Review: Tropico 3- Absolute Power Expansion
I'll be honest. When I saw the feature list for the recently released Absolute Power expansion to Tropico 3, I was underwhelmed. Ten new islands, a few buildings, along with some other odds and ends just didn't seem all that interesting. And a dozen hours later, after playing a good number of the new islands and getting a feel for the other additions, I'm not sure my first impression was entirely inaccurate.
For the sake of simplicity, I'll break this expansion down feature by feature. First up is the new campaign. Like the original set of fifteen islands packaged with the stock game, these ten new islands have a healthy mix of challenges ranging from supply and demand to tourism to plain old survival (think you can run an island that has an earthquake every other year?). They aren't all that different from the original islands save for their complexity. It seems as though developer Haemimont Games put more thought and time into the scripted events that occur.
For instance, one memorable scenario starts you in the middle of a fiasco whereby your island is caught in a time loop created by your inept quantum scientists. You are plunged back in time from the year 2020 to 2000 and must work your way up from nothing to not only create a stable, thriving society, but also somehow prevent the time loop from sending you back again. The biggest complication comes in the form of being stripped of all technology. You can't build much of anything at the start, which forces you to adopt strategies you may never have tried before. Along the way, your scientists discover technologies that slowly, piece by piece, give you access to the full range of building and edict options. It almost feels like a game of Civilization, which is never a bad thing. Other islands are not quite as memorable, but on the whole, if you enjoyed the original fifteen, you will like these scenarios just as much, if not more.
Ooooooh...this is why we care so much about Iran.
The next largest change to the game is in the selection of new buildings. These include tourist attractions such as a Ferris wheel, hot air balloon ride, and marina, along with more utilitarian buildings such as a weapons factory, radar dish, garbage dump and wind turbine for cheaper electricity. Along with these buildings comes a pretty thorough overhaul of the build menu, finally organizing all the options into easier-to-access categories.
The buildings themselves are nice but nothing mind-blowing. The tourist attractions and new statues certainly add more visual flair to the original game and the weapons factory finally gives you something to do with all that iron you've been digging up. But these additions are simply not enough to be a main draw in and of themselves. They may round out the selections for each category, but they don't add anything new to the old formula. The reorganization of the build menu is something that should have been included in a patch, not a paid expansion.
Jesus and oil - wait a minute! Is my Caribbean dictator a Republican?!?
One feature that is consistently noticeable is the addition of a new rebel radio DJ named Betty Boom. Whereas Juanito has always kissed your ass, come hell or high water, Betty Boom is the exact opposite. Always the contrarian, she lambasts every action you take, even, humorously, the obviously benevolent ones. This new dichotomy between Juanito and Betty provides a fresh audio back and forth that will go a long way towards making the game seem fresh again.
I only have two minor gripes with the radio portion of the expansion. The first is that Betty portrays herself solely as a leftist Marxist. This makes sense most of the time, but when you hear her take to the airwaves to criticize your recent action of making all housing free, you start to wonder if she even understands her own ideals. How can she be against something so very communist? It would have been far more difficult to pull off, but a better solution would be to have Betty's ideals adapt to embody the opposite of whatever ideology you tend to be governing with. So, if you are giving all your workers the same pay, regardless of skill or education, Betty should jump on the air with a more capitalist solution to your shenanigans. The second slight annoyance is that there are still only about four Latin-themed songs present while you play. Those four are wonderful (some of the best music I've heard in any game, period) but it would have been nice to have more of it as I have long ago memorized every note.
A whole new section of edicts was added called "Megalomania". These include things such as printing money, declaring a "national day" (with requisite fireworks), privatizing your industry, and even shooting the radio DJ, Juanito. Some of these edicts can be game-changing, such as outlawing a faction. Having problems getting your devout citizens to obey your commands? Just strip them of their religious freedoms and be done with the hassle, assuming you survive the wave of new rebels you just created. In the entire expansion, the new edicts probably add the most opportunity for new and different strategy when playing Tropico 3.
Some other minor additions are a few more character creation traits and outfits, neither of which are important enough to detail as they add very little. The new Loyalist faction has yet to be a factor in any scenario that I've played, including the one that has a story revolving around them. They just never have enough members to be a political powerhouse, and as such, are easily ignored.
Elvis didn't do no drugs!
The best thing I can say about Absolute Power is that it makes the game feel "whole". It doesn't add anything very new to the experience, but it does round out the base game quite well. And the good news is, you can always go back and replay the original fifteen islands again using the new features. At the end of the day, the question remains: "Is this expansion worth the money?" At $20, I would have to say yes, but only for Tropico fanatics. For everyone else, the price is a bit too steep.