Strange thing, this. When I was thinking about Tropico 4 for my review, the game I couldn’t help comparing it to was Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, because both of them go deep into to the heart of such important issues of liberty and freedom, exploring the deep questions with a scholarly eye. Or not. They’re actually both sequels that have been criticised for being too similar to their predecessors. In my view, however, ACB gets away with it, whereas Tropico 4 does not.
It’s not just because Assassin’s Creed is, simply, a higher profile series – although I will admit that the core concept and gameplay of AC is more engaging to me. No – ACB gets away with it because, whilst the gameplay is very similar to that of Assassin’s Creed 2, Ubisoft make it feel different. Tropico 4 has plenty of new missions and additional buildings to add to your island nation, but it’s all presented in the same art style, the same graphics, the same music, the same everything. Remove the revamped UI from screenshots and it’s difficult to tell Tropico 3 from Tropico 4.
ACB plays in a very similar style to AC2 and the story, whilst being reasonable in and of itself, doesn’t take the series very far at all, minus the obligatory plot twist at the end. Crucially, however, the feel of the game is very different, because of the new landscape of Rome, the new music and the new characters. Even Ezio’s iconic Assassin outfit is slightly tweaked. The new map of Rome is essentially the same playground for running and jumping about in as Florence and Venice were in AC2, but it is manifestly a new, different game regardless.
So although Tropico 4 and ACB both recycle a lot of material, the former doesn’t make enough of an effort to even slightly alter or update the tone of its predecessor, whilst the latter does more than enough to feel like a different game, despite not updating too much in the gameplay department. Some said that it was a tad cynical on Ubisoft’s part to flog ACB as a full-priced sequel, but I don’t at all – the fabulous art and evocative sights of Rome do more than enough, alongside good amounts of content, to make it a new, full game. Tropico 4, though? Not so much.