Tropico 2: Pirate Cove

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a game by Frog City Software, Inc.
Platform: PC
User Rating: 8.7/10 - 3 votes
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See also: Tropico Series

So, who was the greatest pirate ever? Hook? Morgan? Silver? Solo? If seeking the answer to this question is high on your list of priorities, then Tropico 2: Pirate Cove could well be the game for you.

First though, we have a much more pertinent question to answer, and that is, will Tropico 2 improve on Tropico? The original game, as anyone who played it will know, suffered from a multitude of problems that ultimately led to us giving it a review score that was hardly the stuff of legend. Chief among its failings was its utter inability to settle on any one particular gameplay goal; the resulting mix of empire building, political intrigue and economy management left the player at best confused and at worst bored stupid.

The good news is that Tropico 2 seems to offer a lot more in the way of defined gameplay. As a sort of hedonistic cross between Sim City, Zeus: Master of Olympus and, er... some pirate-type stuff, the entire game is based on establishing a hearty pirate empire.

Pillage And Plunder

There’s only one way to succeed in Tropico 2 and that is by stealing, killing, lying and cheating. The entire Caribbean is your oyster in your quest to search out new gold and boldly go where no 'privateer’ has gone before. Pirates are a fickle bunch though, and to get them doing what they do best, they have to be happy. Your charismatic anti-heroes must be kept amused with brothels, grog shops, gambling dens, eateries and more before they even think about setting sail in search of wealth and adventure.

But it's not just pirates you have to think about when it comes to sustaining the efficiency of your secret bandits paradise. To keep the place running smoothly you must find captives to do the monkey work, such as picking corn from fields and chopping lumber. Pirates can also go on missions to find specialist artisans such as gunsmiths, bakers and ahem, quality whores. (Well, you ask any brigand, you can't just pluck a wench out of thin air, their talents are honed after years of practice.) Thus if you can find a skilled French courtesan, your pirates' happiness will go off the scale.

Deep Ocean

Playing through the game also reveals a surprising amount of depth. Pirates can actually gain levels as the years progress, so if you treat your cutthroats with the respect they deserve, you'll find they gain in expenence, and consequently start bringing back more loot.

While Tropico 2 is unlikely to receive any awards for originality, it’s certainly shaping up to be a highly addictive game. The forbidden glamour of the outlaw life is captured expertly, and the manifold opportunities to be ruthless and immoral should please the most wanton of marauders. You should be hoisting your Jolly Roger by April.

Download Tropico 2: Pirate Cove


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

My Fifth slave just escaped, my brothel is desperately short of ladies of negotiable affection, there's a banana deficit and my captain is so pissed off. she will not even board her ship. Oh and Spain has just invaded. Again. Suffice to say that Isle Pratchett is no paradise in Tropico 2: Pirate Cove.

Errol Flynn manage to turn pirates into cool anti-heroes, but since then, they've walked a fine line (or should that be plank?) between being iconic and, well, just a bit naff. But the good thing about pirates is that everyone knows how they should work: the wooden leg, the parrot, the oversized hat, the magpie-like desire for shiny things and the penchant for a particular fermented sugar drink, so it's pretty hard to go wrong with them. Tropico 2 has all of these cliches in abundance, including a healthy dose of 'avast, me hearties', and style-wise, it manages to pull it off remarkably well, if in a somewhat panto fashion.

Scurvy Knaves

Frog City and PopTop software have obviously taken heed of criticism levelled at the original banana republic-sim Tropico, namely that there were too many factions to keep track of. Here, the only groups to worry about are your pirates and your captives, and each group has diametrically opposed needs.

Your captives, who are either washed ashore, kidnapped or delivered as prisoners, do the bulk of the work. They need basic food and sleeping accommodation, plus lots of scary decor. There's also a lot of what appears to be towelwhipping going on from the pirates, but the less said about that the better. Your basic pirates need grog, food and a welcoming bosom, or in the case of female pirates, somewhere to 'preen' and pick up beauty aids. As they gain experience, they'll start demanding more extravagances, such as cigars, housing or even wenches with all their own teeth. This means you'll have to find these somewhere on your island, which usually means going out and kidnapping skilled workers to run various areas of your economy.

This is the bigger picture, because not only do you have to focus on your island, but also the surrounding waters. Your pirates will require ships, and supplies if you want them to patrol, kidnap workers and gain information on the neighbouring Spanish, English and French interests.

If you want them to be a little more aggressive, you will have to arm them with cutlasses, cannons and muskets, so they can loot enemy ships for treasure and captives.

Crews Control

This is where it gets rather complicated and even with fewer factions to appease, there's still a lot of balls to keep in the air. This is not helped by a reasonably sharp learning curve, whereby you're happily building a few ships and a treasure trove, and then suddenly, in the next mission, a neighbouring fleet is attacking you before you have time to say: "Let's talk about this over a banana daiquiri".

The 2D isometric, tile-based graphics look even more tired than they did in the original game. They have some nice details, but they are not nearly as absorbing as Stronghold's cut-away building look, which would have worked really well here. But the damage that Tropico 2 causes on the eye, it makes up for with its solid gameplay that forces you, at all times, to consider the repercussions of each action you take.

I always harp on about the fun factor in a game, because above everything else, I think this is the predominant feature in any good game and that is something Tropico 2 delivers on. Whether you're press-ganging captives into becoming pirates, breeding parrots, or resurrecting the dead to become zombie workers, you'll have a lot of fun playing at being pirates.

If You Hang around coves, then you're either a pirate, a smuggler, or a privileged English schoolchild having a jolly, dandelion and burdock-fuelled adventure.

Tropico 2: Pirate's Cove takes the management themes of the original game, and adds the familiar twist of being all cool and evil. (Which makes it a good month for cheapskates who get off on lording it up over AI routines.)

Pirate's Cove isn't a huge leap from the original, using the same engine for a "dated, even for 2003" feel. But that means you can run it on a cheap laptop, which is great - more people should spend their commute overseeing a backwards economy of seafaring plunder and establishing a black market.

As far as strategy and scope are concerned, Pirate's Cove is more limited than its predecessor, mainly because of its piratical theme. The original game could have you specialising in tourism -and pirates have, throughout the years, been consistently indifferent to the tourist industry.

If you're happy with trading a sense of choice for those cool hankies, Tropico 2 still has plenty of depth and gameplay that hasn't walked the plank.

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