Welcome back to Tropico my friends! Not much has changed since Tropico 3. There are new menus, new caricatures, new voice overs that lay on thick personality and accents. The graphics look the same and feel as if they're directly from Tropico 3. The are new disasters like tornadoes, tsunamis, droughts, and volcanoes. To compliment the disasters there are fire stations to put out the fires and a new weather station. To unlock edicts that help or opress your people, you'll not only need a ministry new to the series, but hire people to run each branch. You'll get to chose from viable candidates, or for a price you can import an expert. Buildings can now import resources. If you have a rum factory, but no sugar farms, you can simply import the sugar. There are also more foreign powers such as China, the UK and the Middle East. They won't donate money like the USA and USSR, but they'll give you goals to accomplish. There are new optional goals that you get by clicking the icons over buildings. New to the series is a quick build that will instantly construct a building for a price.
Tropico 4 is a surprisingly good city builder or rather a 3rd world simulator. It is very different than games like Sim City and Cities XL. Those two games are more macro city builders, where in two or three mouse clicks you can make city blocks where 1,000 people might live. With Tropico 4 and the Tropico series in general, you need to place each building, each road and your island along with the time it takes your construction company to build it. Your entire island might get to be 200 - 500 'Tropicans.'
Each Tropican has needs... Food, religion, job, healthcare, entertainment, safety and so on. The catch is every Tropican's needs have a certain weight to them based on what faction they believe in. Each faction has major and minor demands. The military will want more soldiers, so you need to build an army base. The religious faction will want a church or cathedral. The capitalist party will want privatization or upscale entertainment. The communist party will want you to enable the free public housing edict or have etiquette healthcare.
On top of that, you balance political relations with the USA and USSR. If they get too bad, one of the two will basically take over your country and it will be game over. It is interesting how many ways that you can get game over. The most common way to get a game over is to lose an election. You don't have to have elections even. You're in charge. If you don't want an election, the nationalist party will hate you and your loyalist party will love you. If you opt to have elections, it will be vise versca. People will call for early elections and when you have elections, you can see preliminary results and you can even sway (cheat) elections. Its all at the risk of a party's love.
It is pretty cool having to pick 3 things to make a speech about and then fulfill campaign promises, but its all pretty easy. Winning elections is pretty easy, especially compared to how difficult it was to win any elections in the original Tropico. It was so bad in that game, that it was almost impossible to win an election without stuffing the ballot box.
When citizens hate you, and there will be plenty that do, they will either peacefully protest or become rebels. Once you have enough rebels against you, they will attack your most remote buildings. Your army will then go fight them, but if the rebels outnumber your army, the rebel will win and the buildings will be destroyed. The rebels can attack your palace or flat out assassinate you for a game over.
Tropico has a single player campaign with 20 scenarios that each take an hour or two to complete. You don't just pick scenarios, you unlock them. Each scenario seems to have scenario specific events that only occur in the scenarios. Unlike Tropico 3, I don't get a sense in the scenarios of an ultimate goal I'm striving toward. I feel like I stumble into victory when its least expected. At the start of each scenario you can pick a player character from historical tropican dictators or make your own avatar. You can even make personality traits that will result in pros and cons. It can drastically change your play style if you are incorruptible and never have any crime or have a green thumb and have high farm yields at the cost of low factory production.
Your businesses, mines, farms, and everything requires citizens in them to function and make you money. Every citizen has different education levels that will impact who does what. So you need to build high schools and colleges. Once built, there are options to gear students to military or religion. You can also click vacant positions to hire foreign experts for a price. If you have more businesses than citizens, build an immigration office and let anyone into the country or change it to only let in skilled workers so you keep bums out of your country.
Nothing is done automatically. You place a building, then wait for your teamsters and construction crews to build it. The more crews and personnel you have working, the faster it'll get done. I'm happy with that. Its part of the realism. If there's a building you want developed faster, you can increase or decrease its priority. If its still taking too long, just have your avatar stand next to the building to get it done faster. The fire station works the same way.
The graphics are beautiful and you'll see every Tropican walking around, hopping in their car and driving to locations. The music is nice and very Tropican / Salsa music, but there's very little variety from Tropico 3. A few hours in I was bored with the music. The DJs feel gone for the most part. They're still in the game, but they do interviews with one liners here and there. The voice acting consists of great parodies of stereotypes. They really had fun embellishing on characters with tongue in cheek humor. The game knows you're all powerful and while being a dictator is usually seen as a horrifyingly negative thing, the humor twists it into a silly positive thing.
If you have Tropico 3, play Tropico 3. Tropico 4 is still a great game, but has a ton of DLC and feels like a cash grab with only minor upgrades. The menu feels more cumbersome and click heavy than Tropico 3. The disasters take way too long and it breaks the flow the game has. The quick build feature feels like a good addition that you don't have to use, but sometimes it takes forever for the construction crews to build, even with several construction offices at full capacity.