Hearts of Iron III Review
By Jimmy Vails |
In the best way possible, Hearts of Iron III is exactly what I thought it would be: an unbelievably massive, obsessively detailed, defiantly hardcore military strategy game. I say "game" but perhaps "simulation" would be a more accurate descriptor. No other game I've played has come as close to modeling the breadth and depth of the decisions made by the political and military commanders during the war, or rendered the tremendously far-reaching consequences of those decisions in as plausible and thorough a manner. Not surprisingly, this makes for an extremely complex and, to some, overly complicated game that requires a high level of focus and study from anyone who hopes to make the most of it.
Paradox has refined the interface somewhat, taking advantage of the more refined and polished presentation found in Europa Universalis III and EU: Rome, but that still won't make Hearts of Iron appealing to many outside of the hardcore grognard community. Since publishers of PC games of the last few years seem to have embraced the misguided notion that every game ought to appeal to every gamer, the unashamed complexity of Hearts of Iron III is, in my opinion at least, an awesome and rare thing. Still, be warned that this game is most definitely not for everyone. For the minority who appreciate the subject matter and are willing to invest the time to actually explore the features, there is a lot to love about this game.
Your past has already been written. Your nation's future is up to you.Hearts of Iron III is a grand strategy game on a global scale that starts in 1936 and ends in 1947. It also includes a number of pre-set dates so players can jump right into the action after a key moment. Players can choose to lead any nation they want, from Canada to South Afrika to Japan, and will be in charge of selecting domestic policies, research goals, production priorities, diplomatic positions and army and navy orders. And while that's true of many grand strategy games, Hearts of Iron III gets down to such details as hiring and firing specific cabinet ministers, licensing designs for foreign production, building individual brigades, setting invasion times to take advantage of daylight and weather effects, and selecting sites for new rocket test labs.
The game also improves on the scripted history of Hearts of Iron II with the addition of new decisions and laws that come up according to preset conditions. So you may play a game where France holds out in a war against Vichy France, or where the US joins the Allies in 1937, or where Ecuador and Peru find themselves drawn into the alliances and wind up fighting their own war in South America. While the general alliances of the main powers are fixed, the game can go in many interesting directions from there. In one of our games, the Chinese crushed the Japanese invasion and Russia was able to liberate Europe by the end of 1943.
While it sounds like the player would soon get bogged down under such an avalanche of seemingly minor details, the sum total of all those individual details can add up to huge consequences. When facing a supply shortage, for instance, you may reduce consumer goods in order to trade other commodities on the world market in return for rare metals that your factories need. When they help increase production, you can start cranking out supplies for your soldiers, but dissent has risen because you cut consumer goods, so your population isn't producing as much as they were before. Now you need to balance your nation's industrial capacity between the two so your people are happy enough to keep working and your soldiers aren't left unsupplied on the battlefield. And that's not even considering that your factories are also responsible for upgrades and reserves for units in the field and for the production of new combat units, ports, radar stations and such.
The new HQ command system makes organizing attacks so much easier.That's just one small slice of a very large pie that also includes technology, diplomacy, espionage, military organization, theater strategy and even the occasional intervention in concerns over freedom of the press, worker strikes and suspicion of government officials.
It's not just the decisions you're making at a high level either. Hearts of Iron III has several thousand individually modeled territories, of which around 10,000 are on the land. That something like four times as many in the previous game in the series. While it may seem a bit overwhelming at first (and, face it; it is) the number of territories actually works to make the combat more tactical. Rather than having a front that's just a few territories across, you'll now be fighting on fronts that are 10-20 territories across. This means the attacker and defender will have smaller concentrations of units spread out over a wider area, which makes breakthroughs, flanks and envelopments even more sophisticated than before. Added infrastructure limits and supply needs make it impossible for players to create the capital-bound steamroller armies that appear in some other grand strategy games.