Hearts of Iron – PC – Review

Hearts of Iron gives you access to
the reins of the most powerful armies in the mid 20th Century.  Run
the German Blitzkrieg across France to Normandy.  See if you can withstand the
American D-day assault and hold your eastern front against the Russian winter as
a Nazi.  Take the British Navy around the globe protecting its colonies.  Battle
at Midway and Wake Island as the United States crushes Japan.  Or, play as a
smaller puppet nation to see how a world war can affect all participants. 

HOI is based on the AI of Paradox
produced Europa Universalis (I & II).  The basic strategic engine that was
designed under this popular title is ported to HOI.  Adding in the historic
elements of WWII makes this a strategy gamers must have.  If you have played
either EU, then you’ll have an advantage in HOI.  There is a significant
learning curve.  The tutorials lead you through all the screens and explain all
the basic concepts behind playing the game.  If you want to dominate the world,
get ready to lose a lot before succeeding.  Start out on the easiest settings,
and work your way up from there. 

What’s so challenging?

Manage your country’s production. 
This includes the consumables of the citizens (overall quality of citizen’s
life), troop supplies (everything a unit needs in battle from food to ammo),
research (improve infantry, tanks, etc.), and military production.  I’m amazed
at how the development of technology and especially military units takes place
in real time.  You’ll really need to plan out your attacks to include when
reinforcements will be available.  Finding the balance between expansion and
defense is a key element in securing the most victory points.  Victory points
are what win the game.  If you amass the most victory points by December 30th
1947, then you win!

Pick out your friends and
adversaries.  Diplomacy plays a huge role as the alignment of certain countries
to certain political fundamentals dictate who can fight with who.  As Germany,
you’ll want to influence as many countries as possible to your Fascist view.  By
doing so, you can draw them into an alliance.  Thus, amassing more victory
points, and more weapons to concur the world.  You can sue for Peace.  This
reestablishes the pre-war boundaries.  Use this if you find yourself in an ill
advised war.  You can start a coup in a country whose government is weak.  Then
replace the government with officials more sympathetic to your ideologies.  You
can affect your own political regime by replacing cabinet members with those
that are more aligned with your ideals.

Try increasing your production
capacity.  This will enable you to build and supply more military units and make
more discoveries in technology.  The trick is how.  The easiest way is to
overrun your neighbors, thus, stealing their industry.  You can build more
industries in your provinces, but this takes an entire year.  You’ll need to
protect your provinces with increases in anti-aircraft, reinforcements for
coastal and land defenses, and the overall infrastructure which affects a units
movement rate in the province.  You also need to work on trade, so you’ll have
enough of every supply, and so you can offload some excess materials.  Use
transports for trade or for troop deployment, but find the balance because
you’ll need convoys to supply troops and to deliver goods to your industries. 

The graphics are as much as can be
expected of a game that focuses solely on strategy.  The troops are animated
icons, but there is the option to change them to the more traditional game
pieces.  It’s nice to see the weather and you can tell the terrain by little
mountains in certain provinces (kind of weak).  The structure of the interface
is solid looking, and provides the functionality that the game needs for the
hours that you’ll consume.

I attempted the multiplayer aspect,
but couldn’t find many people to play with online.  It was a flop for me, but I
can see where battling another intellect online will demand a different type of

Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8
The strategic AI framework that HOI uses is incredibly dynamic, and will
amaze and maybe frustrate the true strategy gamer.  But, hey, that’s what it’s
all about!  I will say that I think that the game may be too grand in its
focus.  I became lost in the history lessons, and worrying about what reactions
my opponents would have based on historical predictions.  I loved the diversity
of countries and situations that I could find myself in.

Graphics: 7
It’s a basic game board, but it’s spiced up with animated units. 

Sound: 8.5
I really liked the nostalgic war tunes, and the sound effects for the units
were appropriate and creative.

Difficulty: Hard
Do not play this game unless you have played many strategy games in the
past.  Make sure you are prepared to dedicate some serious time to getting good
at this game.  You can try to read the manual and understand the ratios and
equations used in determining strategy, but if you are like me, you want to jump
right in and try it on.  Be patient my friends.

Concept: 9 
I’m a history buff, and I love WWII.  I love the idea of recreating the
entire war, and I think the game does a very good job of allowing you to be many
different countries.

Multiplayer: N/A
I was unable to play online.  My guess is that it will be fun and
challenging once you learn to play by yourself.

Overall: 7.5
The learning curve is a huge hump to get over.  If you are a true die-hard
strategist, then dedicate some time to mastering the aspects of running your
country.  Then take on the world over and over again.  The AI does provide for
an amazing real time strategy like I’ve never played.  I think Paradox is onto
something here, if only they could find a way to teach the user how to play
better and without so much trial and error.