Tropico 2: Pirate Cove

2The first Tropico had a certain unique flair that helped it to overcome some interface flaws. You would expect being a Pirate King to be interesting as well, but Tropico 2 doesn’t come through with enough swashbuckling, ship-boarding flair. Other improvements abound, however. For one thing, you can now rotate almost any building; roads play a pivotal role in your island design, and construction goes a lot faster. This development alone makes the game feel a lot more streamlined. and eliminates a lot of the fussing that dragged things down in the original.

As with Tropico, there’s still too much interface and busy work. The GUI panel takes up a full third of the screen and contains useless data like a little “phase of the moon†icon that shows the passage of time, information that’s also delivered through other means. You can zoom in incredibly close, but the animations are so dull and stilted that it’s not worth watching. With the memory saved by eliminating all those ultra-high-resolution graphics, it’s hard not to imagine the possibility of more animation for buildings and people as in Stronghold.

Getting the right people to work in the right buildings is something you want to do—you may want your Skilled Cook to work making sea rations and not gruel for—but getting them there is once again a matter of kicking out workers and crossing your fingers that the slot is filled by your intended captive. Why can’t the Pirate King dictate where people go? This is also a problem in the best part of the game, the pirate ships.

9This new strategic element introduced in Tropico 2 is certainly its best. The only real way to make money is to build pirate ships, staff them with scurvy sea-dogs, and plunder the Caribbean seas.

The map on which you do this is simple and elegant, and sending your ships off to get into god-knows-what trouble can be tense. Nothing is quite as thrilling as seeing your prized galleon return to dock with its hold packed to the brim with loot and captives.

The problem is, you can’t make certain pirates go on certain ships, so your big galleon might be staffed with inexperienced sailors who can’t use a sword, while your little snoop is loaded up with your best men. Again, it’s fire and pray that it gets filled. Why does the quite useful logbook let you display pirates by their skill in so many different attributes and then not actually use that information in the most obvious way?

For fans of the original Tropico, the sequel is similar enough to warrant playing. It’s chock full of tasks to complete, with a 16-mission campaign, several scenarios, and a great sandbox mode. But aside from a new setting, there aren’t that many improvements to the original formula. The visuals haven’t kept up with the likes of Age of Mythology and WarCraft III, and there’s not nearly enough personality to overcome the minor but aggravating interface problems.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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