Hearts Of Iron
Today America is hell-bent on starting a war with Iraq and North Korea. It wasn't always this way. Sixty years ago things were very different. Britain stood alone against the Nazi menace (the French surrender-monkeys giving up in six weeks) and America was looking the other way, fingers in their ears going "La la la, nothing to do with us." Funny how things Change-Hearts Of Iron, a massively in-depth strategy game based around WWII gives you the chance to do things differently to how they really happened all those years ago.
The game is a struggle between three 'ways of life' -Fascism, Communism and Democracy - with at least one destined for the graveyard. Countries are aligned to one of these three philosophies, with Great Britain, Germany and the USSR heading up the Democratic, Fascist and Communist factions respectively.
Although the gang of three are irrevocably tied, other countnes can be brought round to your way of thinking. Having the Spanish on Hitler's side makes WWII much easier, while having America as part of the Allies in 1939 isn't going to be good news for Central Europe. Of course, you may not want to join any of the groups and go it alone. Hol is very open ended.
Research, Research, Research
While the diplomats are making friends, your scientists are researching technology like it's going out of fashion. Some games have a technology tree, but Hearts Of Iron comes with a veritable forest. It features 14 different sections - land warfare, light aircraft, tanks etc - each with more than 30 different steps to research (all integrated).
In other words, there isn't a hope in hell of getting everything researched before the game finishes at the end of 1948. Now this is no bad thing as you'll be made to think tactically. Spend too much time researching the ultimate fighter and your ground troops will become mincemeat. Of course, trying to cover all your bases means you'll lose the edge in one critical area, and decisions you made years ago have a nasty habit of biting you on the arse.
Get it wrong and they'll be speaking German in Manchester. While you're researching better tanks, planes and ships you've also got to keep your current forces up to scratch. Now this is going to require some hard decisions on how you 'spend' your resources.
Points Mean Prizes
Research and manufacturing requires precious IC (industrial capacity) units. It's here that things start to get a little complex. To produce IC points you need the following: factories, coal, steel and rubber. Run out of rubber and you can convert oil. Run out of oil and you can convert coal (although your tanks, ships and planes won't be able to move). Run out of coal or steel and everything grinds to a halt. Build more factories to increase output. With us so far?
But it doesn't stop there. As well as factones, each sector of land contains land, sea and air defences (along with a road and rail infrastructure). You need to micromanage every province in your domain, while assigning research goals, building an army and organising the collection of raw materials. And sadly, it's here that things fall over.
The one thing the game lacks is automation. While building factories may be fun the first time you play Hearts Of Iron, after the 10th or 15th game it becomes very dull. You may want to focus on research or the combat angle. Either way, the last thing you want is a non-stop click-fest.
The combat sequence could also do with a work-over. While games such as Medieval: Total War showed what could be done when top-down genres merged with 3D RTS, Hearts Of Iron is lagging way behind. But Hearts Of Iron isn't aimed at the adrenaline junkie who'd play Sudden Strike. This is definitely a thinking game, with the combat element being just a small (if vital) part of the gameplay.
There is one other factor we've not yet mentioned - time. This game needs lots of it. You can play a game solid for 28hrs and still only be in the first year of the war. Relationships, jobs and Christmas can pass you by and all you can remember is: "Well, I had this pincermovement on the Ardennes but..." It's rather worrying.
The game is old-skool but it's great. If they'd only spent a little more effort on the combat it would have been the all-time Classic WWII RTS sim. We'll start praying for a patch now...
Download Hearts Of Iron
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP