Toggle Background Color
The original Tropico was one of the first video games I ever played, and has had a special place in my heart ever since my dad bought it shortly after getting a PC. I have returned to it several times throughout the years, so when thinking about which game to pick for a short one-off to try out recording footage and writing updates, a few terms of office as El Presidente was my first choice.
Let's get into the game, shall we? "Los Exconvictos" is one of the easier scenarios, but that just means I'll have the freedom to screw around and showcase more stuff.
The situation really isn't as dire as the game makes it out to be. Cash crops grow well enough to get our economy up and running, and as long as we provide enough job vacancies, people from all over the world will flock to our island looking for work. My main concern with this map is that the steep terrain can make it hard to build stuff where we want it.
We pretty much only start out with the essentials. The only notable exceptions are the police station and the prisons, but these don't matter much in the early game. Our town consists of the following:
1) The palace, the luxurious residence of El Presidente. We hire soldiers here. If rebels or a treacherous military manage to destroy it, it's game over
2) The little grey building is the construction office, the base of operations for construction workers. Without them, we can't build anything, so the game will never allow us to demolish our last remaining construction office. The longer workers have to walk from their office to the construction site, the less time they will spend on actually building stuff, so we want to spread out any additional offices.
3) Just above is the teamster's office. Teamsters are in charge of hauling raw materials to our factories and export goods to your docks, and thus are a vital component of any functioning economy. Any area with lots of production should have a Teamster's Office
4) Partly cropped out are the docks. Freighters anchor here to bring immigrants to Tropico and to buy our stuff. Once we build our first hotel, yachts carrying tourists will also come. We can also set individual docks to only service one type of ship. Unlike the former two buildings, we don't need many of them, mostly one for freighters, one for yachts, and only later on, when our economy gets so big that the export good pile up faster than our dock workers can load them on the freighters, a third one.
5) The buildings with the red roofs are farms. The crops produced here are our main source of both food and money in the early game. Starting farms are always set to grow corn, which is only really useful for the former purpose, but since corn grows nearly everywhere, it's also one of the most reliable ways to feed our population.
6) Up on the mountain is our police station, provided for free by the scenario. From here, police officers go on patrols throughout the island to lower the crime ratings. Having one now means we will save a bit of money and time once we actually think about getting all the most important social and governmental buildings, but right now, our population is small enough that there's no need to put one of our few educated citizens here.
7) And right above are the prisons that we can't tear down. I have never, ever incarcerated anyone in all my years of playing, and spoiler: this won't change in this playthrough.
The tiny buildings all around the island are shacks. Tropicans build these automatically if there isn't enough available housing. This may be because there are flat out not enough houses and apartments on the island, but also because citizens can't afford what is there, as they will only spend up to one third of their monthly income on housing. Married couples share their income in regard to that calculation.
Now that we know what these buildings are, let's add some more! Clicking on the hammer symbol opens the construction menu.
Our starting money doesn't give us much, though. I order two coffee farms to be built on the top off the hill, and a pineapple farm on the left side. I also switch the southern starting farm to pineapples, because they grow well there. This is done by selecting the building and opening the pull-up-menu in the stat screen. Several buildings have options to fine-tune the way they operate to various degrees, such as the construction and teamster's offices, where we can choose between Sweat Shop (the default) and Easy-Does-It (more job satisfaction, but shorter work hours) I will go over them as they come up.
Coffee is the best unprocessed cash crop in the game, and both coffee and pineapples can be made even more valuable later on. These farms will form the basis of our economy. Lastly, I place a diplomatic ministry next to our palace. The USA and the Soviets will give us more developmental aid if we get on their good side, and there is one diplomatic option in particular that will save us a good bit of money early on if we invest in the ministry now. It has a pull-up-menu as well, allowing us to either play favourites with one of the two superpowers or stay neutral.
Before we move on, let's take a look at the character we are playing as. Clicking on the numbers on the lower right on the screen takes us to the almanach, where we can look up various statistics about our island, and stats about ourselves. When starting a custom game, we can pick our favourite and most useful traits by hand, while the scenarios give us somthing premade. Presidente Ortez seems to generally stand for bringing prosperity to Tropico through hard work rather than by exploiting the land and it's inhabitants, but despite his family values, he seems to be an a bit unpleasant man in person. The reduction to pollution and bonus to education point us towards building up a heavy industry, which requires educated workers and produces lots of pollution.
Now that we've spent what little money we have, we need to wait for our construction workers to do their job so we can start growing coffee. The workers first use shovels to level the ground, then they bang their hammers against the transparant yellow building until it stops being transparent, and finally, they instantly apply a paintjob so that the building is no longer eye-seeringly yellow.
With the first batch of developmental aid at the beginning of 1951, we order a fisherman's wharf to be build, so we can have a food source that doesn't take up valuable cash crop space. It's pull-up-menu gives us the choice between clean waste disposal and just throwing everything we don't need back into the sea. The former is increases upkeep costs, but the latter damages the environment.
