perón
- Augusto Pinochet
- António Salazar
- Anastasio Somoza García (called Anastasio Somoza Sr. in game)
- Manuel Noriega
- Alfredo Stroessner
- Renata Feldmeyer
- Rafael Trujillo
Lou Bega, who is a Latin pop musician commonly known at the time for the song "Mambo No. 5," is also available as a dictator persona. He was included as part of a licensing deal that also saw one of Bega's songs integrated into the German release of Tropico.
Real world influences
Many of the player's actions reflect real-world Caribbean issues and events. This is most apparent in the available leader characters and the customizable aspects of their profile, but also appears in some of the edicts which the player may issue during the course of a game.
The player may issue the edict "Papal Visit" which references Pope John Paul II's trip to Cuba in 1998, or "Open the Jails" in which prisoners on the island are deported to the United States, reminiscent of the Mariel Boatlift of 1980.
The Cold War is featured prominently in the game. If the player pursues a strongly pro-Soviet or pro-American political line and invites a military alliance among either nation, those governments may install military bases on the island, reflecting the Cuban Missile Crisis or the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay. However, breaking these alliances or angering either nation too much could result in the likelihood of an American or Soviet conducted regime change.
If one is to go by the map that appears when the player issues the "Trade Delegation" edict, which shows a "red line" on the map from Tropico to either the Soviet Union or United States, then Tropico would be in the Gulf of Honduras in the real world.
The Tropican generals are portrayed as bearded men wearing olive drab dress uniforms and smoking a cigar, which is strongly influenced by the image of the former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
On September 24, 2009, German publisher Kalypso Media released Tropico 3 developed by Haemimont Games after acquiring the Tropico license rights from Take Two on November 3, 2008. An American version followed on October 20, 2009, and then the game was subsequently released for Xbox 360 on February 16, 2010.
On August 13, 2010, Kalypso Media announced Tropico 4. It is to be released Q2 (April-June) of 2011. There will be several new buildings (Including 'Stock Exchange' and 'Shopping Mall') 20 new missions, 10 new maps, and improved graphics. It was announced for the PC but the developers hinted at a console version in an interview.
- ↑ Take 2 Games Support [Patches]. Retrieved on 2010-03-19.
- ↑ Release Information for Tropico. MobyGames. Retrieved on 14 August 2006.
- ↑  TeamXbox, August 27, 2009
- ↑ Gameplay Information. PopTop. Retrieved on 14 August 2006.
- ↑ Phil Steinmeyer (August 15, 2006). Inside the Sausage Factory #21. Retrieved on 2006-08-15.