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Type of Game
Grand Strategy on a truly Global Scale. Pick any country in the world and you can probably take control of it in HOI2.
You can start the game from as far back as 1936 - nothing major happens during this time but we all know what is round the corner. Do you use this time to build up for defense / attack or do you follow what actually happened in real life (it will soon all merge into one believe me). Diplomacy is a key part in this game - you can make or break alliances or do you join an existing one such as the Allies / Axis. Joining one of these grants you certain bonuses, the leaders very rarely let "the little one" go without. They provide materials / reseach blue prints (to help speed up your own research) and sometimes even let you command their armies as an expiditionary force - a massive help in your own expansion.
You can control land/ sea and air forces with household names like the U.S.S Enterprise, Sherman tanks and FW-190's - too many to mention =) Weather can take a part in battles - raining and you cannot rely on your Air Power. Attacking a mountainous area you will struggle due to the digging in of the defenders.
Each country has their own unique research teams. For example the UK has Hawker, Supermarine, Avro etc - all household names for the WW2 buff. Each team has its own strengths and weaknesses. When you select what area you wish to research it is also broken down into what is needed, and you can simply match up the best team with that tech. Obviously, picking an Air Research team like those above, wil greatly reduce their efficiency if you want them to research the next level of Submarine for example. Also with research, it gives you a rough guide as to when in the real world a particular item was widepsdread developed. This stops the player rushing towards Atomic bombs in 1936 - youve got to play within the limits
It took me approx 6 weeks to finally understand everything in the game. The tutorials are not that good and the guide book you get with it is about the same. So many intricate details to oversee and control a new player can feel out of depth. Perserve - it does get a lot better - then you will not want to put the game down
Hearts of Iron 2
This isn't a game to just nip on and spend half an hour - this will rule your life as you take the leadership rains from any country in the world at the time of World War 2. Do you take over Argentina and create a South American sphere of influence and join forces with the Axis powers? Or do you take control of Australia and single handed try to stem the powerhouse of Japan before your allies lend assistance - the choices are infinite.
You have the option to start as far back at 1936 - the Road to War and Peace in Our Time are all included - giving you plenty of time to develop your country and ideas as to what you want that country to become. Do you follow the same mistakes as Germany or do you create your own strategy for world domination.
One of the best parts of the game is the research part of it. You can have upto 5 research slots to develop your countries industry and armed forces. Teams include the famous Hawker, Supermarine, Heinkel and hundreds of others. As leader it is your decision what to research. Do you put your effort into building a large navy, or do you want to create a world beating air force - one thing for sure, if you spread the research over too many things then you will certainly struggle in the upcoming battles - focus on what you believe will win.
Diplomacy is also a key item in this game. Join the ready made alliances - Axis, Allies and the Comintern or create your own alliance with the weak (or strong) neighbours. Diplomacy is also key to trade resources and technology blueprints. The resources allow you to build your armed forces up and you can either purchase in one go or set up a trade route. Blueprints speed up the process for research - handy if you have a strong trading partner.
Moving onto the battles, you control the overall strategy of the armed forces. Soften up enemy strongholds with your air armada and then punch through with your armor. Or sit behind fortified walls and let rip with an air assault of strategic bombers to cripple your enemy's resource gathering ability.
Overall the game may be a little to in depth for people to just start playing and get the hang of it. There are no real tutorials although you can dip your toe into the ready made scenarios which puts you onto a smaller more detailed map in control of one or another side. Once you start getting the hang of this game the possibilities are endless - world domination awaits...
As many who read this review may know, Paradox Interactive is possibly the best creator of historical simulation games that there is. Paradox games are always faithful to the time period usually down to the minute detail, which is a unique pecularity in the world of gaming. Their World War Two simulation game, Hearts of Iron II, is no exception to this rule.
Hearts of Iron II is also unique for allowing you to play any country in the world at the time on a handful of different world scenarios. These include "The Road to War" in 1936 before Hitler's occupation of the Rhineland; "The Gathering Storm" of 1938 after the Anschluss of Austria and near the time of Hitlers invasion of Czechoslovakia; "Blitzkrieg" after the declaration of war on Poland with the subsequent war between Germany and Britain and France; "Awakening the Giant" depicts Operation Barbarossa and the run up to Pearl Harbor while the final scenario is "Goterdammerung" where the Third Reich is starting to fall apart after Stalingrad and D-Day.
The unique aspect of Paradox games in a historical context is that any decision is up to the player. A player can play Britain in 1936, Mexico in 1940 or even Bhutan in 1944. Though the game starts off with a historical scenario, alternative history whether from the player or AI plays out most of the time in this game which makes the experience of playing a scenario unique every time. Diplomacy is another important example; you may be unhistorical as you wish to create a Britain friendly to Germany, a Japan conscious about the US or even an aggressive Switzerland.
