Hearts of Iron IV (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 19.03.2018

Review for Hearts of Iron IV on PC

Hearts of Iron IV is a real-time strategy game that plays through the years of World War II, and allows a fluid evolution of politics to enable entirely different alliances than what actually happened. It is made by Paradox, the same company that made Stellaris and its numerous DLC releases, and both share the same strengths and weaknesses despite the different settings. By taking control of a nation, the player must manage the economy and military while the world erupts in a war.

Hearts of Iron IV is complicated; complicated and 'micro-managey.' It is the type of game where there are literally wikis out there explaining various aspects of it, from ordering battles, to running an economy, and despite having the computer automated often it will be far less effort if you did it yourself. Underneath the complexity is actually a pretty interesting WWII strategy game, but the amount you have to sift through to find the good parts can be an issue.

The basics are where it shines the brightest. The player takes the role of any of the various nations before the outbreak of WWII; most notable is France, which usually does not exist in other titles. They must manage an economy, train soldiers, get vehicles, build supplies, improve infrastructure, research, and, ultimately, take out the enemy.

Screenshot for Hearts of Iron IV on PC

By far the best part is the different 'perks' or national focuses each nation can get. From here, gamers can choose the direction the nation takes, such as Italy instead of building a huge navy can instead try for a ground game. The height of this is found in such options as embracing different political systems and outright changing alliances, such as France or America allying with Germany - something almost never found in other WWII releases.

All this is well and good, but the issues that drag Hearts of Iron IV down a few points are how there is just too much complexity (often in the name of realism) that gets in the way of a smooth experience. The complexity cannot really be understated. Things as simple as trying to attack is a multi-click affair of selecting units, selecting locations, battle lines, tactics, commanders, destinations, and so on; little of which is being said of simply knowing how good a unit really is, or how tough the enemy might even remotely be.

There will be hundreds of units being commanded, and given there are such mundane things as ensuring they have various supplies (of which there can be better equipment they are being funnelled, which improves them but not clear by how much) the absolute madness of the minutiae one is forced to deal with knocks the experience considerably.

Screenshot for Hearts of Iron IV on PC

Take a hypothetical different title, where an infantry has an attack of 1, an armoured truck 2, and a tank 3. Knowing nothing else about the game, it is obvious the truck is better than the guy, and the tank is better than both. Here, though, it is not close to clear at all; this is especially bad with the naval ships that have multiple classes and upgrades. Even remotely basic things like 'can my unit even beat the other in a 1v1' are next to impossible to figure out. Often units will spend nearly 50% or more of their time simply re-arranging around a front instead of fighting, which defeats the whole 'front'/battle plan system the game tries to go with.

While the historical accuracy is quite amazing (things like having famous scientists for each nation, generals, military corporations), it unfortunately spills into the same problem of too much minutiae. By attempting to pack in nearly everything that apparently actually went into the war, it stops being actually about having fun while playing.

It is also quite apparent that the complexity does not mean there is more strategy. In fact, the increase in unnecessary complexity makes strategy less interesting as it's unclear what even works. Given how the game plays, in many cases it's simply 'send what you can and hope you win,' which doesn't reek of strategy.

Screenshot for Hearts of Iron IV on PC

One of the other major issues is the speed. It is real-time and pause-able, but despite being able to change the speed, the fastest setting is far, far too slow. There really is no excuse, especially given how slow things occur; even the fastest speed is near glacial. To give an example, it can take literally hours to take over a few sections of terrain.

In the end, Hearts of Iron IV is average-to-maybe-a-little-above, at best. The ideas and premise are very cool, and actually fairly engaging to 'try to do history differently,' but the issues actually involved with playing the game are apparent. For someone with a very, very high threshold of details and micromanagement, they may enjoy this immensely, but for even a strategy fanatic, it will be too much and too slow.

Screenshot for Hearts of Iron IV on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

The premise and the varied paths one can play through in alternate World War IIs are by far the shining points of Hearts of Iron IV and encourage multiple replays; the problem comes from the very complicated and particularly number heavy aspect of everything. The complexity and slow speed of how things evolve take the fun down notches lower than it otherwise would deserve. Endless clicking through menus, and a glacial speed, ruin what could have been a pretty slick overall experience.

Developer

Paradox Development Studio

Publisher

Paradox Interactive

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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