Desktop Despots: Tropico 5 Beta Begins Next Month

New Tropico games aren’t appearing as quickly as my brain thinks. This is simply that I now perceive time at such a pace that the world is a dizzying blur around me. If you’d held a knifegun to my headthroat and demanded a release date for Tropico 4, I’d have tried to second-guess myself and suggested late 2012. It was in fact August 2011, and I am an old, confused man, unsure why the Christmasses won’t stop happening. Anyway, my confused rambling aside, Tropico 5 is appearing a very appropriate three years after the last time El Presidente reared his undemocratic city building head, and is now accepting applications for its March beta.

While I’ve always had a sort of uncomfortable reaction to the Tropico theme – chuckling it up to the notion of a despotic and cruel leader of an oppressed people – I also recognise that it’s a far more honest take on the reality of city building sims. Aren’t we always unelected leaders imposing our egocracy upon unaware masses? Isn’t SimCity actually the more sinister of the two, for all its deceitful pretence of an egalitarian society? Also, the phrase “banana republic” does make it sound like it’s a lot of fun.

So, you can sign up via this handy online form, to take part in the dynasty-adding new version of the series. Rather than just being one leader at one time, this time out El Pres kicks off in colonial times, and then your progeny replace you as the centuries go by. And you can make sure things stay in the family by promoting relations into positions of power! Just like a proper fucked up nation should.

A beta for this single-player series?, you ask impetuously. Indeed not, as this will also be the first Tropico game to introduce up to four-player cooperative and competitive multiplayer.

The final game is aiming to be out by the Summer.


  1. RedViv says:

    *signs up*

    Wonder if they can figure out how to properly address La Presidente this time, seeing how we’ll handle an entire dynasty of beloved leaders in it.

    It’s a good year for city-building, it seems. Now all I need is a new Anno or Settlers announcement.

    • TWChristine says:

      Having only played a demo of the first one many moons ago, may I ask what the issue is with playing as La Presidente instead?

      • RedViv says:

        You’ll still be referred to as El Presidente, and him, and other things, that is it mostly. Not that it happens that often, but it bothered me a bit after a few hundred hours sunk into 3 and 4. More options for La Presidenta’s outfits would be nice as well, I suppose. After all, how are you supposed to impress Old Vicky (or whoever) so that she may grant freedom to the glorious island of Tropico?

    • tyren says:

      New Anno would be nice. I loved 1701 but for some reason 1404/Dawn of Discovery didn’t do it for me.

  2. The First Door says:

    To be fair, you can play the game as a nice leader, listening to your people, building what they want and getting elected fairly. In fact, in Tropico 4 I was sort of surprised how easy it is to stay in power without having to be underhand!

    • tasteful says:

      yeah. i always disliked the series because it looked from afar like a dumb, easy joke about something serious but actually playing trop 4 proved it to be a really smart, well-thought-out game. excited for 5

    • Museli says:

      This is true, although the pendulum swung a little too far towards ‘nice leader’ in Tropico 4 in my opinion. Even on the harder maps, my people were oppressed for maybe half an hour, before having a difficult but fair life for maybe another hour or so, then it’s a life of luxury for everyone for the rest of time (that map).

      • secuda says:

        Well they dont really put on a “hard” mode on harder maps, its more about lesser resource then harder to controll your subjects or juggling the superpowers.

    • Vinraith says:

      In every iteration of the game since the first, it’s always been much easier to be a benevolent leader than a cruel one. Unfortunately, every iteration of the game has also just plain gotten easier, a trend I expect will continue with 5.

  3. Rizlar says:

    I was always put off the idea of Tropico by the El Presidente character. He looks like a nightmare vision from an American propaganda campaign, clearly being a hybrid of world’s most dangerous socialists Fidel Castro and Ricky Tomlinson.

    But apparently they are actually good games, so maybe I should just bite the bullet and give them a chance.

    • Surlywombat says:

      You get to customize your leader.

