If there’s one thing that Paradox Interactive is known for, it’s making alternate history possible for all of its players. Hearts of Iron 4, their latest offering (even after Stellaris earlier this year) is no exception, and is only one more game in their grand strategy library.
For instance, do you want to conquer the entire world with a tiny country in Europa Universalis 4? You can do that. Do you want to prevent the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, or even reform the Roman Empire in Crusader Kings 2? You can do that too. Do you want to form Great Britain 1800 years early as Britannia, also in Crusader Kings 2? You can do that too!
Now, Paradox has released their newest game, the World War 2 grand strategy game Hearts of Iron 4. Hearts of Iron 4 allows you to take on all of the major (and minor) players of the Second World War, allowing you to fight in whatever a way you think would be best in order to make sure your country survives the war.
Whether you conquer Europe (and possibly the world!) as Germany, or prevent the Fall of France or Belgium, or even overthrow Josef Stalin and the Bolshevik government to bring democracy to the downtrodden Russian people in a coup, Hearts of Iron 4 gives you a wide variety of strategies to play.
For instance, I began playing the game only yesterday when it released. At around three hours in, I’m playing Belgium right now. After starting in 1936 (one of the two start dates for now, other than 1939), I built up my armies and researched state-of-the-art weapons to gain an edge over Germany, operating on the historical experience that once Germany declared war on a country, I would soon be next.
Eventually, in 1940, it all kicked off. Germany declared war on France (though oddly not Poland) and launched World War 2, and soon attacked me as well, drawing me into the war.
Through the combined efforts of France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland, we held the Nazis off for a long time…until Switzerland capitulated, letting the Nazis march into their cities.
The Netherlands, Poland, and France soon followed. With my flanks collapsing around me I evacuated all of my armies to the Congo, where I could still fight on as a member of the Allies.
Currently my brave Belgians fight in hot and sweaty jungle against the Italian armies that threaten to overrun Africa, as I struggle to get my supply situation moving again (since all of my factories were in Belgium, now under German control, and I’m trapped in the nearly undeveloped Congo).
So far, over 75,000 brave Belgian soldiers have lost their lives in the war. I have the feeling that many more will follow them.
The possibility for alternate history is rampant in Hearts of Iron 4. You can play as any country and refuse to join factions, or make your own. If Japan wants to stay away from Germany and instead create its own faction, it can do that. It can even go one further and conquer China, Siam, French Indochina, Indonesia, Australia, and India, and even invade the United States.
You can even spread the war to various parts of the world that never saw it. You can take control of Brazil, make it fascist, and conquer the entirety of South America before pushing north and invading the United States.
You can even change the politics of a certain nation. You can make a democratic, free Germany or a Communist, tyrannical France, or a Fascist United States.
What makes Hearts of Iron 4 so much more different from other Paradox games is that it’s a lot more involved and fast-paced. In other games, you have centuries to do whatever you need to do. Wars are slow and are dependent on war score, and you don’t have to worry about supply beyond what the provinces your armies are in can support.
Not to mention that Paradox’s previous foray into World War 2, Hearts of Iron 3, is by far the least-user friendly game in their history.
Everything’s confusing and overly-complicated there, but here, even if the tutorial doesn’t do very well, you can learn easily on the go because the game’s interface is actually fairly simple. Some handy-dandy tutorials posted on Paradox’s YouTube channel also help you learn how to do things.
In Hearts of Iron 4, your armies are dependent on what your factories can support, and what your manpower can be made into. You must supply your tanks, planes, and ships with oil, and make sure your men have enough guns to be able to fight.
Changing territory is rapid and can be spread across a front in a massive offensive, or targeted in one area. Unlike in Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings you don’t change territory by the province; you can take an entire country in one war, cutting their armies apart and encircling them until they capitulate, unable to continue the fight.
However, with factions, if you’re not careful you can become surrounded and have tons of enemies coming at you from every side, and if you run out of supplies your troops won’t be able to fight. You could just as easily run out of supplies and get driven back, or run out of men and have the same happen.
All in all, Hearts of Iron 4 may seem intimidating on the surface, but you probably won’t be feeling that anymore when your Stoßtruppen are marching into Paris, your planes are over Japan bombing Tokyo into rubble, or you have millions and millions of valiant comrade-soldiers of the Red Army swarming across the landscape.
The fact that it’s released with a Sabaton music pack makes it even better. All in all it’s a solid experience, and you can pick it up very quickly even if you’ve never really played a Paradox game before.