Stress Management: A Review of Tropico 4

I am Sean McGeady, El Presidente, the sovereign ruler of the Republic of Tropico, a digitally elected overseer of a nation that has transcended its artificial nature as a populace of randomly processed pixels and become a conduit of my every presidential decision.

To fail a game is to fail oneself. To fail this game is to fail a nation – my nation. These are my people. I am their shepherd. When they starve, I starve. When they flourish, I flourish. Tropico is a nation of my best and worst tendencies, a reflection of myself. Holding it together is no easy task but I, Sean McGeady, will try my damnedest, come Hell, high water or rapid blood loss to bestow the Tropican people with a sense of national pride and a happiness previously unbeknown to them. For as El Presidente, it is my duty.

My mission is to engineer an economy powered by the export of raw materials. This requires that I establish and develop a mining industry to exploit the natural resources scattered around my island. But Tropico 4 is never this simple. My objectives will constantly evolve to suit the needs of my peers and my population. I will do my utmost to assure each of them are met.

It’s not going well. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What is the reaction? I’m haemorrhaging. Haemorrhaging treasury funds, haemorrhaging the respect of multiple factions and soon to be haemorrhaging blood, as the rebels mount an army.

I feel betrayed by my people. I try my best to satisfy their demands for adequate entertainment, for environmental assurance, for economic stability, yet still they rebel. Simultaneously, I feel sympathy. My people protest, but they do so because they do not approve of my government regime.

Some people peacefully protest against the government.

Of course, I have more to worry about than the satisfaction of my own people. I must also consider the needs of foreign powers. Should I not maintain secure levels of foreign relations I could severely decrease their willingness to provide foreign aid, or worse still, severely increase their willingness to invade my island.

America, China, Europe, the Middle East, Russia. They desire my commodities. They require my compliance.

Economic intuition and in-game advice lead me to alter the production of my many farms from corn and papaya to sugar and pineapple, allowing me to export increased produce to my foreign friends. I construct a cannery to manufacture canned goods, increasing the prices of my commodities thus increasing my profits.

Julio Salazar has become a rebel.

But the citizens of Tropico cannot survive on a diet of sugar and pineapple alone. I need more food. I plunder my profits forming fisherman’s wharves across my coastline. But with my workforce distributed between sugar farms, iron mines and industrial factories I cannot afford the manpower to staff the wharves. I need more workers.

In a bid to increase my workforce I construct an immigration office and employ an open doors policy, happily welcoming uneducated immigrants to my island and employing them to maintain my wharves. But the nationalist faction – El Diablo, wonder “how can a true-blooded Tropican find a job when flocks of immigrants are constantly arriving on our island?” Sean McGeady will not crumble under the weight of their misguided xenophobia.

To exclude anyone from paradise is a decision I will leave to Saint Peter, for the gates of my Caribbean Kingdom will remain open to all who wish to experience the splendour of my presidency.

Reynaldo Gutierrez has become a rebel.

To improve the housing conditions in my tenements and apartment blocks I must equip them with air conditioning. But first I must equip my island with electricity. I invest thousands producing a power plant and thousands more staffing it with foreign experts. The economy isn’t the only thing impacted by my power plant, the environment has also taken a hit.

Gazing through my telescopic dictatorial spy satellite I equip the appropriate map overlay, and in stark contrast to the flourishing fields that house my sugar farms, I behold a besmirched red grid describing my island’s alarming pollution levels.

The environmentalists are displeased by this, but less so by the fact they have nowhere to dispose of their waste. I pour more money in to the production of garbage dumps across my island and spend even more by setting them to recycling mode. I also alter the production of my power plant from coal to natural gas, raising maintenance costs by 50% but reducing pollution in an attempt to appease the environmentalists. Yet still the smog thickens.

“Sir, the number of rebels on the island is growing higher! We should take adequate precautions.”

General Rodriguez

Just as I begin making progress with the environmentalists the religious faction decides it’s unhappy. I begin erecting churches and chapels just to maintain the pathetic 40% happiness of the Banana Republic’s religious elite. It’s not enough. They demand a $40,000 statue of Christ the Saviour. This I cannot afford. Their happiness dwindles further.

“If your people were happier, they would be less inclined to rebel. Of course, we could always recruit more soldiers and Generals and simply crush any resistance with our numbers, sir!

General Rodriguez

Of course, I could have any citizen, criminal or rebel arrested or eliminated at any time. But the liberty of my people is of paramount importance to me. At least, I think it is.

Equipping the map overlay I discover that the liberty levels on my island are distressing. To remedy this I sink further into debt by producing a newspaper building, permitting Tropicans the freedom to consume my ministerial propaganda, and raising their liberty.

My country and I are repeatedly tossed from the red to the black and back. Tropico is a huge paradisal pendulum swinging between positive and negative equity. This instability breeds insecurity for both my presidential reign and for my life.

“There is a crisis of command in our army, sir! Since Tropican soldiers are too unruly, we should recruit more Generals to urge them in right direction of battle.”

General Rodriguez

My advisers urge me to develop my interior defences, to protect my presidency and to protect my pride. There are Columbian barons with larger armies than Tropico. My military advisers consider this unacceptable. The few soldiers Tropico does have are unruly and misguided. But military manufacturing is not the McGeady way. My people will not live beneath a tyrannous flag, oppressed by a legion of uneducated men with guns. El Presidente is better than that. Sean McGeady is better than that.

“Intelligence reports suggest that subversive elements might be taking violent action against our government. You should consider establishing a Secret Police to prevent or at least minimize such activities.”


My threat level is high. Advisers urge me to take action. I casually dismiss their advice suggesting I should install secret regimes and publicly execute criminals on my island. However skewed it may be whilst I wield a firearm, my moral compass exercises maximum efficiency whilst I cradle the expectations of a nation in the palm of my hand.

I have faith in my people even if they don’t have faith in me. Despite my commerce confusion, my fiscal fumbling and my delusional defence issues, the subservient citizens of my island will recognise my good intentions — despite their reputation as having paved the way to some less than hospitable places — and peaceful their protests shall remain.

“The rebels are launching an attack, sir! To arms, to arms!”

General Rodriguez

It seems I have underestimated the seriousness of my peoples’ protests. My loyalist soldiers diligently defend against the traitors. After a lengthy battle the Presidential Palace stands firm, but I have come to understand why advisers are called advisers – El Presidente has been injured.

My island does not yet have a hospital.

Objective after objective. When will it cease? How long can I continue to haemorrhage? I’m haemorrhaging any respect I have for myself as a gamer and as a human being, as I struggle to meet the basic demand of adequate living conditions for two hundred people.

Suddenly the paradisal pendulum swings my way. A boatload of foreign aid docks, and boatload of exports undocks and I’m able to exile negative equity, temporarily banishing it to both the recent past and the near future.

Alas, before debt can find its way back to my country amid a myriad of bad decisions, I complete my final objective and the mission mercifully ends.

I listen to El Presidente narrate from his personal journal as I prepare for my next objective. I stare blankly at my ‘high’ score and my measly three star mission rating. I allow my emotional wounds to heal and brace myself for the economic backlash of my each and every action. Then I proceed. I will attempt to do it all again. Better.

I will right my wrongs. I will please my people. I will prevail. For as El Presidente, it is my duty.

This review was originally produced for and published on Pixels or Death – 13/09/2011


One thought on “Stress Management: A Review of Tropico 4

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