Reviewed: June 20, 2003
Released: April 8, 2003
Tropico 2: Pirate Cove is a refreshingly original island management game that puts you in the role of a Pirate Lord ruling a tropical island. Your island's population consists of pirates, who go on raids to earn money, and take captives, who serve the pirates. Rather than exert direct control over your inhabitants, you provide guidance and direction by choosing where and what to build, who works at what buildings, and what edicts are issued. You can build a large variety of buildings including farms to grow food, brothels and gambling buildings for pirate entertainment, mines and blacksmiths for weapons, and even a graveyard to exert fear over captives and raise the dead.
Tropico 2 adds many interesting layers to the game that go beyond managing your island. There's a sea map where you can direct your pirate ships. You can go on exploratory missions, raid settlements for prisoners, cruise for treasure and captives, and even try to incite war between England, France, and Spain. There's diplomacy where each country will have a posture towards you based on your actions. Anger a country too much and you face invasion. There are individual skills for both pirates and captives. Pirate skills go up with missions and training while captive skills go up with time at a job.
Tropico 2 comes with an extensive campaign mode that progresses from the lowest to the highest difficult smoothly. You also have a “sandbox” mode where you can choose the general type of island and what pirate lord you want to play, each of whom come with special bonuses and penalties. This affects the difficulty level, which affects your final score, so skilled players will still have a challenge. Lastly, there are over 10 solo missions for those who finish the campaign and still want more. Registered users are offered an additional mission to download, but unfortunately Tropico 2 doesn't offer a multiplayer mode.
Tropico 2 basically takes everything good about the first game, already a good game, and fixes everything that was wrong with it:
There are so many missions in the campaign, each of which last so long that you'll get at least several days of full-time play. While the early missions are easy, later missions are very hard. You'll have to rethink your strategies several times over to succeed.
Tropico 2, like the original, comes with a large number of progress reports and line graphs at the end of each year. To be honest, I didn't find these too useful because very rarely would things change drastically over any given year. I appreciate the inclusion however.
The un-patched version has a few bugs, all of which are fixed with the update. If you don't plan on getting the patch you'll notice a few quirks such as all raiding missions always being successful. These bugs are few and aren't serious enough to diminish the fun of the game.
My only complaint about Tropico 2 is that you can't display an informational overlay and also give orders at the same time. It would make things so much easier if I could see for example captive courage at the same time I could give orders to press captives into service, so I could quickly press the most courageous captives.
You normally play from a zoomed out perspective but can zoom in to get very elaborate details, down to the dogs in a pit fight. Island inhabitants tend to share models, for example all male unskilled captives share a model, as do female unskilled captives. I didn't think this was a drawback however as it fit the mood of the game and made them easier to distinguish.
On the subject of mood, the graphics fit the mood perfectly. Captive buildings are ramshackle and look like they were built by forced labor. Decorations such as skeletons on stakes and cannons fit the theme and remind me of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme ride. More animations would have been fun to watch while waiting for time to elapse. For example, I would have liked to watch the dogs in the pit fight actually fight rather than stand there.
Sounds fit the theme just as well as the graphics. The music is really catchy. From time to time I'd unthinkingly whistle along with the music while playing. Ship cannons sound convincing and the voice acting of the various pirates and captives is good. Captives of Spain or French even speak Spanish or French appropriately. More variety would have put this category in a 10.
Tropico 2 is priced as a AAA title and the quality matches that. It's fun for at least 30 hours. After that, at least for me, it started to get a bit repetitive since I'd beat every mission with the same opening formula. That's true of any strategy game of this type though, so it's not a complaint so much as an observation. Multiplayer would have been a nice addition too.
If you liked Tropico you'll love Tropico 2: Pirate Cove. It's like the developers read my review and fixed everything I complained about in the first game. City management fans, gamers looking for something with originality, or people who can appreciate a well-designed game are all advised to check it out.