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Taking An Island Vacation With Tropico 3
by Jeff Gerstmann on
It's never a good thing when "the state" in "smash the state" is directed at you, but that's how things might go when you rule your own island in Tropico 3.
Running a Caribbean island through the storm of the Cold War probably ain't easy, but that's your main task in Tropico 3, the upcoming sequel from Kalypso, who acquired the rights to Tropico from Take-Two awhile back. Kalypso has enlisted the development prowess of Bulgaria's own Haemimont Games, and the lot of them are getting together to make Tropico 3 a return to the setting and concepts found in the first game.
That means you'll be in charge of the SimCity-like task of building out a tropical island while balancing things like the happiness and safety of your people with the income your nation generates. You'll have to balance pollution against a desire to move into heavier industries to earn the big bucks. You'll have to decide if you want to develop in such a way that relations with the US improve, or perhaps you'll choose to side with the USSR. Almost every choice comes with its pros and cons, forcing you to constantly weigh things out. Also, your different choices will impact different parts of your citizenship differently. Communists will appreciate some activities that the religious faction might hate, for example. And depending on how you configure your on-island avatar, they may just build up a strong dislike for you.
The game will come with plenty of preset dictator-types that you can choose from, but you can also build your own. Building your character lets you determine its physical appearance, but more importantly, you'll also establish a series of traits that impact your starting statistics. You'll select a background and state how you rose to power. Backgrounds can be things like "booze baron" or "war hero." Your rise to power might be that you were installed by the CIA, or that you're an aging-but-beloved pop singer. You'll also choose qualities and flaws. Having "green thumb" as a quality makes you a bit better at the agriculture side of things, which in turn gains favor with the USSR. Flaws are things like "kleptomaniac" and "pompous." Being pompous means that you can't praise anyone but yourself during your election speeches, which is, well, pretty pompous.
Once you've built your character, you're dropped onto a fairly undeveloped island in January of 1950. From there you'll be able to lay roads, build structures, and generally tinker with the things on the island. You can lower wages on a specific building to save a little money, but its performance will likely suffer. You can build high schools and colleges in an attempt to produce a more-educated workforce, which can, in turn, work at more advanced structures. You can build beautiful gardens to increase the pleasantness of your island. Or you can build guard towers, prisons, and police stations to keep the ever-present rebels in check. Of course, being too oppressive results in more rebels attempting to take you down. And yes, it's possible that you might get taken out, as your character directly appears on the island, just like anyone else.
It's the dissident-smashing oppressive side of Tropico 3 that speaks to me. Being able to designate a building as a headquarters for your secret police and using them to ensure that faction leaders that aren't likely to vote for you in the next election have an "accident." Or, if you want to be more brazen, you can just order any person to be "eliminated." A soldier will eventually track down the target and open fire. It's a messier solution that leads right back to your cold, calculating hand, so expect the target's family to lose all respect for you as a leader. Hey, maybe you could just take care of them, too.
All of this happens from a fairly standard-looking real-time strategy sort of interface. You'll be able to pan and zoom the camera around the island, letting you get in close to see individual citizens or moving all the way back to get a feel for an entire area. The game is coming to the PC as well as the Xbox 360. We saw the 360 version, which seems to be applying the standard sort of "console version of a game built for mouse and keyboard" approach. It seems totally functional, but I get the feeling that choosy players will want that mouse and keyboard support. All in all, the game seems like it could be really cool on both platforms, with plenty of different ways to rule and a lot of sliders and other things to tweak when initally starting out. But even though you can schedule a papal visit, don't get any funny ideas... you won't be able to assassinate the Pope.
Tropico 3 is currently scheduled for release in September.