Dave Markell

Tropico 4 Modern Times: swatting crime

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A few buildings in Modern Times are interesting, but they don’t share a common purpose. Two of them are prominent in the above screenshot: the business center in the foreground and the diamond cathedral to its right. These gleaming glass and chrome structures nicely symbolize both the good and the bad of the Modern Times expansion–they’re bright, they’re useful, and they’re powerful, but do they really belong on Tropico?

After the jump: they paved paradise and put up a business center Continue reading →

Tropico 4 Modern Times: a 3 hour tour

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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?! Continue reading →

Tropico 4 Modern Times: nuts and bolts

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Like all good city builders, the Tropico series devotes considerable resources to infrastructure and industry. In the real world, traffic, power plants, and pollution can be unsightly nightmares, but in a game setting they’re just interesting problems to be solved. I’m happy to say that this is one area in which the Modern Times expansion excels. While biofarms are so productive that they eliminate money woes from sandbox games and modern apartments are so unbalanced that they render every other form of housing obsolete, the new infrastructure and industrial buildings provide options and enhancements without destroying Tropico’s underlying challenges.

After the jump: riding on the metro Continue reading →

Tropico 4 Modern Times: home, home on the island

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Housing poses one of the most interesting challenges in the base game of Tropico 4. Initially, when money’s tight, most of the downtrodden citizens live in crime-ridden shacks that provide nothing but an incentive to rebel. Upgrading their living conditions is a critical goal, but one with options that provide an interesting series of trade-offs and choices. Do I stuff hordes of my ungrateful workers into cheap low-quality tenements that are just barely good enough to prevent them from shooting me? Do I build dozens of expensive lower occupancy but higher quality apartments? How about condos or mansions for the wealthy and upper-middle class residents, or some combination of these and several other choices?

The net result is often an island whose housing winds up looking pretty realistic, one where grindingly poor neighborhoods stare enviously at the good life that’s just a few unattainable streets away. Towards the end of scenarios where I’m flush with cash and feeling magnanimous, I’ll often demolish the cheaper stop-gap housing that I built to stave off revolution and replace it with higher quality dwellings while basking in the imaginary acclaim of my virtual subjects.

Sadly, the Modern Times expansion eliminates all of the base game’s housing challenges by introducing a single, massively overpowered structure.

After the jump: the only housing building you’ll ever need Continue reading →

Tropico 4 Modern Times: cheeseburger in paradise

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The Tropico series of city builders has always been one of my favorites. While it lacks the complexity of the Sim City titles or the accurate historical settings of classic Impressions games and Tilted Mill’s Children of the Nile, Tropico boasts a charm all its own. Its lighthearted approach to Cold War era banana republics and its silly personalities and scenarios disguise solid gameplay mechanics.

The recent Modern Times expansion propels Tropico from the Cold War into the War on Terror, exchanging the Communist Party and Che for the Tea Party and Rupert Murdoch. More importantly, it adds twenty six new buildings and ten edicts for would-be dictators to use and abuse on their populace. Today, I’m going to focus on those that change the fundamental basis of the game’s economy, food production and distribution.

After the jump: how you gonna keep ’em down on the biofarm? Continue reading →

World of Tanks: balance is hell

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World of Tanks is a hard game to categorize. It’s certainly not an FPS, since the vehicles that are your “character” evolve over the course of thousands of battles in a process that owes much to RPG’s. On the other hand, it’s not really an MMORPG, since there are never more than 29 other players on the battlefield with you. I suppose “FPS/MMORPG hybrid” is the best way to describe it, aside from the horrendous acronym that results. Whatever label you prefer, the fact is that balance is crucial in such a game. With no PvE content and a player base that’s paying close attention, World of Tanks needs to get the balance right. As of today, I’d say they’re doing a mediocre job at best.

After the jump: matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match Continue reading →

World of Tanks: the world is hell

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The above screenshot depicts the southern deployment zone of a battle map that is so reviled that many players either suicide rush the enemy the moment the match begins or destroy themselves in a fit of pique. Its official name is Malinovka, but its legion of detractors refuses to call it anything but Campinovka. Malinovka wins every “most hated map” poll on the official forums by an order of magnitude and is the subject of endless threads calling for its deletion. I don’t agree. While it’s not my favorite battle map, I appreciate its challenges and enjoy fighting there.

After the jump: why I like going to camp Continue reading →

World of Tanks: my own team is hell

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My new IS, a Tier 7 Soviet heavy tank, just got deployed to the southwest side of the Murovanka battle map. Murovanka is one of several maps ideally suited for defense. The northeastern deployment zone is dominated by a dense forest that provides fantastic camouflage for stationary tanks, while the southwestern zone boasts a somewhat covered ridge with a commanding view of the battlefield. Both areas also have several indestructible buildings that can shelter tanks from incoming fire.

While the countdown timer is ticking away, I advise my team not to attack the forest until the enemy herd has been somewhat thinned. Long and painful experience has conclusively demonstrated that an early attack into the teeth of their defense is certain to fail. Patience, however, is a winning strategy. Many players can’t stand to sit still for more than a few seconds, no matter how good their cover is or how much sense a defensive strategy makes. Perhaps it’s their FPS background, where “camping is for noobs” seems to be the eternal mantra, or maybe they’re just ritalin-popping adrenaline junkies. On Murovanka, the team with the largest number of impatient players is in serious trouble.

After the jump, my teammates get me killed Continue reading →

World of Tanks: the enemy is hell

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I’m sitting in the starting area of Karelia in my KV, waiting for the battle to begin. Karelia is one of my favorite battle maps. One team (mine, this time) deploys in the northeast corner on a two-tiered hill that looks like a short, wide wedding cake. The other team starts on a similar hill to the southwest. A road with very little cover runs directly between the two, but most players decide early in their careers that it’s explosive suicide to venture down it.

The northern and southern edges of the map offer much better avenues for attack. The northern axis boasts a number of large boulders that provide shelter from enemy fire, and some of them are even tall enough to block arcing artillery projectiles. The southern route is dominated by a high ridgeline with sheer cliffs on its northern face that can be skirted to the south. The team that commands this approach can move tanks to the top of the ridge and fire down on large portions of the battlefield. Both axes eventually lead to the enemy base which, when captured, ends the fight.

After the jump, choosing and losing Continue reading →

World of Tanks: equipment is hell

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See that tank up there? That’s me. No, not the sexy US T29 in the foreground, with the sloped armor, twin aerials, and muzzle-braked cannon. I’m the one behind it. The big olive drab thing that looks like a square box perched on top of a rectangular box. That’s my KV, and I love it. It’s kind of like a bulldog: ugly as sin, tough, loyal, dependable, and the last thing you want to see leaping for your throat.

After the jump, meet the KV, terror of the early game Continue reading →