Welcome to WW2 strategy on the grandest scale you could possibly imagine. Paradox Interactive have released their latest entry intoÂ the Hearts of Iron series for armchair commanders everywhere to enjoy.
Hearts of Iron 3 gives the player command over any of more than 150 countries during the period from 1936 to 1948. What the playerÂ then does with his nation is, within reason, entirely up to them. Featuring control over all aspects of your country, fromÂ diplomacy, intelligence and politics to production and technology, the player must advance their nation through these troublesomeÂ times, protecting it from hostile nations, whilst guiding it to prosperity.
Upon starting the game, the player is first presented with the quick start screen. From here the player can choose any of fourÂ scenarios, the tutorial or to go to the custom start screen. The four scenarios are Germany September 1939, USA January 1936, Soviet Union June 1941 or Japan December 1941. Choosing any of these will drop the player into the heart of the action for that nationÂ starting from that historically important time.
Choosing to go to the custom start screen will bring up the options of single player, multiplayer, options screen, tutorial and theÂ chance to buy bonus items for your game. Taking the single player option will allow the player to set up their game with an astounding number of choices. Firstly the player must choose a start time from the predefined options ranging from Road to War (1stÂ January 1936) and finishing with Gotterdammerung (20th June 1944). The player then chooses a difficulty level and sets up theÂ specific rules for the game. Finally the player must choose their nation. From the map of the world there are more than 150Â different, historically accurate, nations to choose from. This gives the player unparalleled choice in setting up a unique game.
Beginning the game will present the player with the map, centered on their chosen nation, and a mind boggling amount of information. From this interface the player will have full control over diplomacy, production, technology, politics and intelligence. All ofÂ these categories can be fully controlled by the player or the player can choose to delegate control of any of these to the gamesÂ excellent AI. Resources for the game come in a number of forms, all of which will have an effect on what your nation can do. TheseÂ resources are energy, metal, rare materials and crude oil. These resources convert into industrial capacity, which in turn convertsÂ to supplies, fuel and money. The trading of resources plays a large role in this game. Shortly after you begin your campaign, youÂ will be inundated with information about trade deals with other countries.
Every country and every area of the sea is divided into provinces. This makes for more than 14,000 separate areas. The number ofÂ provinces that are under the players direct control is entirely dependent upon which country the player chose to play. Each of these provinces can be controlled individually, allowing for a massive amount of micromanagement. When it comes to controlling the armies, Hearts of Iron 3 has a new HQ system in place. Instead of issuing orders to the myriad different land, sea and air units under your command, these can now be split under the control of different HQ’s and orders assigned to them instead. The HQ in question will then carry out your orders to the best of its ability.
Your nation, and all of the others, will belong to one of three “ideologies”. These are the Axis, the Allies and the Comintern. TheÂ game is basically played between these three, with the ultimate victor being the faction with the most victory points when the gameÂ ends. The time in the game moves forward by the hour. The duration of the hour varies depending on the speed at which the player has the game set. This can be adjusted to suit the playing style.
The player may, before diving into the thick of it, prefer to watch through the tutorials first. These tutorials are somewhatÂ lacking, giving the player the slightest glimpse of what is needed to fully understand this game. The multiplayer option allows theÂ player to go online and play with other people around the world.
Graphically, the game looks reasonable. This type of game is not known for its cutting edge graphics, although Hearts of Iron 3 isÂ by far the best looking in the series. The user interface has been cleaned up and streamlined, making it easier for novice players.Â On that point, this game is very difficult for someone new to the series. The tutorial really doesnâ€™t help much, beyond teaching the basics, and the user interface, though better than HoI2, is still complicated.
Gameplay has a few problems. Not least of which is the performance of the game. Maybe it is my ageing machine that can’tÂ handle theÂ game, but the game took ages to start up, and when things got busy on screen there was a noticeable slow down. This is, I am sure,Â something that can easily be fixed with a patch, hopefully sooner rather than later. Also the lack of decent tutorial is going toÂ leave many newcomers staring at the screen and thinking “what the hell?”. The game is very overwhelming to begin with. Thankfully,Â the inclusion of AI control over the majority of the game means that new players can start slowly, safe in the knowledge that thereÂ are some very clever advisors running any aspect of the nation about which they are not sure.
The Hearts of Iron series has an enormous following, and these are the guys that will be most excited about this game. The sheerÂ depth and massive scale that has made the Hearts of Iron series so popular is still there, so fans of the game will have plenty toÂ be happy about. Personally, I think it was a little too involved for me, leaving me scratching my head and wondering what to do next. New players should be aware that, should they wish to get the most out of this game, then an investment of time and patience will be required.
This game was provided for review by Gamersgate.