[Review] Tropico 6 – Nintendo Switch Edition

  • Developer: Limbic Entertainment
  • Publisher: Kalypso Media Group
  • Release Date: 06/11/2020
  • Price: £44.99 / $49.99
  • Review code provided by Kalypso Media Group

Introducing: Tropico 6 Switch Review

Simulation games, primarily city builders are a rare treat outside of the PC world. Over the last few decades, many have been ported over to one console or another but the genre still seemed elusive in the handheld gaming realm. Prior to the launch of the Nintendo Switch, the PS Vita occupied the majority of my gaming time. Finding a decent city builder on Sony’s portable device was a pipe dream. Even on my iPad I could run a search for “city builder” and turn up a thousand hits, but none of them were exactly what I was looking for in a simulated cityscape. In fact, the majority of the mobile options were red herrings. They had the look of a grand city builder but beneath the facade of clever looking constructors were paywalls, limited placement tiles and ultimately cheap knockoffs.

Nintendo’s hybrid system has filled that particular niche for me. Though the eShop is flooded with games to the point of drowning you when wading through the never ending sea of titles, city builders are still relatively few and far between. But they exist and they are a godsend for portable urban planning. Tropico 6 is the latest to join the bunch and I’ve had the pleasure of checking it out. Does this interurban island escape mirror the PC it was ported from or should it sink to the depths of the eShop sea?

Ideas Do Not Need Weapons

The Tropico series, unlike traditional simulators, gives you ultimate control as a power craved dictator. In the Tropico 6 campaign you dance across various archipelagos while you build your dream world atop a grouping of islands. You can oppress your people under your thumb or raise a small nation to be the thorn in the side of the superpowers of the world. Smuggling, pirate raids and rebellious zealots are the makeup of your government and provide a means to an end. During your colonial era, you are instilled by “the Crown” as the local Governor. You tread a delicate balance of placating your distant overlords while appeasing your local subjects.

There are a few story prompts sprinkled within the game. You’re mostly cut free to do your own thing but occasionally faction leaders or others will approach you with tasks and missions. Some are required for successful completion of a scenario while others are optional. Care must be taken in either case as the decisions you make can lead to dire consequences. The voice actors have done a fantastic job breathing life into the colorful characters you’ll meet. The story and dialogue have a fair amount of humor and have been well crafted for a city builder sim.

A Revolution is Not a Trail of Roses

Tropico 6 abounds with things to do. There’s no shortage of content as sandbox mode provides limitless options. The main campaign is additionally robust which you can sink a lot of time into. Tropico 6 isn’t just a decent city builder, it hones the whole simulator genre by taking it beyond just free placement of buildings to cater to your patrons. Construction is just one layer of gameplay. It certainly meets the requirements I was looking for with flexible road placement and several categories of buildings to use. The core mechanics provide stepping stones to unlock more and more as you progress. The addition of multiple islands adds a fresh twist where you can link production and take advantage of varying resources while building out your island nation. The ability to send pirates to pull off the greatest heists in the world by stealing nation’s renowned monuments never got old. Swiping Stonehenge or the Statue of Liberty is the mark of a true dictator.

The other layer to Tropico 6 stems from giving you control as a dictator. There’s a whole system where managing your population doesn’t just come down to providing food, water, shelter and fun. You have spy networks, rebels and elections to deal with. You’re given control down to micromanaging every individual on your island. Though that can be a bit tedious, it’s also not necessary. But it’s there and can be a lot of fun. Is there a religious group who keep making unreasonable demands? Try bribing their leader. Is there a faction who opposes you in the upcoming election? Just send an assassin.

There are a lot of layers when playing Tropico 6 and it will take some time to master all of them. Tropico is outrageous, irreverent and a blast to play. The port is well done and never left me thinking it should have remained a keyboard and mouse construct. I’ll admit, the initial loading took a little long and map movement could be a bit sluggish. Neither issue were huge detractors from the pleasing gameplay offered by this abundant simulator.

Use Emotion For the Many and Reserve Reason For the Few

Tropico 6 is only a few years old but the graphics date it further. They’re not horrible by any means but there is a bit of aliasing and cropping issues present. Of course, most of that is attributed to the movement controls which have you panning, tilting and rotating the screen often. The other problem I ran into was not being able to distinguish specific buildings. It was a little more challenging in handheld, but I found myself clicking on building after building to try and find what was needed. Additionally there were icons that their meaning had to be inferred. I didn’t immediately understand what needed to be addressed. These problems were short lived, however, as continued play made me better at managing the minutiae. I also found it impressive that the Presidente and the Palace could be customized. A small touch but nice nonetheless.

When it comes to the sound track on a lot of simulation games, I often find myself jumping into the options to mute the music. Since it’s easy to get lost in these games, I frequently play my own tunes in the background. I never found that necessary with Tropico 6. It’s not that the music was so impressive I added it to my personal playlist, but it did match the island ambiance and was pleasantly calming.

Politics is War Without Bloodshed

I mentioned above that Tropico 6 was a little sluggish when it came to moving the camera. Also noted was a slightly long load time when booting up a former save file. Both issues were unsurprising considering the scope of the game and the lack of a mouse. Neither issue was severe or gamebreaking. They simply beseeched a little more patience. Patience I happily traded to have a game of this depth on my Nintendo Switch. Tropico otherwise performed admirably without any other notable issues. It ran well either docked or in handheld mode, which is a testament that it’s possible to have hefty simulators on a portable device.

Final Wrap

Just as elections can be rigged and minds can be swayed in Tropico 6, I hope I’ve been able to convince you that this is a city builder you need to add to your digital lineup of software. Tropico 6 is a profound simulator with political management and satisfying construction elements. Aside from some slow tracking on the map, there’s little to stand in your way of having fun. Hopefully this port will float above the top of the eShop ocean and beckon other top tier builders to the Nintendo Switch.

Pros

  • Engrossing Gameplay
  • Fully Realized Simulator
  • Endless Playability

Cons

  • Slightly Slow

Verdict
Tropico 6 – Nintendo Switch Edition is more than a gratifying city builder, it proudly declares games of this scope have a place in the portable realm.

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