Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive
System requirements: To be confirmed
Release date: August 2009
Don’t talk to me about war. I’ve got a bulletproof vest made out of purple hearts I’ve earned, bent together with my teeth and barely sound enough to stop an incoming rubber band assault. Suffice it to say, as a soldier, battle isn’t my strongpoint; yet given the chance to set up camp in the war room, my eyes get a little wider for a moment. BattleGoat’s Supreme Ruler 2020 was my initial foray into large-scale strategy, and ever since, I’ve put a little bit more thought into every game I play. And if that’s the case, then I get to prove it with Paradox Interactive’s Hearts of Iron 3.
War on a massive scale is what the Hearts of Iron series is about, and Paradox is known far and wide (except for China) for their “Grand Strategy” games. This sequel is World War II as seen through the eyes of every country that existed or could have existed from 1936 to 1948. Just about every facet of countrywide command is covered here and then some. This includes diplomacy, production, research and warfare, plus everything in between. It’s all under your control.
What will strike fans of the series are the numerous improvements in almost every area compared to the last two HoI games. The graphics have made the transition to 3D, and there are more than 10,000 provinces, as opposed to Hearts of Iron 2’s 3,000. It’s massive, and designed to take advantage of the modern PC war machine, which also means that there’s more processing power left to assign to artificial intelligence. The A.I. will kick you when you’re down, make shrewd tactical decisions and offer trade agreements befitting your relationship with the country in question. Of course, you can also use the beefed up intelligence to your benefit as well.
Perhaps in their bid to make the Hearts of Iron series a little more accessible to the layman, Paradox has incorporated A.I. assistance that can be toggled on or off at any time. This opens the door for more battle and less micromanagement, although you can (and are sometimes required to) chime in now and again in case you see something that doesn’t make you happy. If you’re braver than that and opt for full control, be prepared to do battle with perilous scales of balance. Your countrymen need to be placated, political duties must be attended to, trade negotiations must spur industry and the underside of the war (spies and whatnot) needs to be watched to gain the much-needed tactical advantage over the enemy.
All this combines to allow for digital domination through good, old-fashioned warfare. You can pick any nation you’d like, but for my play time I focused on the four quick-start scenarios that let me play four different sides in WWII. The German campaign tasked me with conquering Warsaw and Paris, while America’s course was to simply enter the war and get the job done. The A.I. help allowed me to focus on what was most important at the time. This made it easier for me to obtain a basic grasp of how the game is played, but even after hours logged I still had barely dented the fender on the interface. There’s a great amount of detail packed into every menu, and all of it can be as important as you want to make it.
And with that I can hear the hardcore strat fans out there gnashing their teeth over Hearts of Iron 3. We’ll find out, come August, whether or not Paradox is up to the challenge of bringing in new blood with the promise of assistance, while at the same time satisfying the diehard following the Hearts of Iron series has garnered.