PC Game Review: Hearts of Iron IV
The master global war simulator known as Hearts of Iron recently launched its fourth version, and Hearts of Iron IV continues to prove Paradox’s grand strategy games reign supreme. With many improvements over Hearts of Iron III, such as streamlining the UI, Hearts of Iron IV has the breadth and depth of gameplay expected, while being a deal easier to understand and play.
Hearts of Iron has long been known as one of the wargame heavyweights, probably only matched by a couple other Paradox titles, Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings. Right from the start, Hearts of Iron IV shows that it’s working to keep things simple. There are only two scenarios available at start, one beginning in 1936, and the other beginning in 1939. Start in 1936, and you’ll have a few years to prepare your chosen country for the upcoming World War II, in just about any way you deem fitting. Start in 1939, and you’ll enter a world where war has begun, and you’ll have to make hard and fast decisions about how your country deals with it.
But it’s that choice that allows Hearts of Iron IV to play so well, while also being the cause of some intense dilemmas. Play opens with your choice of playing as one of the seven most powerful nations of the 20th century. You also have the choice of playing as ‘Other Countries’ - if you want to play as Liberia, for example, you may.
Choose! Choose the form of the Destructor!
After that choice, your nation and a world of information is made available. Not to worry, though, because Paradox has done master work with tooltips in Hearts of Iron IV. Hover the cursor over almost any text or image in game, and a tooltip appears with the info needed to help figure out what it is and how it should be used. Trust me when I say you’ll want to take time to read every line of information they relay.
Hearts of Iron IV also comes with an in game browser that allows for quick access to the Hearts of Iron IV Wiki. I felt the tooltips gave me all the info I needed in game, but the HoI4 Wiki does have some quality tips to read in between game sessions.
Military, Civilian, and Political
Another way Hearts of Iron IV seems simplified over III is in the way the three main gameplay aspects are handled. The game covers the World War II years, so of course the Military aspect is there in full. However, since it is not necessarily a given that your country will enter or be drawn into the war, there is just as much emphasis given to the Civilian and Political aspects of running a country.
Unite your total strength, to be devoted to construction for the future.
So far, that feeling of running a country is what I’m enjoying most here. Some macro planning options include choosing a National Focus, carefully selecting which Tech Tree(s) to focus on, which Laws and Government edicts to enact, and which Research and Production companies are allowed to operate in country. All of these choices have a varying degree of effect when it comes to managing the micro options, such as factory output and construction speeds, the overall time it takes to research technologies, or the speed at which Political Power is gained.
Only One Complaint
The scenarios focus on the time frame from their respective starting years up to 1948, the end game year. Whether you’re following a historical route, or trying to work an alternate history, there’s a good chance your country will experience war. The game seems to have all the info available needed to run the Military aspect of the game, but it doesn’t do as well as I would like in showing how and where to get that info.
War. War never changes.
Even the tutorial is lacking in this regard. There is a short example with France that went rather quickly, and only focused on army actions. Naval ops are completely skipped, so if you choose Japan or United Kingdom as your country, you’re forced to slog through learning how to do those on your own. Thankfully, there are plenty of autosave interval options for this to not be a total PITA.
Hearts of Iron IV is an absolutely ideal grand strategy game. I fully expected it would be, and I’m not disappointed. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as anyone’s first wargame, but I also wouldn’t talk you away from it if it were. With its hallmark multiple choice ways to conquer the world, along with being easier to initially grasp compared to the previous versions, Hearts of Iron IV is both admirably imposing and a well worthy title in the Hearts of Iron series.
Hearts of Iron IV header image via Paradox Interactive.