This also extends to other areas; the player can choose between creating a force dependent on it's navy, a strong air force, make it infantry based or using artillery, perhaps creating combinations of those or trying to achieve a balance of all. Each country also has it's own strengths and weaknesses militarily, scientifically, geographically and economically. For example, Germany's army is better at the shock tactics of Blitzkrieg, Britain is adept navally while the Soviets can imploy human waves due to their massive population pool, however, the general rule is that if a country is smaller or more insigificant it will be weaker. Players can also invest in technology using historical companies or people as researchers; this generally leads to more powerful units though it can also lead to easier acquisition of resources or even in the long term nuclear weapons.
There are many things to keep the game as historically possible or plausible if the player wants to pursue them, however. The most important example is the event system which can single handedly create a war or alliance, give you resources or technology or summon troops at will, among a huge number of other things. Many events can emulate the Second World War perfectly or partly if a certain number of conditions are met within a time period in the game world, though there is also a large number of events for alternate possibilities such as if Germany wins the war. This also keeps the game interesting.
Military units in Hearts of Iron are roughly similar to other Paradox Games in the way that that both infantry and naval units move from province to province but now there are more important strategic complexities to take into consideration based on 20th century warfare. Weather, terrain and unit combinations as well as new artillery such as fearsome tanks can influence combat in some respects more than the number of troops you have. HOI2 is also unique among Paradox games for having aircraft units which can be used to bomb the enemy's troops, cities or supplies into submission, provide support for your own troops or navy or to simply fight off other aeroplanes. Historical leaders of the army, navy and air force are also covered extensively and can be used at leisure.
Politics is another important aspect of the game. You can adjust the sliders to be as left, right or simply centrist as you like; as democratic or authoritarian as you want; whether you want a free or controlled market; or whether you simply want to be militaristic or peace loving. All of these have an effect on your relations with other countries as well as events, though there are restrictions on changing them quickly. Ministers, like army leaders, are also portrayed, such as Hitler, FDR, Laval, Churchill or Stalin, though they can change with adjustment of the sliders or certain events. Sometimes, coup d'etats can happen or your country can become a puppet of another, such as the infamous Manchukuo.
The only general problem at first with Paradox games is that many of them have so much depth that they really have a steep learning curve and require attention to detail. Generally speaking it takes a while to figure out all the aspects of playing the game and it might be overwhelming for a new player, though in the long term this again keeps the game more fresh and unpredictable. Paradox does have a great online community where new players can post their queries. HOI2 is also quite modifiable compared to other games, so intermediate modders can realistically create their own scenarios or other changes if they are willing to learn. The graphics are also slightly dated in 2D, though some may prefer this as it means less demanding specs.
The expansions for this game also must be noted. Doomsday is an expansion which adds a lot of depth to the original game and is highly recommended by me for that reason; it also extends the end date of a scenario to 1953 from 1947 and has a scenario which emulates an apocalyptic Soviet-Allied war. Armageddon is largely download only but has an alternative history scenario and extends the date again to the end of 1963, adding even more time to the game.
Overall the game is very fun once the complexities are figured out as well as informative and intelligent, but it does have a steep learning curve. The game is a great historical simulator and is probably a must have for any compulsive gamer and history lover along with the other Paradox games.
Ok I am going to start this review by just laying on the table right now so i don't forget later, Hearts of Iron 2 is a difficult game to grasp and once grasped can take patience, so why do i love this game so much?
Well its creators, Paradox interactive in all their games puts across a very high detail of accurate historical events and does so with the highest success. They also make their games up to the neck in game depth.
Hearts of Iron 2 is a real-time strategy game with endless possibilities as you are able to change any aspect of government you want, ie what you are going to research, whether you shall encouage a 'free-market' or not and how authoritatian you wish your government to be. The player is presented with the map of the world only with the units sitting on top.
Let me explain a little, Hearts of Iron 2 lets you play any country you want in the entire world from the perdiod of 1936-1948 (which in game takes hours and hours) once you have come into possession of your new country wou can do whatever you want with it, challenge United Kingdoms Naval dominance turn America into a world threat or even try and unify South America under one banner. However lets not get ahead of ourselves. In order to do this much micro managment is needed in terms of how much resources you wish to devote to aspects of your Government and who on the world stage you want to befriend and trade with and who you don't. All this does become second nature after a while but is enough to scare of any new player.
As i have explained the game is highly detailed, however this is not necessarilly a bad thing as this means a encircled army is more prone to surrender quicker in battle then another out on the frontline.
Although if it was down to me i would make this game mandatory to own, i feel it is only fair to mention a negative point which may or may not bother you. Many 'none paradox fans' have been dissapointed with the way units fight, there is No zooming down onto a 3-D battle field no controlling of seperate squads in a city, it is all on the players interface..well on the left of it to be precise. The different factors are taken into consideration ie whether the defending army is dug in, whether it is night or day etc. and then the morale of the army is fought out on a type of scale. The one that loses retreats and te caught province becomes under proud ownership of the mighty Bulgrain Empire or whoever you are.
Therefore this game i would recommend entirely, as altough it is a far reacing, extreme strategy game to own. it offers the player not only to learn every capital and country of the world along with a brief knowledge of world war 2, it also provides the player with hours and hours of fun, which i promise will have you coming back for more months afterwards.
