Developed by Haemimont Games. Published by Kalypso Media. Released May 23, 2014. Available on PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox 360.
Tropico 5 is the newest entry in the cartoonish caribbean city-builder series from Kalypso. In Tropico, you're the ruler of a fictional Caribbean island from the 19th through into the 20th century, from colony to independence and beyond. Whether you rule benevolently or violently, you establish a dynasty that lasts as you create a functioning economy and enrich yourself. Over the years, the series has shed its most confusing and frustrating aspects in favor of gently streamlining the core of the game. That process has led to a progressively better and better game, but one that tends not to add too many new features with each installment. That's about what you should expect with Tropico 5, which has reached a place where players who want a casual city-building experience in a relaxing environment can have that. That's not to say the hardcore management sim aspect is gone - it's still there, and this is a Kalypso game, after all. The hardest difficulties will chew you up and spit you out, gleefully disposing of tens of hours of your playtime because you made a simple mistake.
The game's tone is an attempt at lighthearted satire somewhere between overblown stereotype and mildly offensive joke. It never gets too serious, but there's a painfully sharp edge behind some of the rather dated humor in this one - like a vaguely worded Brokeback Mountain joke that sounds more like something your politically incorrect neighbor would make than something that belongs in a cutting dictator satire. Either way, the rest of the game's aesthetics and features are great. The writing can be pretty funny, even, when it's not being uncomfortably or offensively stereotypical. The graphics look quite good on a high end PC. The music is, as usual, just incredible. The mix of latin jazz and dance music is superb, well curated, and varied enough that you'll come to love particular tracks and want to pause for a dance break when they come up. The only real downside to the looks of Tropico 5 are that there are less customization options for your dictator's clothes than there were in Tropico 4. It didn't bother me.
Most of your time in Tropico will be spent deciding which buildings should be built, and where, and what things your economy is producing and what it should be producing next. You'll do lots of construction and management, setting the budget levels of priority buildings to make sure that the right citizens are making money, and giving the buildings you're focusing on good managers to ensure their effectiveness. This process is all streamlined from Tropico 4, and you won't have annoying problems getting buildings built and resources transported. Resource management, instead, is where you'll spend time thinking. You'll look at your logs a lot, seeing what you're producing and how much - and then looking at what trade routes you can use to increase your income and accomplish your objectives.