I expected to beat Tropico 4 on President’s Day, but the final level turned out to be hell. Over that weekend, I failed it at least 6 times in a row, and walked away angry and vowing that I was done with Tropico. I went from loving the game to loathing it. I’d logged over 100 hours on it, played it obsessively, and I wanted to finish it. But I also didn’t want to waste my game time; there are way too many good games out there right now (like Banished…).

A couple days later I googled “Tropico final mission”, and naturally there was a post on the Tropico forums about this issue. The problem is that the final part of the mission asks you to build three big items by 2012. Prior to that, there’s no time urgency whatsoever, so people generally come upon this part of the mission long after 2012 has passed in game-time.

This guy on the forums called “The Dude” said that there is a simple workaround. Just have all 3 of those items built before you complete the prior part of the mission. Then, even if it’s long after 2012, the game will do a quick check, see that you have those items, and boom, you win. People are calling this a design flaw, and honestly, it is.

I’m currently taking a Gamification course through Coursera, and they were discussing elements of good game design that apply here. Primarily, you’re supposed to have a relatively even progression of difficulty in a well-designed game, not go from cake-walk to impossible in the blink of an eye. The gameplay is supposed to guide you from beginner level to mastery over the course of the game.

One thing they did do well from a Gamification perspective was the implementation of badges. There are a good number of them, and they are straightforward to attain. In most Steam games so far, I haven’t cared at all about the badges, but in Tropico 4 I am going out of my way to try and get them all, and that warrants further study.

I’m ok with it now that I know the workaround, but others in that thread were disgruntled that you have to do basically an exploit in the first place. I’m more concerned about the fact that their Facebook sharing is broken in-game, though. They should fix that, even if it IS an older game. Especially with Tropico 5 coming out this year.

So I decided to go back and finish this thing. It took a few tries to get stabilized, but I did.

First I built a few mines, starting with the gold mine. Then a salt mine, and lumber camp for good measure. I’d read a strategy about going sugar farms and rum distilleries out the gate, and I love pretending I’m a rum baron, but the warning that came with that approach was that it results in some really pissed-off citizens for a while. The citizens in this mission seemed too temperamental to put up with that.

As soon as I could, I built an immigration office, a church, and a clinic. After the second clinic, I built a couple wind turbines to get a hospital going, since I couldn’t budget for a power plant yet. That seems to have worked.

Oh and another useful piece of advice I picked up researching this final level was to moderate the amount of immigrants you let onto the island. In other levels, I just let them come on in. This time, I more frequently set the office to “Skilled Workers”.

Once you get to the stage where you have to set everyone’s wage to 20, for God’s sake, do not pay corn farmers at that rate! Switch those farms over to sugar or tobacco, and import all your food.

Next came a weapons factory, then finally a rum distillery. Oh, and oil refineries, two of ’em. That was a strongly recommended strategy and I think that was the tipping point.

In the end, I beat the level within the allotted time, and with 3 stars. I didn’t even have to take advantage of the time warp work-around mentioned above. And then I discovered the “Modern Times” expansion, an additional set of 12 more levels waiting for me. I fear I will be playing Tropico till I’m old and grey!

Epilogue: Tropico Modern Times Expansion

I started out playing the 12 Modern Times missions almost begrudgingly. Almost, in fact, like they were work. I was trying to speed through them so I could be done. I soon realized that approach just wasn’t fair. Modern Times is a blast!  Here are some highlights:

  • I’ve survived a zombie outbreak
  • I found out, upon a fortuitous game freeze/crash, that my graphics settings had been at minimum the entire time I’ve been playing Tropico 4. I upped the detail to medium, and just… WOW!
  • The plot in this one is great, and the parts that poked fun at “Eastboro Church” and the “Hot Beverage Party” made me laugh out loud

tropico-eastboro

By mission 9, I was back to enjoying the game.  I really want to move on to Banished and Redshirt right now, and a huge update to 7 Days to Die that I have yet to check out. But at this point, Tropico will take as long as it takes. I’m having fun, and that’s the point.

Tip: If you’re grooving on Tropico, and you happen to have Sirius XM, then the Caliente station may amuse. 🙂

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