Tropico 5 Review: Starting Your Own Dictatorship

Tropico 5 really wants you to win the hearts of your people as dictator. Well, maybe a little.

Build a City, With Jokes!The Tropico franchise was mostly a joke on city builders back when I got my first taste with Tropico 2. I don't mean it was a bad game. It was just built to make fun of dictatorships while presenting you with a "city builder." Instead, you got to build your whole, yet tiny, country. I wasn't incredibly impressed with the second edition, but it was good enough to occupy time while waiting on other games.Tropico 5 is different, though. If a game made it to number five, it has to be good, right? They have definitely learned a few things to improve the game. When you open in Tropico 5 you are in charge of an island in the colonial era. You have to progress your way through the eras up until modern times. The first hurdle is declaring your independence from your mother country and breaking into the modern ages requires a space or nuclear program. Dividing the game into these eras has allowed a significant technology tree.Research Tanks by Stealing them from a MuseumYou will research great things like the Shovel, Paper, and Red Tape. They are obviously designed just to be in-game barriers for access to certain buildings and abilities. For instance, you have no significant way to talk to other nations until you research the White Flag technology. Technologies are limited to an era. You won't have access to tourist traps until the Cold War era or Airports until you reach the Modern Era.It has History, along with all of its ProblemsThe game follows history pretty well. You must choose sides during the World Wars period and exporting cargo for good prices in that era can be difficult. During the Cold War, you have the opportunity to work with the US or USSR. Either choice will anger the other and might even bring on small invasions. Fortunately, a few gun towers and soldiers will be enough to ward off these enemies. The quests that you are given during these eras will guide you, even in the "sandbox" version. Sometimes it can get annoying when you're told to build a library near the start of every game, but you will also gain popular support for your dictatorship by completing the library.You're in charge, of Everything.The problems with Dictatorship are pretty clear. You have to control almost everything on the island. Some city builders are fine with you just running sewage, electricity, and building wherever you please with no regard for the demands of construction companies. In Tropico, you must manage more than that. You have to manage the pay of each building, who manages the building, and any upgrades you might need to put in place.It doesn't seem like much more work, but you will find you can't just give one building a raise. It will draw your workers away from jobs that were fine until they heard about that raise the guys down the street just got. You will also have to keep your eye out for rebels trying to overthrow you and deal with elections.You're a dictator, but you're offering your people the illusion of democracy. You have the option to eliminate your opponents through bribery, assassination or good old-fashioned cheating at the ballot box. If you somehow fail to win the hearts of your people, you will be removed from office. That is about the only way to truly lose this game. The way to "win" this game is to send as much money to a Swiss bank account as you can. In the end, that's what being a dictator is really about.In Tropico 5, you have the ability to create a dynasty. These members of your family will follow you from game to game. You can level them up through opportunities given to you in any game. They can then be used as building managers that will be far more effective than your average manager.It's no Civilization V, but it's solid. Tropico 5 has shown great improvement over the previous edition I played. It still lacks in a few areas. A difficult camera maneuvering system, messages that can be lost if you're not looking at that part of the screen, and advisors that interrupt what you are doing frequently enough that you'll have to put the game on pause just to get something done are all problems that can come up. In the end, this game still delivers an excellent city builder with an ongoing joke about dictatorships. Anything currently wrong with it could be easily put into a patch. The detail is nice but sometimes I don't really want to figure out how much Joe gets paid at the tavern down the street.

Our Rating
Tropico 5 really wants you to win the hearts of your people as dictator. Well, maybe a little.


While I do play some of the greats like Civilization and X-com, consider me your Tabletop guru here at gameskinny. Want to know about a tabletop game? Just ask!

Games Tropico 5 Genres SimulationStrategy Platforms PC
Published Jun. 5th 2014

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