Not too long ago we enjoyed some time with Kalypso as they showed us a collection of games including the next in the dictator series, Tropico 4.
Coming to Xbox 360 and PC, Kalypso are hoping to build on the success of Tropico 3, but with plenty that's new to keep long-time fans involved. Following the highs and lows of life as President of a Banana Republic, Tropico 4 promises us new islands, new mission structures, as well as plenty of social media elements - players will be invited to post live Twitter and Facebook updates directly from the game. 20 new buildings are being introduced as well, that will affect the prosperity of each island. New ministry buildings will enable the appointment of your own ministers into positions of power, and of course you can still play as either a dodgy dictator or as a benevolent ruler, or more likely as a shade of grey somewhere in between.
You'll need to balance the interests of the different factions that are active on the islands, and there are new Middle Eastern and Chinese superpowers to keep happy. A solid new import and export system can be exploited to bring in raw materials from one of the superpowers, to work in your new factories to produce and export finished goods (perhaps to a different superpower) for a healthy profit. Oh, and they have volcanoes and other natural disasters. Natural disasters are now much more dynamic. Volcanoes, tsunamis, oil spills and tornadoes are some of the threats that face your island paradise, and if and when they strike you'll need to move fast to minimise the damage. But minimise it you can - so long as you can get your emergency services mobilised quick enough you may only have to repair a couple of damaged buildings rather than have to worry about rebuilding a whole side of town.
Tropico 4 is built around an updated version of the Tropico 3 engine. We saw different night and day cycles, new shadowing and lighting effects, but it still looks and feels like a new version of the old game. The map sizes are much bigger, though - at least 50% bigger, and with more topographical differences.
The campaign features 20 missions, set across 20 all-new islands. The missions themselves are fresh as well: You may be creating a new ministry and gaining respect from the religious faction in one mission, then trying to squirrel a certain amount of cash away in your own personal Swiss bank account in the next. Once the goals are reached, though, you can always just keep playing the island in a sandbox mode.
Depending on the character you create at the beginning of the game, you may benefit from traits such as, born with a silver spoon, man of the people, or great public speaker, but each character must have a negative trait too, from a list including tourettes syndrome, gambler, flatulence, and womaniser. These traits will affect your strategy throughout the game, and stay with you from island to island.
Tropico 4 has - EU August 26th 2011 & US Aug 30th 2011 - release dates when we will see if the game builds on the strength of Tropico 3 or returns to the dissapointment we all felt with Tropico 2