(Previously… NBA 2K11)

At some point, everyone wants to be a corrupt dictator of their own Caribbean island. Or maybe it’s just me, but either way the allure of absolute power is a hard thing to resist.

Tropico 3 is a construction and management simulation set during the Cold War, with the gameplay similar to the Civilization and Railroad Tycoon series’. The goal is simple: try and build up your Third World nation to something resembling a Global Superpower, through proper handling of everything from workers wages to advanced Nuclear testing.

I love these types of games. They can become so immersive it can be scary, and some of the options available to you can be addictive. While it’s an easy thing to sit back and order the construction of buildings and roads, Tropico 3 offers the ability to micro-manage certain aspects which adds another degree of difficulty and playability that some of its predecessors may have lacked. The learning curve isn’t too terrible, but it is a bit steep at first, but takes no time to grasp as long as you pay attention. Newsflash: I didn’t.

Having only 2 hours in which to get a good feel for the game, I raced through the tutorial without bothering to learn about the various menus that would be available to me once I started ruling. I mean, come on people, I’ve been playing these kinds of games for nigh on 20 years! There was no way I wouldn’t be an awesome dictator…

I started the Campaign, but there are other modes such as Sandbox and Challenges. Naturally I opted to ignore those and get straight to building my Presidente. I found the character creation to be a total blast. You have different body types, clothing and accessories from which to outfit your ruler, but the best for me was deciding which personality traits my gentleman would have. You get to decide the name (only one), how he rose to power, background, flaws and perks. It is said you should pay very close attention to these details, as each one has a positive/negative effect on how you will govern.

I just picked the silliest ones:

NAME: Birthdays.
CLOTHING/ACCESSORIES: Hooded pullover with jeans, a pipe and an Admiral’s hat.
FACE: Pale skin with black hair, white beard and black Wyatt Earp mustache.
BACKGROUND: Pop singer.
RISE TO POWER: Religious appointment.
QUALITIES: Green thumb and athletic.
FLAWS: Coward and Flatulence (almost picked Womanizer).

Normally I would never choose these, but I only had two hours and I had to get the game started. With the clock ticking and the opening video finished, I soon realized to my horror that I maybe should have spent a bit more time with the tutorial. While Tropico 3 doesn’t have near the difficulty curve of something like Supreme Ruler 2020, it’s still a surprisingly difficult game to get a grip on in a short period of time. Towards the end of my adventure I started to understand what I should’ve been doing all along, but by then the damage had been done. Luckily I kept notes chronicling my amazing ability to govern a small island as a gloriously benign ruler.

-The first 24 minutes go most excellently. I am praised for having “won” the election (remember, I obtained power via religious appointment, which nets me +15 religious respect and -25% religious building costs – pretty worthless!). I’m told by my adviser to consider building 3 farms in order to stimulate the economic flow. Please… I instead build the more important Pub and Cabaret, thinking they’ll get the dough pouring in better than 3 measly farms.

-24 minutes in and my country is in debt, causing production and building to stop.

-at 26 minutes the World Development Bank has imposed a ban on my spending. Now how on earth do these people expect me to haul my country out of debt if I can’t spend?

-I decide to send Birthdays out for a visit to the Pub and Cabaret, and this succeeds in improving the quality of service at those places. What he did to accomplish this I don’t want to know, but soon the money starts coming back in and I go to spending.

-30 minutes has seen me build a police station and prison on the other side of the island. My thinking is it’s best to keep the criminals far away from the public. Flush with cash I also build two logging camps in the woods.

-32 minutes… back in debt. I send Birthdays back to the public businesses to try and build the quality up again, which it does, but this time the money never comes. I’m frustrated.

-at 33 minutes I have no choice but to accept the fact that building a police station/prison was stupid, so I demolish it and it nets me some money! Excited, I then target the logging camp that’s been equally crap. I now have roughly $5,000 in the bank!

-I decide to do what the adviser told me to do in the first place, and at 35 minutes I’ve built three farms. Boring, but it works.

