Tropico 4 Modern Times: a 3 hour tour

, | Game diaries

One of Tropico 4’s most significant improvements is making tourism economically competitive with industry instead of a self-inflicted challenge. Islands based on tourism in Tropico 3 didn’t earn much income and were fairly boring to play due to a lack of options. Tropico 4 introduced a slew of profitable new hotels and attractions, many of which could also be enjoyed by everyday citizens. The Modern Times expansion continues this welcome trend by adding even more buildings and edicts to the tourism mix.

The seven-star hotel, pictured above, is the crown jewel of tourist accommodations. It replaces the skyscraper hotel in 1979, and, like its predecessor, only one can be built per island. Because the seven-star hotel unlocks fairly late during most scenarios and sandbox games, it’s usually possible to build both it and a skyscraper hotel, which is a nice plus. While the number of tourist families who can stay in these buildings is identical, seven-star hotels provide almost double the service quality (an amazing base of 150) and employ only 75% as large a workforce. Their only drawback is that guests rarely leave–they have such a good time hanging out by the two rooftop pools that they neglect to visit Tropico’s other attractions. Still, the huge boost to tourism rating that seven-star hotels provide creates a ripple effect that will benefit those other attractions when guests flock to less-entertaining accommodations and then look for fun in the Caribbean sun.

Not all of the new buildings are so welcome, however.

After the jump: did they have to replace one of my favorites with this thing?!

This is the Ship-O-Rant, a themed tourist restaurant that becomes available in 1965. Several of its features are appealing: it entertains both tourists and Tropicans, its solid base service quality of 55 justifies high prices and produces decent profits, and it can feed 20 customers with a staff of only 4. The cost of these features is too high, though.

The Ship-O-Rant’s first drawback is minor–it requires a small amount of power to build and operate. Its second drawback is significant–for what it is, the structure is huge. Ship-O-Rants occupy as much space as 2.5 modern apartment blocks. When combined with its third drawback–it replaces the base restaurant building instead of serving as an additional entertainment choice–I strongly dislike it.

Some of Modern Times’ new buildings just lengthen the existing build menus. Metro stations, car factories, SWAT headquarters, and many others are brand-new structures with no relation to previous buildings. Others, like the biofarm and the Ship-O-Rant, replace less advanced buildings when the right year rolls around and they unlock. The Ship-O-Rant replaces the restaurant so early that in most scenarios it’s never possible to build the latter structure, which was one of my favorites. The base restaurant was one of the smallest and cheapest buildings in the entire game, needed no power, and employed only two uneducated workers. As a result, it was a part of all my early build queues, an easy way to provide entertainment during the years when my economy was still struggling, and yet it remained useful in the late game as well. It could even be converted into a secret police headquarters, the least expensive and smallest building capable of accomplishing that important goal. If the Ship-O-Rant didn’t replace the restaurant but instead was available as an alternative for touristy late game islands, it would be a welcome addition to my tool kit. As is, I hate the thing.

The other new buildings and edicts are all useful. The Balloon Fair edict, the results of which are portrayed above, costs a measly $5000 and can only be issued after building the balloon ride. For this trivial price, it boosts the island’s tourism and entertainment ratings by 20 for years and fills its skies with attractive balloons. Aerodromes replace the old airports starting in 1983 and occupy the same amount of space while massively increasing both the number of arriving tourists and the amount of money they bring with them. Sanatorium’s provide pricey health care to Tropicans and tourists alike while enabling the Health Reform edict which, after a few years of start-up costs, permanently increases the capacity of all health care buildings on the island. These are all welcome changes. Now if only they would patch the old restaurant back in…

Next time: potpourri and final impressions
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Dave Markell’s probably been playing games longer than you’ve been alive. While his preferred genres are turn-based strategy and RPG’s, he’ll gladly demonstrate his incompetence at anything.