Tropico 4 released in 2011 and it set the bar for city-building simulations. With its deep construction system, faction management, and juggling of multiple politics players were able to assume the role of El Presidente, dictator supreme. As charming as he is deceitful, El Presidente moves from mission to mission, each with different objectives and challenges to overcome. With the introduction of new content, players were presented with all new content to explore. Packing in the Modern Times DLC, Tropico 4 Gold gives players new buildings to construct, new edicts to issue, and all new scenarios to master.
El Presidente is a wonderful character because the player can direct him to be as democratic or dictatorial as they see fit. Building a new high school to educate the island’s inhabitants is a wonderful idea! Though while construction is underway, he also has the option of siphoning some of the funds use to build it and putting it in an offshore account of his own. It’s just like real politics! In fact, that offshore account filled to the brim with money is one of the deciding factors in how well you are managing your island, which in turn leads to your overall score and character progression. As you work your way through scenarios, El Presidente earns aptitude with personal traits which can affect the way the island responds. As you progress and scenarios get harder, having a leader who can demand higher prices for agricultural exports or gains more money from tourism is a major benefit.
Whether you choose to ‘free play’ and just develop an island, or you decide to move from scenario to scenario, there remains a constant battle to make your citizens happy. Your citizens are unique people though; while some may want to drink and gamble, your religious sect wants you to outlaw that sort of debauchery. Finding the middle-ground proves to be a task that isn’t easily accomplished. And it’s not just factions that you’re pacifying, as you need a solid workforce to get things done on the island. Farms don’t plant themselves, but if a job in construction pays more than planting coffee or corn, you may end up with a masterfully developed island with nobody tending to it. Then again, if you set all salary rates too low you may end up with a union strike on your hands or worse, a large group leaving the island altogether.
It’s that constant shifting back and forth, managing population demographics, foreign relations, keeping law and order, and ensuring that the land doesn’t become polluted that makes El Presidente both powerful and powerless at the same time. Then, just as you feel that you’ve got a handle on your economy and population, the wrath of the island strikes with a natural disaster. Tsunamis, earthquakes, drought, or tornados can decimate your population, leaving buildings destroyed and your population frantic. Foreign aid only goes so far and, as in real life, budgets and events can be ruined by mother nature’s scorn.
Moving into the modern times is a significant step as well and the introduction to this is welcomes with the Modern Times DLC, included with Tropico 4 Gold. Buildings, once able to sustain the people of your island, are presented with new options as you move from a country of farms and nightclubs, to one with biodomes and industrial buildings. Each with an additional expense, these new buildings produce less pollution and grant a level of “beautification” to your tropical paradise. El Presidente himself will even benefit, as new traits are granted that will allow him to further the island’s profit, thus ensuring his own financial stability. And finally, new scenarios are presented that will take your knowledge of island micromanaging and eliminate any ego you may have developed. These scenarios range from difficult financial situations to barren lands that produce no food, requiring precise importing and exporting in order to start seeing a profit. The added content is worthwhile, but for a game that is already packed full of difficult scenarios and requires dozens of hours to master, the biggest benefit is the buildings alone.
Despite being out for nearly two years, Tropico 4 still manages to be one of the better city-simulations to date. Additional DLC has been made available giving it a far longer shelf-life than anticipated and each has their own benefit, but the extra buildings are truly the main reason to purchase them, so if you’re content with what the primary game has to offer you may want to save your money. Tropico 4 Gold has all the content you’ll need to feel like a disgusting dictator and is packed full of tongue-in-cheek comedy that provides a level of enjoyment even during the hardest of social or financial times. The game isn’t particularly fast-paced, but for anyone who enjoys micromanaging, this is your game
Overall score: 7.5 out of 10