Who among us can honestly say that theyve never wanted to play at being a commander in the second world war? Who hasnt at one point or another wanted to be one of those men with bushy moustaches who pushes little models of aeroplanes around a big table with a picture of a map on it? Well, this PC game allows you to do just that (more or less, anyway. The moustache is not included).
Its a strategy game in which you get to control a country between 1936 and 1947 (assuming you can survive until the end). You primarily concern yourself with military matters, not having to worry about other aspects of government too much, although industry and the economy play a part too, as does foreign policy. But these aspects arent really fully developed, only really being important in as much as they help or hinder your military build up and ability to wage war. You can command any country in the world, although realistically youre not going to have a particularly interesting game if you choose, say, Portugal. The whole point of the thing is the war, and thats what you concentrate on.
The game isnt particularly graphics intensive, and it should run quite comfortably on any reasonably modern PC. Theres no animation or movies or spectacular sound effects (although you do get a selection of entertaining martial music constantly playing in the background). The main screen is a map of the world, on which you deploy and move your military units, be they tanks, submarines, bombers or any of the other obvious second world war things. Other screens let you control your countrys production (ie what youre building, how youre supplying your troops, keeping your population happy etc), your technology (what new scientific breakthroughs youre researching) and your diplomacy and government (who youre in alliance with, who your ministers are etc).
The interface is pretty simple, and not difficult to get the hang of (everything is controlled using your mouse). That said, there are an awful lot of game concepts to get to grips with, and youll want to keep the manual handy in order to look things up. Ive been playing for quite a while now, and I still dont quite understand everything (how supplying my units works, for instance, is largely a mystery to me). There is a tutorial, but I tend to regard such things as a waste of time, and prefer to plunge in and learn by myself this is one of many reasons why its good that Ive never actually been handed overall command of a real war.
One major plus point in the game is how well researched it is. You get to choose certain members of your government, as well your military commanders, and the game offers a wide variety of real historical figures, with photographs, and they even have different abilities that reflect the historical reality (at least up to a point so, for instance, Albert Speer is a more effective German armaments minister than Hermann Goering). Its the same when you research new technology. Britain has Alan Turing, so is great for encryption-based advances, while Germany has an advantage in rocketry (von Braun) and America in nuclear physics (Oppenheimer). In terms of general historical accuracy, it tends to stick reasonably closely to what actually happened. Germany will always invade the Soviet Union in 1941, for instance, and Japan will attack America. But obviously the whole point is that you can change the course of history, and you have a certain amount of latitude. While you can never make the Germans and Americans form an alliance, you can have them avoid fighting each other at all if you so desire.
Games typically take a long time a couple of weeks, usually, although obviously Im not playing constantly my eyes usually start to hurt at about the four-hour mark, as there is quite a lot of text to read. You can vary the speed at which time passes (playing on Normal speed means that an hour of game time takes about two seconds, but youll want to speed it up considerably at times when nothing urgent is happening). There are various difficulty levels, ranging from almost absurdly easy to downright impossible. You dont have to start in 1936, if you prefer more of a challenge you can start later, when certain events have already happened. Although the game is technically supposed to end in 1947, its easy enough to download a patch to allow you to keep going indefinitely. (The game was designed to be easily modified by users all the important files are apparently simple to edit, although I dont have the confidence in my own abilities to want to risk trying that.)
There is a multi-player option, but Ive never tried that, as I dont really play games online. Ive never really understood how long-running strategy games that take several days would work in an online context.
I suppose I should acknowledge the fact that, at least on some level, playing a game which re-enacts a conflict in which 50 million people died might not be in the best of taste. That said, the human element is largely absent, as you dont get casualty figures or anything of that nature. And the game designers have been careful not to allow any of the more problematic elements of the real war, such as terror bombing of civilian targets, and the Holocaust is obviously not included. All of which is just as well, in a way, as its generally more enjoyable to play as either Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia than as the US or UK. Britain and America, being democracies, cant just go around randomly committing war on other countries like the totalitarian countries can. Also, because theyre across the sea from their enemies they have to spend ages faffing around with troop transports and so on, while Russia can just randomly invade perfectly innocent countries like, say, Switzerland, if it beats Germany too easily. Basically, Ive played as Germany, Russia, Britain and America, and the two that I had most fun with were the wrong two, morally speaking. Oh well. Ill try Japan next.
Anyway, if you enjoy the kinds of PC games which take weeks and can completely eat up your life, then this might be for you (especially if you have any kind of interest in the war). It doesnt have much in the way of fancy graphics or sounds, but I find this to be an advantage as theyd be completely unnecessary anyway, and its nice in this age of games that seem to aggressively pitch themselves at only people who can afford the very best computers to find one that doesnt. It probably most resembles Championship Manager, except about war instead of football.
Any moral qualms aside, Ive been having a lot of fun pretending to be in charge of the biggest war ever. I find this game completely absorbing. Its supposed to sell for £30, but amazon has it for about a tenner.
World War II Grand Strategy--to secure peace, prepare for war... You are the supreme ruler of a country of your choosing during World War II. Guide your nation through warfare and diplomacy, and take part in the battles that changed history.