Scenarios often have special events like this. I accept the cash. Getting so essential buildings now is more valuable to me than boosting what will be a relatively small part of our economy.
And this is why I built the diplomatic ministry early on. The scroll symbol takes us to the the edicts, which are laws and actions we can enact as presidente. The ministry opens up deals with the US and the USSR, and a 50 % discount on tenements and apartment complexes, the two most common form of housing, will save us a lot of dough right now, even factoring in the costs to build the ministry and enact the edict. Tenements, apartment complexes, and a third type of low-level housing called the bunk house all have a pull-up-menu, letting us choose Roach Patrol instead of Normal Maintenance, which lowers maintenance costs and quality of living.
With the money from the UN, I built a bauxite mine as an additional source of income (though because it's quite a bit away from the construction office, it isn't actually completed for quite some time ), two apartment complexes so our people won't have to live in shacks anymore, and a church, to make them happy. I don't bother with tenements, however. They are cheaper than apartment complexes and hold more people, but their lower quality means the inhabitants are less happy. And I find them really ugly, that's another important factor. Apartment complexes are my preferred form of low income housing
In 1954, we also had enough money to place a clinic. As you might imagine, good medical care makes our citizens less likely to die, and also makes them happier. As shown by my amazing Paint.net skills, the clinic also has multiple options in how it operates (pun fully intended). Preventive Medicine reduces the amount of times citizens need to visit the doctor, Obstetrics increases birth rates in case you want to increase your population quickly, and Gerontology increases the lifespan of patiens by 5 to 10 years. I usually leave it at Preventive Medicine, since even a supposed "low immigrant" island like this one will have a high enough population growth to get where we want.
Our church is complete, and we need a man with at least high school education to work there as a priest. Mr. Verde here is wasting his mental prowess on physical labor. Let's fire him so he reconsiders his career choices. This is done by selecting the teamster's office, hovering over him on the employee list, and clicking while pressing shift. He does indeed get a job that he's less overqualified for...
He's gone and become a cop, that rascal, but it's fine, our nation is getting big enough to need some police anyway. Luckily, we don't have to wait until a highschool is built for someone to become the shephard for our pious tropican sheep. We can also simply hire a foreigner for a bundle of cash. This gets 100 $ more expensive every time we do it, and people with college education demand triple the payment, so don't rely on it too much. For now, we splurge another 1.800 $ for a doctor to staff the recently completed clinic.
The money from our cash crops is slowly starting to come in. Combined with developmental aid we get at the start of the new year, we can finally afford a high school . Constructing something on slopes always looks weird, hence the building overlapping with the road, and it will look only slightly less weird once the workers are finished levelling the ground, with huge slopes between neighboring buildings.
We can choose between General, Parochial or Military Education. The latter two slow things down in order to instill religious or militaristic ideas in young, unformed minds. Might be helpful to make these respective parties happy, but for now, the default option is more useful to us.
After all the hard work in the last five years, the Tropicans deserve to relax a little, so I also order a pub to be constructed.
Speaking of parties, the communists want more housing. The second apartment complex hasn't been finished yet because of all the other buildings I ordered, so clearly they don't understand that I've been working hard to bring PROGRESS! to Tropico. But fine, for now I'll give that apartment complex the highest priority by clicking on the third arrow on the building's overview screen, and I'll put down a few more once we have the cash. The construction workers immediately swarm around the big yellow box and give it a nice coat of paint.
Our coffee plants have finally grown enough to consistently put out money, so I get an immigration office. It has a variety of options to lower or increase immigration or emmigration, but the most interesting option is "Skilled Workers Welcome", which gives immigrants a chance to already have an education when arriving on the island.
The high school is completed, which means two things. First, I pay the fee to get a teacher to move to Tropico to start producing our own supply of educated citizens. Second, I enact this fine edict. The Literacy Program is more than worth the cost. Faster schooling obviously means we can get buildings that need educated workers to full capacity more quickly. But workers don't just stop learning after leaving school, they also gain skill in their profession, granting them higher productivity. This edict goes a long way to strengthen our economy.
My advicer warns about rising criminality, so I decide to see for myself by using Info Mode, accesible through the eye symbol. It visualizes various statistics about the island and the people. We can see that there is indeed a lot of crime within the city. Stats concerning individual citizens are marked by colored arrows rather than colored ground. Most visitor slots in our church are locked off right now because we only have a single priest, and the Tropican's religious needs aren't met because of that. We fix both problems by hiring foreign workers.
Now that all the essentials are covered, it's time to expand. A second construction office and teamster's office each will form the heart of our industrial zone.
After all the hard work El Presidente has done for this island, democracy rears it's ugly head, trying to dethrone our glorious leader! Thankfully, our chances are very good, so let's play along with the pesky freedom lovers who don't know how good they have it under us.
But just in case I don't win, I secretly enact a little edict to get some money on my swiss bank account, which is shown underneath the main funds counter in the lower right of the screen. This is mostly for flavour though, in actual gameplay, all that embezzling money for your retirement fund does is boost your score at the end of the game, so this edict is purely detrimental if you don't care about that.