-For the next half hour things couldn’t be better. I have tons of money, the people sort-of like me, and I have buildings flying up all over the place. To celebrate, I build a church in the middle of nowhere, for reasons that escape me. I place a road that connects it to town and people start flocking there. And by flocking I mean EVERYONE! With no workers at their jobs, guess what stops coming in.

-1:10 back in debt, and it’s all because of those stupid churchgoers. They’ve neglected their jobs because I haven’t been managing their wage amounts, plus the housing conditions are fairly terrible.

-1:11 and I’ve had enough of this church business and have it demolished, which brings me money! However, the lazy people hate this and hold a peaceful protest in front of my palace. I have Birthdays give a speech which quells the uprising and sends those good-for-nothing layabouts back to work.

-it’s 1:16 and I’ve grown tired of looking at all the shanty shacks around my lovely island, so I demolish them all and get some more cash. Naturally I don’t want to leave my people homeless, so I build them tenement buildings and charge them $10/month.

-1:20 guess who isn’t living in the brand new tenement blocks? I decide to lower the rent to $3/month, which instantly nets me 3 tenants. Probably should have built houses instead.

-1:24 has seen me try to build a High School to educate my people, whom I’m really starting to dislike. Every now and then I’ll check in on what they’re thinking and it appears they don’t think too much of Birthdays. So now I’m ticked and decide to issue a “No Littering Edict”. While there are great edicts like Prohibition and Same Sex Marriages, I don’t have near the money to afford them, so with all the power I can muster I issue the ban on littering. Doesn’t exactly instill fear.

-It’s the 1:36 mark and things start getting really bad for Birthdays: an American magazine has just called my island “the worst place in the world to live”.

-1:37 guess who’s back in debt?

-Birthdays has crushed a futile farmers rebellion, at the 1:39 mark. For punishment I demolish their houses and force them to live in my tenement housing, for which I charge them rent. A great idea!

-a shady proposition from a logging company comes in at 1:40, and it’s for $1 million. I accept so fast it’s incredible, and place a special condition in the agreement that siphons some of the cash into my Swiss account. The rest I give to my people.

-1:44 and the Americans are angry with my debt handling abilities, which is none of their business really. They claim I owe them money which I can’t pay. Birthdays is starting to wish he could put the Americans in one of his tenement buildings, teach them a lesson or two. Anyway, they’re threatening a blockade if I don’t answer them.

-at 1:45 I give them Americans an answer… by embracing Communism and Mother Russia.

-1:49 all the tenants from my new buildings have left and all farming and logging has stopped. The workers are very pissed with me, claiming I’ve neglected them.

-1:50 back in debt and the Americans send a war fleet my way. They say it’s nothing more than for blockade reasons, but I have my doubts.

-Wow, at 1:54 a news bulletin just stated that Birthdays survived the 18th attempt on his life this morning, as he found pieces of glass in his soup! 18! I had no clue.

-The end has come to poor Birthdays, at 1:57. With his country mired in extreme debt, and a lady dying of starvation in front of his palace during one of his lame speeches, the Americans have invaded Birthdays’ island and ousted him. Luckily his adviser tells him he had a boat waiting to shuttle Birthdays away just in time, so I didn’t get to see the invasion force. With close to $11,000 in his Swiss account – which was basically stolen from my people due to shady dealings – Birthdays escapes the justice he so deserved and lives to maybe one day rule again.


  • The graphics are very nice, clean and vibrant.
  • The music is hilarious, with psuedo-authentic island music playing everywhere.
  • The management capabilities are pretty vast and deep.
  • Customizing your character is a total joy!
  • Massive replayability..


  • Takes some time to learn, even if you use the tutorial.
  • Governing your people can be a tricky thing, as you’re not given all the information you need to make some decisions.
  • You don’t own this: get it!.

I cannot wait to go through Tropico 3 again, this time with a better understanding of how the game works and what is expected. While it’s true learning how things function takes a bit of time, it never really gets frustrating. What IS frustrating is not paying attention to some of the advise you’re given, but that’s clearly the fault of the user (me). This is a really great game, and offers a lot more than what you may be accustomed to if you play Tycoon-type games. It’s a deep, rich experience that’s funny and enjoyable. I love it.