Paradox is certainly getting some good mileage out of their Europa Universalis engine. I haven’t had much experience with these games in the past, but the franchise is growing on me. Heart of Iron Platinum is a re-release of Paradox’s 2002 epic World War 2 strategy game. Like other games in this series, Hearts of Iron plays something like a cross between a traditional RTS game and a boardgame.
The premise is straightforward enough. The game begins at one of four points between the years of 1936 and 1948. Players can choose to control just about any country in the world, but the focus of the game is on the major players of WW2, such as Germany, Britain, Japan, and the US. While it might be amusing to play a small Asian province, the game is much more exciting when taking the helm of one of the major powers. At the end of 1948, the side controlling the most victory points wins. Victory points are gained by controlling various strategically important locations on the map, such as London or Berlin. Of course, it’s not a simple matter to wield enough military and diplomatic power to gain and keep these important provinces.
Like in many strategy games, there is a need to accumulate and efficiently utilize various resources, such as Coal, Rubber, and Oil. At the beginning of the game, none of the major world powers have convenient access to all the necessary resources, so some acquisitions will need to take place in order to keep things running smoothly. In addition to balancing natural resources, countries also need to keep an eye on the actual number of people available for fighting. Run out of Manpower, and the country has no one to drive the tanks or fly the planes.
Speaking of tanks and planes, there is quite an impressive array of units in Hearts of Iron. Thankfully, the game organizes these units in such a way as to make things flow very smoothly. Units are organized into armies (fleets, divisions, etc.) under the control of a Leader. Many of the leaders are historical representations of famous commanders from the war, and each has a varying level of skill and command abilities. As these commanders head into the field of battle, they accrue experience and are able to increase those leadership skills. The armies only consist of one particular type of unit—there are no mixed ground and air unit armies here. This adds not only a dose of realism to the game, but also makes for some interesting strategic and tactical decisions in trying to coordinate attacks from several different land, sea, and air avenues.
These coordinations are made quite simple by a rather nifty feature found in the troop movement command. Whenever a particular army is moved from one province to another, a small popup command window allows the commander to arrive at a very specific time. Therefore, it’s a simple matter to command the naval fleet and bomber wings to attack a few hours before the ground troops arrive, even when the air units could make the trip days more quickly than the land-based forces. And, as the game marches on and several different battlefronts open up, this ease in command is a very good thing.
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