    • tasteful says:

      the presentation of the tropico games in packaging and advertising makes them seem a lot jokier and worse than they are.

    • says:

      I’m lovin’ every single morsel of it.
      Having lived in non-aligned Movement country which (also) played the great Forces, and living today through lots of the major problems similar to bad game of Tropico – corruption, despotism of governing people, strikes, co-dependency on Great nations (well, nowadays, EU fonds mostly), I heartily appreciate satire and humor found in the games. It’s in the classic Simpsons tire, by it’s execution.
      Fairly easy, once you learn the heart-beat of the economy, but nevertheless, loads of fun.

    • Rindan says:

      Tropico is pretty even handed. You can play a capitalist puppet dictator puppet, a communist puppet dictator, a megalomaniac dictator, or I suppose a competent elected civil servant. The actual story really does have the USSR and the US being total bastards and screwing your citizens at every opportunity to further their own ends. I would say it is actively critical of interventionist foreign policies, if you are really looking for a message.

  4. Zarf says:

    All in all, I felt that 4 was a better game than 3, but not so much better that it justified a whole new game. I suppose they used a new engine and they updated the graphics (That is, they seem to have used higher-resolution versions of the textures they used in 3, and they added HDR color spaces), but beyond that, the new features felt more like what you’d get from a mid-aughts expansion pack. I told several of my friends that 4 was really good, but if they already had 3, to wait for a really good sale.

    I think the game mechanics were really good, so I don’t want them to change up much of that. If anything, they need to make the user interface that shows the stats of your city a bit easier to manage, and it should provide more details.

    The Tropico series is one of my favorite city builders. I really hope 5 gives me reason to throw money at it.

    EDIT: Here’s hoping I can name one of my Presidentes Dirk Tator.

    ANOTHER EDIT: I just saw the screenshots on their website. I really like what I see. Looks like there will be different styles of buildings available in different eras. Some of it looks a lot like Tropico 3 and 4, but some of it looks very, very different. Color me excited!

  5. Distec says:

    You can put me in the same boat as others who was put off a bit by this series’ marketing. I don’t even want to make it sound like it’s a big deal, because it’s not like I had some potent moral reaction against it or anything.

    Then I bought Tropico 4 on a Steam sale and was very pleasantly surprised. I was trying to find a decent city-building game. The new Sim City was a no-go for obvious reasons, and I’d played SC4 to death already. My other options were, I guess, Cities XL (which I hear sucks) and Anno 2070 (I don’t plan on logging into my UPlay account ever again). Tropico 4 really hit the spot for me, and I guess I was fortunate as a newcomer since I couldn’t appreciate the the few changes between it and its previous entry.

    Can’t wait!

    • Seraphithan says:

      If you still want to play Anno and not deal with UPlay get 1404. The two are quite similar, with pretty much every “new” thing of 2070 directly traceable to something that first showed up in 1404.

  6. Jimbo says:

    I rate Haemominimoinont quite highly, but how about giving this setting a rest and trying something new?

    • RedViv says:

      Then we get Omerta. You don’t want that, do you?

    • Frank says:

      Find some one else to make your less excellent game, how about. I rate them highly entirely for Tropico 3/4 and rate the entirety of the city-building genre lowly outside of it.

  7. Gap Gen says:

    For some reason the screenshot above is giving me flashbacks to the town of Arcadia from ArmA 1. So many messy, uncoordinated firefights.

  8. darkath says:

    “While I’ve always had a sort of uncomfortable reaction to the Tropico theme”

    Or you can recognize this is a video game and not reality. Just like wolfenstein’s super nazis from retro future won’t harm your daily life, you won’t turn into an evil dictator because you mistreat little pixels. Othewise we should also condemn all the murder simulators, manshoots, GTA and mafia games, not to mention dungeon keeper (which encourages you to engage in the torture of innoncent creatures) and any other games which doesn’t comply with political correctness and acceptable morals.

    Most video games have umcomfortable themes if you start going by that standard.