Hearts of Iron IV is the number one World War II simulator on PC
If you ever wanted to relive the events of World War II starting from 1936 or 1939 and have dreams of correcting the mistakes made by ghosts of the past, this is the game to pick up and play. This game captures the world around World War II and its many variables make each session fun and sometimes unpredictably good. Whether you want to find a way to eliminate the Germans earlier than 1945, have a powerful Nationalist China before the Marco Polo Bridge Incident or achieve what Hitler failed to do with Operation Sealion and Barbarossa, Hearts of Iron IV will give you that opportunity and so much more.
Hearts of Iron IV looks extremely complicated and daunting for new players, but once you do a few tutorials or watch enough YouTube videos, you will have a good foundation for this game. (To be honest, there are going to be a few hours before you get anywhere near decent.) Like most people, you will likely fail in your first couple of attempts as you struggle to keep with your army, trade, diplomacy, infrastructure and war production. If you are like me, you will learn something new each time and look to improve your performance in the next session. (Some of my sessions go on for hours.) Also like me, you may find your armies being chocked and then encircled to oblivion before your very eyes.
You choose who you want to play and whether you and the AI go down the historic or alternative history routes
No matter how you decide to play Hearts of Iron IV, you will not be able to recreate a one for one with real life history. But you can play in a way that it is very close to those events. The great thing about the game is that, while there is some predictability if you play the historic route, each game will play completely differently to one another because each country may decide to follow their historic focus tree either at a slower rate or faster rate, i.e. events like the War on the USSR could happen in 1942 instead of 1941.
When you start a session, you choose your starting year, either 1936 or 1939, and your country. All the countries in the world can be played. You can play the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Soviet Union and even Tibet. All the countries in the world will have their own focus trees. As the player, you have the power to choose which branches to go down. Some branches are mutually exclusive, so you will need to play another session to see how things play out if you go down the other branch.
I highly recommend, just for the amusement and surprise, to set the game to not follow the historic focus tree route. That way, you can be surprised by the events that pan out. You could have a peaceful Hitler, a Trotsky lead Soviet Union, Communist Japan or even a Republican lead United States.
The visuals for the game can be deceptive in making it seem like a boring game, but they do just enough. When I first came across the game, I thought it looked simple and unimpressive. When you really get into this game, you will realize just how ambitious a game like this is, where commanding generals, moving units, planning attacks, dealing with multiple fronts and watching your units, like chess pieces on a board, move. It can be heaps of fun if you win (not so much when you lose). The thrill of causing an enemy to surrender or being able to encircle large numbers of units is just fantastic.
The ability to create unit formations, research tanks, planes and ships and the many other small touches make this a wholesome grand strategy game. There are so many variables, but once you get into the thick of it, you will find that it is all very manageable unless if are a micromanager.
I really enjoy setting up my forces along the border of my target and preparing them for the offensive. I normally give my enemy an opening to draw them into attacking and when they are worn down, I launch into a blistering attack where I create holes in their lines and then look to create pockets to encircle large numbers of units. Units that are encircled slowly die of attrition or simply surrender.
Tips for newbies to the game
I have played Hearts of Iron III before, which was my entry point into the series, and also the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series – which has some similarities to this kind of game. Hearts of Iron IV is a huge, huge improvement on Hearts of Iron III and you’ll be amazed by how refined this game is.
Here are some tips:
- Your first couple of games should be with a country that isn’t a major power to learn about how the game works. I recommend Canada, because you are unlikely to go to war with the United States and you can join the Allies without worrying about an sea invasion.
- Assign traits and promote your generals whenever you can and where possible assign units to your general that match their perks and allow them to gain experience to learn new skills (from their skills tree)
- When out of combat, your forces should be exercising (or drilling) to increase their experience
- Increase the infrastructure in regions where you plan to wage an offensive and supply in the region is bad
- The combat width of your units should be in increments of 10 to maximize combat effectiveness, but don’t make them too big if you want to win by speed and encircling (unless you are China or the Soviet Union)
- Always gain air superiority over the regions you want to capture. I find that I just need to build Fighters and have them set to provide Air Superiority
- If you are a coastal country, make sure to have fallback lines on each of the docks and man them with units to impede naval invasions
- Sometimes it is better to fallback to a line within your border to draw the enemy out of entrenched positions. Defend those positions and when the enemy’s organization and strength start to waver, direct your generals to attack
- If you play a minor country, feel free to conquer every country around you before joining a faction like the Axis or Comintern. If you join a faction, the Allies are likely to Guarantee your target. If they Guarantee your target, they will declare war on you when you declare war on your target country.
Things that could have made the game even better
Hearts of Iron IV is constantly evolving. The expansions seem to be never ending, but its a game that is bound to have many, many expansions. (I wonder if they will make South America or even Africa have unique focus trees.)
- I liked how Hearts of Iron III had more than two starting positions, i.e. they had starting scenarios in 1942, 1943 and 1944. I wish they were options for Hearts of Iron IV
- Wouldn’t mind seeing more historical events pop up with the actual historic voices
- Wish they had some challenge scenarios where there is actually an end goal for the scenario and reward for players who complete it
- I would love to see more visuals on the map like infantry, planes, tanks, etc when they move around the map
- Removing the Guarantee system so that countries can’t guarantee a country forever
- Simplifying some of the mechanics introduced in the expansions like navy and spies, etc
If you love these strategy games or just World War II generally, Hearts of Iron IV is the game to play. There is no game like it.
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