You’re at home. You can’t go outside. There’s nothing on telly but the news, and the news is terrible. What better way to pass the time than by playing some computer games?
If that sounds absurd to you, this new series where Gary Kavanagh and I post some recommendations probably isn’t for you. But if it doesn’t sound absurd, and you haven’t played in ages and are looking for something interesting, then strap in.
We’re going to start today with Tropico 6, available on Steam for a fairly pricey €49.99.
But price isn’t a good way to judge computer games – you might spend three times that much on a ticket for a music concert and it’s over in a few hours. A great game might entertain you for months for the same price.
Tropico 6 is a great game. As the name suggests, it’s the sixth edition of the Tropico series – a series I’d always said I’d get into at some point, but never quite gotten around to.
The idea is simple: You take the role of “El Presidente”, a tin-pot Caribbean dictator, starting in the colonial era. Your goals are simple: build a powerful agricultural economy, win your independence, survive through the world wars, and the cold war, and emerge into the modern era with a booming banana republic, with its own nuclear weapons program and giant statues of yourself on every street corner.
The seat of power
To do this, you build things. Cattle farms make leather and meat. Plantations grow bananas, and sugar, and tobacco. You build factories to make rum and cigars and boats and weapons, and export them. And you use the money to build houses and roads and schools.
Most city-builder games get quite repetitive after a while, and the challenge stops once you’ve got a steady stream of income. Tropico solves this in a number of innovative ways.
First, global changes affect your economy. You might be a booming colony, sending rum off to the motherland, but as soon as you gain independence, you’ll collapse if you don’t industrialise and find new markets. The world wars are a chance to build a booming weapons industry, but when they end, you best find a new way to make money, and so on.
And the best part? Probably the most hilarious element of Tropico is when you reach the modern era, have a booming little island paradise, and people start demanding colleges. Once you have a bunch of people with College degrees, everything starts going to pot. It’s a lot like real life, really. Give them a little education, and within a few years you’ve got hundreds of armed communist revolutionaries trying to bring an end to your glorious rule. The buggers.
Casinos: Entertainment for rich fools, Money for El Presidente
Is it perfect? Not at all. An enduring frustration is finding a transport system that works, so that your little islanders don’t spend months stuck in a bus station or the underground.
But on the other side of the ledger, you’re going to find yourself awake at 11pm, saying “I’ll just build this furniture factory before bed”. It also has the benefit of being one of the best-looking games of its kind around the place.
It’s great, and well worth your money.