"El Presidente" has been ruling over its island worlds on the PC since March, and console players are now allowed to play. After Tropico 6 ran in the preview program for Xbox, the business simulation game is now available as a full release title: "Bigger, better, more beautiful," says the dictator himself. We'll reveal whether he's really right in our detailed game test on Tropico 6 for Xbox One.
"El Presidente" is something like the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the gaming industry. It appears on the screens with almost habit-bordering regularity - and delivers. The casual head of state celebrated its premiere in 2001. Five sequels and around 18 years later, the video game series has lost none of its charm. In Tropico 6, the aged president now rules his banana republic again. How well he does it depends above all on one thing: the player's build-up skills.
Rule under palm trees
Tropico 6 is not short of big announcements: the latest offshoot of the economic simulation should be nicer, more diverse, more expansive - but above all better. The first innovation is not immediately obvious, but it is worth mentioning. In contrast to the last three predecessors, the Bulgarian game developer Haemimont Games is not behind the creative process, but the small German developer Limbic Entertainment, which was already responsible for parts six and seven of Might & Magic Heroes. The Hessians are doing a good job.
Tropico 6 already picks up players with Caribbean rhythms on the title screen. After a few secret hip swings, it's off. For the first time, "El Presidente" not only rules over an island, but is building its empire over an entire archipelago. Players who have already gained experience with one of the predecessors will immediately feel welcome in communist paradise.
In the role of ruler, one then directs the fortunes of his subjects, stimulates the economy, builds industrial areas or pulls dollars out of tourists' pockets. A bit of a shame: Above all, the ruler himself remains contourless. Yes, it is nice as a player to make your “El Presidente” with the help of various accessories and clothes, but the idea seems powerless. Anyone who played the original Tropico may remember the good, sometimes queasy feelings of being able to slip into the leather slippers of a historical figure. How the president came to power remains a gaming mystery.
Much more successful, however, is the idea of being able to design the presidential palace yourself first. As the game progresses, more options open up to put the design stamp on your mansion. Architecture, wall paint, decorations - a lot can be redesigned. In the end, the concept remains a gimmick - albeit a nice one. Effects do not trigger the conversions. In multiplayer alone, other players can use the unlocked decoration to draw conclusions about the game experience.
Bigger and more beautiful
The Caribbean island landscapes in Tropico 6 are not only big, but also pretty. Regardless of the geographical composition - from small collections to several spacious islands, there are many options available - the landscapes, the water, the buildings: everything is beautifully staged in detail. The graphics of Tropico 6 contribute significantly to the quality of the economic simulation. The camera work ranges from the complete view of the archipelago to a zoom down to the detailed view. And the game looks great at every zoom level. Occasional clipping errors or individual muddy textures are noticeable, however, and then do not match the otherwise successful optical framework that the Unreal Engine 4 conjures up on the screens. The noticeable jerks are also annoying, Limbic Entertainment should help here.
For the Xbox One X, there is the option of switching to 4K resolution, but otherwise the HD version also looks wonderful with its enhanced visualization.
The great look is the basis for the political hustle and bustle of "El Presidente". The possibilities to let off steam in your own banana archipelago are countless. Over the course of the four ages from colonial to modern times, one is faced with a deluge of options. Even if the modular system expands over time and new buildings gradually become accessible, the variety is so gigantic that beginners in particular might feel overwhelmed. That doesn't help the tutorial either, which explains the basics of the game but leaves questions unanswered at the end. In Tropico 6, rule and try. Even an "El Presidente" is apparently not born overnight and so it takes a lot of attempts (especially in the endless game) until you as a player are really satisfied with your start.
However, those who have only suckled on the cigar for a few hours will learn to appreciate the many possibilities. If at the beginning it is mostly about simple agricultural raw materials with which the first dollars are earned, players later fill the dictator's pockets with economic specializations. Then Tropico 6 really plays to its strengths: a smoke-filled industrial island that produces sums of money as high as environmental pollution? The ruble is rolling. A tourist paradise with a gambling temple? Great idea. A prison colony? That is also possible.
In Tropico 6 you can simply let off steam to increase your wealth and thus your investment opportunities. A lot works, but not everything is efficient. Nevertheless: Even Schön-Bauer get their money's worth on the pretty island worlds. And then it's fun to zoom in and out, circling individual buildings with the camera and marvel at its communist Caribbean world.
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However, even “El Presidente” does not rule with financial means alone. At least as important is the propaganda machinery, which, once started, is hugely effective in building power - or staying in power. The various factions and the Tropicans want to be kept happy with promises and wise economic decisions. It goes without saying that each parliamentary group represents its own interests: the church likes houses of faith and clinics, the capitalists want trade relations. Focusing and acting too one-sided can end in chaos. Financial crises, riots, invasions: there are many evils that can make life difficult for a dictator. If elections are still pending and those Tropicans who belong to a dissatisfied parliamentary group dominate the votes, even "El Presidente" sometimes has to abdicate.
What sometimes helps are the dictators' tools of terror. Bribing Tropicans, arresting them or even hiring an assassin to solve “problems” are options that should be kept in mind. Morally questionable decisions belong to Tropico like palm trees and cigars - and also give the sixth part uniqueness. The political system has always been one of the highlights of the Tropico series, and it is also in the newest offshoot. The popular election speeches with their full-bodied promises to the subjects can also be found again in the game. Tropico 6 forgives players for a number of unfavorable decisions. That's clever, because it never noticeably restricts the playful possibilities. The game thus remains true to its line and is designed as a virtual experiment kit from start to finish.
However, this is a curse and a blessing at the same time. Players can try themselves out, but rarely experience mechanical effects in return. Tropico 6 leaves open in some places why a certain strategy did not work. Sometimes failure remains opaque, making it difficult for players to learn from the mistakes they make.
"El Presidente" doesn't take a break
Right from the start, rulers create and optimize their supply chains, develop new resources, conduct trade and take care of their transport routes. There is always a lot to do, with Tropico 6 there is no boredom in campaign mode or in the endless game. In any case, the later tasks and missions will be noticeably trickier because synergies between individual buildings and branches of industry play a more important role. Then it is no longer just a matter of reaching the companies, but also of tweaking their productivity and selecting additional options in a targeted manner.
Those who have just built the basic structures of their islands can devote themselves to the "gimmicks". Borrowing wonders of the world from other nations is not only possible, but advisable. Even if it seems strange to erect the Eiffel Tower or the American Statue of Liberty in the island nation - at least: the Tropicans are delighted with this special form of "foreign policy relations". The wonders of the world are not just of a purely visual nature, they also give powerful bonuses, for example when it comes to the satisfaction of new islanders or tourists. Dictators can even counteract negative effects in this way. Anyone who has stuffed their island full of industrial plants and polluted the air can create a better environment with the “Stonehenge” stone circle. Even “El Presidente” cannot simply request the miraculous structure; beforehand, points must be achieved and challenges mastered in order to arrange the raids.
One cannot blame Tropico 6 for a lack of variety of actions. Players are constantly busy using the knowledge they have gathered in the tutorial or based on their previous experience to advance the archipelago. New options are regularly added that reopen the communist experimentation box. The deeper you go into the processes, the more you want further options for intervention, for example to control transport processes "in detail". Despite the gigantic variety of options, Tropico 6 sometimes suffers from precisely these details, especially at the transport office. A little more controllability of the logistical processes would have been desirable. Potential is wasted: Those who rule over several islands should be able to use each of them as a coherent economic cycle. At least there are smaller mechanisms to keep local consumers away from raw materials, for example.
The new broker who manages the Swiss bank account and forwards interesting, time-limited offers to the president at regular intervals is great. In this way, players can get new technologies cheaply. The trick is pleasing and finally makes the numbered account really useful in a playful way.
The balancing fits mostly. The processes in Tropico 6 work well and mostly logically. Sometimes the Tropicans still make strange decisions, for example when it comes to their preferred property, which then does not always correspond to their earnings. Little things that "El Presidente" can only smile wearily about.
One Ring to rule them all
Tropico 6 for Xbox One is built using a control panel. This is quite gamepad-like, but it does take some getting used to. Especially at the beginning, the control with the nested ring menu is not quite as intuitive and the camera control also requires a bit of practice. With the shoulder buttons, players switch between the tabs in the well-filled information windows, the control pad is used to select individual options. Yes, the control with the gamepad is far less comfortable than the classic mouse and keyboard, but Tropico 6 is designed to be user-friendly overall.
Occasionally, however, it turns out to be difficult to select individual buildings or to build roads without excessive camera readjustments. A little more precision would be desirable here, especially with neighboring buildings. The problem can usually be avoided by zooming in.
If the controls work, there is a lot to do. Players either start the endless game or use the missions. There is no coherent campaign, but 15 tasks, each representing their own scenarios from the dictator's life. There is also a co-op mode, in which internal wars are also possible. What resonates in each mode is the humor typical of the Tropico series. There are an incredible number of funny scenes and crazy, sometimes absurd tasks. The dialogues are particularly successful.
Media about Tropico 6
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Number of players: Solo mode (missions and sandbox) and multiplayer
Age: USK from 12 years
Playing time: 40+ hours of play
Long-term motivation: high
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Limbic Entertainment
Year of publication: 2019
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Cost: 54,99 Euro
Great looks, cool sound, funny missions and an almost overwhelming variety of playful options make Tropico 6 one of the best business simulations currently available. If the competition on the PC is greater, there are few alternatives in the area of complex building games, at least for console gamers. With this in mind alone, “El Presidente” can crown itself on the Xbox One for a top title.
However, Tropico 6 is not free from weaknesses. Limbic Entertainment implements the game with great attention to detail, but sometimes neglects the clarity. Not infrequently, one has to look for options or forgets important options for action due to the diversity. Yes, that's also a matter of experience, despite the good tutorial, makes Tropico 6 more of an expert title that is anything but beginner-friendly. As a newcomer, you have to work your way into the life of a dictator, then the fun unfolds just as gradually as the game options in the course of a game. The game is challenging on several levels. Tropico 6 is really good in the endless game, then the innovations come into their own. The teasers in the missions tend to provide entertaining entertainment, even if some tasks are quite demanding.
The video game series remains true to itself despite some innovations. That's good, because Tropico manages the balancing act between building game, business simulation and political game even in the latest edition. It's fun to shape your island kingdom, to make morally questionable decisions and also to reach into the communist bag of tricks to steer the fate of the country - always under the premise that "El Presidente" doesn't like it at all Dollars flowing past his pockets. And so there is plenty of room for optimization, changes and new beginnings - even if you often despair of your own plans.