The Absolute Power expansion for Tropico 3 is a welcome addition to the original game, throwing in a great new campaign loaded with oddball objectives, a range of new buildings that enhance and fix aspects of the core game mechanics, more creative edicts to inflict upon the peasants, and a lot of little frills. Developer Haemimont Games has built a better banana-republic simulation bound to appease virtual dictators up for rigging a few more elections and killing more gangs of rebels.
The gameplay basics have been left virtually untouched. You still take on the role of El Presidente, a Latin American strongman ruling a tropical island during the hottest years of the Cold War from 1950 through 1980. But a lot of little things have been changed. Right off the bat you'll notice an advanced tutorial, supplementing the insufficient, short one from the original game with more information about economics. It's a great way to address a shortcoming, although you would think that anybody buying this expansion would already have played Tropico 3 and figured out all this stuff. There are more choices with your in-game avatar now, as well, including a dude named Voodoo Pizzaman who looks like he just stepped off the set of Live and Let Die. Personality traits, backgrounds, and new costumes have also been added, so you can play as a guy with a green thumb, installed in power by the mob, who likes wearing a fat Elvis jumpsuit. Or not.
Peasants may still live in shacks and endure agonizing poverty under the boot of a cruel dictator, but at least they can now ride Ferris wheels and watch fireworks!
Not quite so brand-new is the 10-mission new campaign. It sees you island-hopping from one Caribbean dictatorship to another, just like in the original game, but the objectives are now more outlandish. Whereas the old scenarios dealt with mostly down-to-earth goals, such as increasing farm production, making a killing off oil, and so forth, here you do zanier things, such as rig an island for anti-industry hippies, make peasants believe in the existence of chupacabra, deal with a rift in time and space, and even look into unsolved mysteries by setting up a secret police unit called the Alpha Files. These out-there goals are tempered in that they lean on the same city-building/political mechanics that have always been at the heart of the Tropico games, although they do provide a more involving story to each mission. Everything you do is more purposeful now, instead of feeling vague like many of the original game's scenarios.
Even though you might be dealing with Rastafarians and maybe even aliens in Absolute Power, you continue to focus on keeping the treasury flush and the citizens happy through building farms, factories, churches, police stations, and casinos and messing about with politics as in any other Tropico game. But things have been spiced up with more options across the board. A new political faction called the Loyalists has been added to the old mix of Capitalists, Communists, Militarists, and their other pals. They're not particularly loyal, though, unless you do things that inevitably offend almost everybody else, like building a museum to your greatness and canceling elections. Factions are easier to manage, because lists of major and minor needs are now included in the interface to keep you from guessing what you need to build to make a particular group happy. The whole interface is actually improved where information is concerned, giving you more little hints like the above and keeping you in the know about even little matters, such as how many months until the next farm harvest.