With our newfound corruption in place, we place down some expensive buildings to make use of it. To the left is a cannery, one of the best factories in the game. It can turn fish, pineapples and coffee into much more valuable canned goods. Generally, all factories operate by processing raw materials produced by cheaper buildings. I also add to more apartment complexes to house the workers and their families.
While placing some houses(which only accomodate a single family, but have a very high quality and look nice), election month rolls around. We don't need to falsify any votes, but an even more overwhelming victory will surely show everyone that El Presidente is universally loved and future elections aren't necessary, right?
It doesn't quite work out like that. Had we said no, no one had ever suspected anything even though the results are identical. Only ever cheat in elections to avoid a game over. To counter possible negative opinions, I raise everyone's wages a bit.
This includes people who don't get wages anymore.
This is a newspaper office. We can print propaganda to increase the people's respect towards various factions. Or we can set it to "Coupons 'N' More" which gives us money for every adult living in range. Advertisements are propaganda for the almighty dollar, after all.
Meanwhile, our cannery is completed. Several building have optional add-ons that can be instantly build just by forking over some cash. Some, like the Packing House and Flash Freezer available for the cannery, are straight upgrades (though the latter requires electricity to work), others come with a trade-off, such as increasing productivity in exchange producing lower value goods. Another factor altering productivity is the cannery's pull-down-menu, allowing us to choose between Sweat Shop and Easy-Does-It. All factories have these options.
I buy the packing house now, and place down another fisherman's wharf and a pineapple farm, to feed our growing population and our hungry, hungry cannery.
Time for more edicts! We may be working our citizens to the bone with our factory setting, but at least we will let them party as hard as they work, while we also go the extra mile to minimize the environmental impact of our cannery. Power plants and airports are two of the most expensive buildings, so the Yankees are offering us a great service with the third edict.
The construction frenzy doesn't stop! The restaurant (upper right) is an entertainment building just like the pub. The pull-up-menu gives us the choice to increase or decrease maintenance cost in exchange for better or worse quality.
The marketplace to the lower left stores food produced by your farms. Teamsters deliver food supplies there there to save people living in the inner city the long walk to the nearest farm to get something to eat.
The first canned products have been exported, giving me the money to expand even further. I add another cannery and more houses. Another raise is in order, too.
Some time passes without many noteworthy things happening. I construct a few more apartment complexes and houses, and easily win the 1969 election. The second cannery is completed and I take the time to show that a building's appearance changes with add-ons. In case of the cannery's packing house, it's easier to see after rotating the camera by 180 degrees. And since it's visible right now, I gues I should also mention the ruin. You can buy an add-on for it that lets you hire archaeologists and use it as a tourist attraction. I don't do that in this playthrough.
Our next big purchases are a college, which I build in preparation for construction some more buildings that require workers with higher education, and an electric power plant, which is one of these buildings and unlocks other such buildings. The steep hillside makes it look very weird when viewed from the east. Our construction workers are going to have to do a lot of shoveling. Power plants also have the choice between using coal and gas as fuel, with the later being the more expensive but environmentally better option.
Eventually, I start constructing a hotel, more to give a glimps at how tourism works, rather than to make a whole industry out of it. Tourists can bring you buttloads of cash, but requires a large initial investment: Lots of hotels to house them, all the attractions to increase tourism ratings and draw in the really rich crowd, and an airport to bring them in efficiently. In order to make our island more presentable to foreign snobs, I also add plants and a few fountains.
Now that the power plant is complete (look at how steep the cliff between it and the prisons have become after the ground was leveled!) I build a Radio Station. Similarly to the newspaper office, it has a variety of effects we can choose from. Either have them broadcast propaganda to increase the people's respect for us, leave them to their own devices to increase the people's sense of freedom, or take up an offer from one of three foreign broadcasts, each giving you money for anyone who lives inside the station's range and belongs to its respective target audience. Menudo's Greatest Hits (Which targets Tropicans age 4-25) is usually the best money source of the three.
Completing any hotel allows us to build tourist attractions. This part of the island, very close to our palace, has the best tourist ratings without being miles away from the nearest construction office, but the steep terrain limits our construction options, so I only build a Pool and a Souvenir Shop, plus some decorations. The first few tourists arrive by yacht a short time later.
After this point, I mostly just lunge around, wait for population numbers to go up, and accelarate the process by buying educated workers. I could have expanded further into the south, but I wouldn't have accomplished much before the scenario goal had been reached. And I wanted to be done with it anyway, since it was my third time playing the scenario in a row. The first two attempts weren't recorded due to my inexperience with recording software. It was a learning experience
Aaaaaand that's a wrap!
Youtube: Viva Presidente!
When we either complete a scenario or reach the designated ending year in a custom game, our advisor will summarize our accomplishments and shortcomings in this cutscene. I would say we did pretty well in turning Tropico into a thriving nation. Let's enjoy one last zoomed out view of the tiny rock in the Caribbean we made our home: