I’ve been extremely skeptical of the idea of Tropico on consoles. The cult classic city-builder (or island-builder, perhaps) is so closely linked in my mind to the idea of its keyboard and mouse interface that I couldn’t imagine how it would be possible for a game like Tropico 6 to work on consoles. It’s been announced for PS4 and is currently in Game Preview for Xbox One.
But once I actually got my hands on it, I was surprised and impressed with how much work Tropico developer Limbic Entertainment has done to make the franchise succeed on these platforms.
True, this isn’t the first time Tropico has flirted with the console market. Since Tropico 4, the team at Kalypso have experimented with console versions of the game with varying degrees of success. But Tropico 6 for PS4 and Xbox One is their most focused, disciplined console release across multiple platforms yet.
The key to making Tropico work on consoles has always been adapting the game’s UI to be comfortable with a controller. When I tried Tropico 6 (they had builds of the game for both Xbox One X and PS4 Pro available) I won’t pretend it was instantly intuitive. There are mountains of menus, pages upon pages of options, navigation wheels with multiple sub-wheels. It’s all quite overwhelming at first.
But as you grow accustomed to the controls, start learning the helpful controller shortcuts, and get into the groove, you do grow accustomed fairly quickly to building roads, laying out new power stations, and navigating the new archipelago system that distinguishes Tropico 6 from its predecessors.
Tropico 6 for Xbox One and PS4 isn’t going to replace the die-hard Tropico fan’s PC experience. They will still want to play with keyboard and mouse. Even my Kalypso guide admitted that he much preferred keyboard and mouse, but now found using a controller totally feasible.
A few notes on platforms: Kalypso is targeting 1080p for the base consoles and 4K for the enhanced consoles like PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. The 4K demo I saw was running at 30fps with occasional drops and stutter I was reassured would be gone by the final release. The Kalypso rep told us that we could expect another mode on the enhanced consoles with a lower resolution and an unlocked frame rate up to 60 fps.
I asked about a potential Nintendo Switch port, since, Tropico seems like a great candidate for the portable powerhouse, but I was told they don’t have any plans for it. It’s hard enough getting Tropico 6 running on Xbox One and PS4. And yeah, it’s not some stunning technical achievement. It’s Tropico. On consoles. With solid performance. And decent controls. What more could you ask for?