Hearts of Iron 4: WWII Strategy Game, Pc Games - Games Weekly

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Hearts of Iron 4: WWII Strategy Game, Pc Games

The process of building a tank in an RTS has become so familiar it’s easy to forget how ridiculous it is. You press ‘build’, and after 30 seconds or so a tiny armored bunker pushes a tank out of its rear flap like an armadillo passing an enormous turd.

A lot goes into manufacturing a tank, from the research and development to the formation of production lines. It’s this lengthy process that grand strategy game Hearts of Iron 4 is at least partly concerned with. You take charge of a nation during World War II and run the administration from the research phase right through to the order-blokes-around phase. Appoint politicians to senior posts and apply their expertise to production, make deals with the tech giants of the time to get better engines, specify the number of factories you want making each type of war machine and then sketch battle plans onto the lovely world map to conquer territory.

It’s perfect if you like the idea of running a military campaign like a pet machine. The game takes place in real-time, very slowly, but can be paused to issue orders, make plans, and double-check exactly how tanks were built in WWII. That research will help. The complex mechanics of HoI4’s production processes elegantly express the dilemmas faced by real embattled nations in the early ’40s. Production rates for new tech are extremely slow; do you sacrifice your well oiled assembly lines to switch to superior technology, or keep banging out old tanks to swamp the enemy? To put it another way: will you play like the German army, or the Soviets?
To put it another way: will you play like the German army, or the Soviets?
Expect to be distracted regularly by more pressing questions, like “can I defend my factories?” Miniature structures on the map, they can be flattened by air raids. AA guns can keep them safe, but it’s better to send fighters and bombers. Keeping enemy influence out of your territory will also keep your supply lines healthy a heat map view of the map shows how well supplies are being disseminated.

HoI 4 is more interested in the logistical machinery that surrounds conflict than the bloody reality of war. The sharp end of battle is reflected in a bland exchange of casualty numbers, which reflect the preparation that’s gone into the action. Battle plans are an essential part of that prep, represented by the swooping troop movement arrows you draw across the map. You can leave them in place for a while before executing the order, but risk having your plans stolen by spies.

Hearts of Iron 4 is already slick and surprisingly pretty, but will demand plenty of patience for facts, figures and detailed menu screens. That’s not to say it can’t be engaging, in a slow, absorbing way. If the systems are responsive and the nations correctly balanced, I relish the chance to dive into HoI4’s giant number machine.

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