Getting Primed for Success in Tropico 5: Penultimate Edition

The expansive genre of management sims doesn’t get much more entertaining (or irreverent) than the Tropico series, and developer Haemimont Games’ latest entry, Tropico 5, only adds fuel to the proverbial fire. The tropical island of Tropico is once again your dominion, and this time, once again playing as “El Presidente,” you’re tasked with leading it through the ages with guts and gusto, alongside entertaining, accessible mechanics. If you haven’t experienced it yet, Tropico 5: Penultimate Edition hit Xbox One today – and it’s the perfect jumping-on point.

For the first time in the series, the game starts you off as a lowly governor, all the way back in the Victorian era, subservient to the king. From there, you’re tasked with leading your people through World War II, the Cold War, and a bunch of other historical bummers. Each era brings with its own set of challenges – which is to be expected when you’re plopped geographically between two aggressive superpowers. You choose how to govern, and can very much bend (or even break) the rules: Not only can you respond to riots with violence, you can even rig the elections themselves. Tropico 5 very much dares you to be bad.

At the start, the game helps you build structures for gathering resources, often to your national leadership’s rather corrupt ends. The king has you set up a logging operation, for instance, so he can build himself an underwater palace. As time passes, your goals and options become wider and more varied than merely keeping your subjects happy, and you’re able to do things like produce and export booze or cigars to grow the economy, or make your kingdom the ultimate tourist destination. Tropico 5 is broken down into missions, which are selected at random each time you play, in order to keep things fresh. That said, your choices very much dictate what kind of regime you’ll preside over.

In addition to the trading, research, renovation, and exploration mechanics, Tropico 5 – for the first time in the series – features cooperative and competitive multiplayer for up to four players; you’re able to build cities on the same island, and you can choose whether to work with or against your fellow players.

From the missions themselves to the nation’s bizarre back story, however, it’s the game’s great sense of humor that’s once again what makes the Tropico machine sing. A consistently entertaining DJ narrates the entire bird’s eye experience, and even the constitution (which you’re in charge of writing) is poignant and hilarious. Tropico 5: Penultimate Edition is definitely some of the funniest (and flat-out enjoyable) management experience you’ll ever get.