Tropico is a sim game in which you control a whole island of people in the 1950's. The game lets you build your dictator, so you can be a farm worker installed by the KGB, or a college professor who won in a fair election. What your background is will effect how the people of the island see you as well as the cost of various buildings and other events around the island.
The game takes a humorous look at the idea of being a tin pot dictator, so you have the power to fix elections, assassinate or imprison your enemies or otherwise be a bad guy. You can also strive to win the people's respect and keep yourself in power by doing what is best for them or at least making them happy. The game only scores you at the end (but it does let you know how you are doing as you go along) so results are really all that matters.
The game, like most sims, can be seen to be fairly open-ended. After all, you are only scored after 50 years in power. But in order to add to the replayability of the game we have a number of scenarios included. From my research online it appears that most of them were added by the expansion pack, but I have over 50 different scenarios to pick from for the next time I return to the island. So I will have to decide if I want to have a simple mission (I'm a crashed KGB agent who is put in charge of the island until I can build an airport to take me home) or a harder one (I have to get the island population to below 100 people and still make 100,000 dollars so that I can turn the island into a Jurassic park experiment).
The graphics are quite nice for a ten year old game. We have enough detail to see what the people roughly look like (basically what their profession is) as well as a number of different buildings and shapes to the island. Ancient ruins, historical forts and other items of interest are quite well designed to be eye catching as you scroll over your island. And all the man made structures are quite well designed to be 50's style constructs. It does seem a little out of place for a 50's era apartment building to be constructed when the game is up to the 90's but that also fits the stereotype they are mocking.
There is no specific story to the game, outside of that set by the scenario, and most of those scenario guidelines are only a handful of sentences each. Not that you really need one, as this is a fairly nice sim.
The complexities of the game are balanced by the scale. Each citizen has opinions on food, shelter, entertainment, your leadership and so on. At least a dozen bars define them inside the game world. But you will be dealing with less then 200 of these citizens; and in most games less then 50 or 60 when you have to worry about them. So if you see a brave but low in leadership citizen you can ignore them as a threat to your power. But a high in leadership, mostly brave citizen might be the seed that starts a revolution against you.
So you could fire that individual from his job, or increase his pay and make him happy with you. The scale lets you see inside their minds (at least as far the game is concerned) and while you cannot control anyone directly you can change the environment to make them do different things.
It is important to note that the game expects you to pay attention to little details like this. A citizen will have to go home to sleep at the end of the day, and then they get up to go to work. It is possible that they will take half a day to get from their job to their home. And half a day back. So even though a job may show as fully staffed, your workers may not actually be spending any time doing their job.
I put 3.5 hours into the game so far, which got me through the tutorial and one scenario. So the game can move fast for those people who don't want their sims to be more then a single sitting. (I'm looking at you sim city) This gives the game a value of $3 under my system. I know I'll return to the game, but I think I will give the other game in the pack I got from steam a try first. So next week some time I'll try Tropico 2: Pirate Cove and see what they changed and what they didn't.