With Waterborne, the first major expansion for Tropico 5, the cast happens on a startling realization: island nations are surrounded by water! Waterborne frees players from the real estate limitations of staying on land by offering a set of unique structures designed to float on top of the beautiful blue ocean. These include floating apartments, restaurants, and even your own personal nuclear submarine... because what self-respecting dictator is complete without one?
Although the Tropico 5 expansion features two very large islands, it's still very worthwhile to spread out onto the water, mainly because there aren't any major obstacles like hills and boulders to get in the way of construction. There are nine buildings in total, and they all specialize in various tasks that could render older structures obsolete. For example, there's no reason to build a Wharf when a new Fishing Trawler pulls in plenty of food from a fishing deposit, without depleting it or causing too much pollution. Structures like the Smuggler's Dock and Oyster Farm are great for gaining additional revenue, while the Tidal Plant is a little more iffy, since it only provides a moderate amount of power and loses effectiveness if you construct more than one.
I was a little disappointed that many of the other structures like the Bathysphere, Glass Bottom Restaurant, and Floating Apartments are primarily designed to cater to rich Tropicans and tourists. I would have liked the option to have my oceanic restaurants appeal to everyday citizens. My greater disappointment is in how the expansion doesn't introduce any water-based resources. It simply makes further use of the ones that are already there. It would be interesting if you could start an underwater mining expedition or something.
Still, the new structures look great, and they provide a significant enough economic boost to make a difference in gameplay. This is especially true of the Smuggler's Dock, which brings in additional resources from established trade routes. It works well to supply industry and power plants, which are always burning up resources.
The Waterborne campaign tells an amusing story of chasing after a mythical black pearl, then almost ending the world in getting it. It's an amusing way to pass the time, although it has a tendency to meander a lot. Some of the missions are seriously difficult, like one where you have to pollute as much as possible so that you can properly contribute to global warming. In the meantime, your citizens are revolting against your anti-environmental policies. A different mission has you surviving against an enemy that periodically bombs and invades you, and that one feels like it goes on forever with no clear objective. The bombings often destroy buildings and cause fires, but the Disaster Relief Fund edict doesn't appear to do much to protect against it.
Although I wouldn't necessarily characterize Waterborne as a must-have expansion, it certainly has strong merits. The Smuggler's Docks and Fishing Trawlers alone make the expansion worthwhile. Plus, all that water is just wasted space without it, and a good leaders know how to exploit everything around them.