This post is from the now defunct website “A GameDev Plays…”, copied here for posterity
Why do all those tinpot dictators have weird notions and do strange things. Perhaps you can do better in Tropico 5, a city management game set on a tropical island. The player is dictator of the all they survey, which considering most gamers was going to happen anyway.
Tropico is a series of city management games set on tropical islands (not sure exactly where, probability the Caribbean). In this fifth edition (and the first I’ve played) you start during colonial times and go beyond the present day as technology improves. Gameplay is fairly standard for the genre: set policies and create buildings. It is a mix of strategy and city organisation - you need to keep people happy, build the economy, research science and (unusually for the genre) create a tourist industry. The player is (probably) the island’s dictator, a nice comment on the way players normally act in such games. The game plays to the theme in a lighthearted manner. Attempts at humour start well, but becomes repetitive.
The campaign is 16 missions, each building from the last. Although there is a clever reset half-way through, so that all the player’s improved game knowledge can be put to good use in building up again better from the beginning. Graphics are good and you can zoom in very close. The simulation models works fine, no obvious flaws, but then I found the game very easy. I only failed one mission once in normal mode, everything else I cruised through without serious impediment. It says something about the game that I didn’t mind the lack of challenge, the game was still very enjoyable and worthwhile.
Tropico 5 is US$24.99 on the Steam store for PC, Mac and Linux. It has been bundled.