A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tropico 3 is a city building simulation game in which the player takes on the role of a Caribbean dictator who can be either a real personality -- such as Fidel Castro or Che Guevara -- or a character of their own creation. While the game has a whimsical tone and lets players be as benevolent or tyrannical as they like, it tends to push toward the latter, if only because it’s easier to quell rebel uprisings with guns than diplomacy. It’s worth noting, though, that the gun-play is about as mild as such a thing can be; it’s viewed from an elevated perspective and there’s no blood or gore. Wounded soldiers simply fall to the ground and disappear. Parents should also note that tobacco and alcohol are referenced in relation to the types of buildings players can construct (distilleries, tobacco farms, and pubs), and that the dictator creation module allows players to choose traits such as “womanizer” and “alcoholic.”
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What's it about?
The long overdue follow up to a pair of acclaimed city building games released several years ago, TROPICO 3 puts players in the shoes of a dictator of a fictional Caribbean island. You have the option of choosing a real dictator -- such as Fidel Castro or Che Guevara -- as your avatar or creating one of your own. It’s up to you to choose how to build up the island’s economy. You can build farms and export products, strike deals with foreign companies, and snuggle up with the U.S.A. or U.S.S.R. to receive financial aid packages. Of course, the people must be provided for as well, or they’ll revolt. So, in addition to putting money into your Swiss bank accounts, you also have to spend a few dollars on things like education, health-care, and housing, lest the peasants decide to take up arms against you. Or you can just build up the military so that rebellions can be squashed and trouble-making citizens assassinated. It sounds a bit harsher than it really is; the game actually something of a tyrant parody. Still, people who have personally experienced dictatorships might be offended by its whimsical tone.
Is it any good?
As city builders go Tropico 3 is deep and satisfying. This isn’t just a game about building farms, roads, and houses; the range of options at the player’s disposal is exceptional. You can control everything from workers’ salaries to the cost of rent in your citizens’ apartments. And that’s to say nothing of the speeches you'll write to quell citizen concerns, the fishy deals you'll strike with foreign companies to bring business to the island and earn a bit of cash foryourselves, or the rebellions you'll need deal with in order to stay in power. With 15 missions in the box plus thousands of player-created challenges to download, you may still be playing Tropico 3 come next holiday.
However, the depth may also prove an annoyance for some. The quick tutorial covers only the bare basics of play, meaning players need to learn by trial and error once the game starts. Veteran city builders shouldn’t have too much trouble, but it will be daunting for rookies. Aside from the steep learning curve and the dictatorship themes that might offend some players, Tropico 3 looks good and offers a very interesting strategy game experience.
Online interaction: Players can create and share “challenges” (maps with specific goals) with the rest of the game’s community online.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about real world dictators and their impact on the lives of the citizens they rule. Is it possible to be a benevolent dictator? Do you think that players who have lived under the dictatorships of people like Che Guevara might be insulted by the game’s whimsical tone, or simply that there is a game that allows players to pretend they are a dictator?
Do you like learning by playing a game? Did you try playing this game multiple times with your dictator having different traits?
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