It's been a long time since I've played a Tropico game, in fact, it might be since the first game in the series. The Tropico games have always been about building up and managing an island in the caribbean, with all the tasks and risks you'd expect for the situation. The thing I remember the most from the original was the ability to name a person on the island and watch their family tree spread. Tropico 5 makes that family you, the leader of that island nation, and your dynasty is equally as important as those of your citizens that inhabit it.
Tropico 5 is broken up into a few modes of gameplay, but the core of it is still a Sim City style game. This means you can set goals for yourself, but the gist of the game is the simulation itself. Start in a colonial era Caribbean paradise and build and evolve into modern times. Along the way you'll grow crops on plantations, raise animals on ranches, mines for rare minerals, dig for oil, and build up industries around textiles, cigars, booze and tourism. For every raw material there is a job, for every job there is a person, and every person needs a place to live and stuff to keep them happy. It's your job to manage all of this.
If you're new to this style of game, there's a single player campaign that'll ease you into various tasks. As the game starts out in the colonial era, you'll be paying homage to a king back on the other side of the Atlantic ocean. It isn't until you've had a revolution that you'll be free to rule and spend your money without worrying about appeasing the crown. Each mission in single player steps you through a different era and gives you different goals to focus on. There are characters that act as advisors along the way, and you'll even run into a few famous historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt.
Graphically, Tropico 5 is fairly impressive with gorgeous vista to look at. The islands are very detailed with different terrains yielding different bonuses for the type of building created on it. For instance you'll want to plop down ranches in plains or put lumber mills near a group of trees to be chopped. The game shines to life once your island inhabitants start filling up the city you've created for them, you'll watch people mill around to their daily tasks, and even do small things like sit down at a restaurant to eat or carry groceries home.
At anytime you can click the person and see some info about them - you'll see their age, birthplace, what kind of house they live in, where they work, and how happy they are. Depending on the person (perhaps it's a person of influence) you could also kill, bribe or banish them from the island for a price. It's here where Tropico 5 sets itself apart from other simulators out there - the way its inhabitants fit into the simulation play a crucial role in success.
This is incredibly apparent in the early game where you are worried about how well you are liked and how many people will fight for you during the revolution. These soldiers and revolutionaries will fight the king's soldiers when the time comes and later on the same people might be needed to vote for you to remain in power.