Most Paradox fans - not to mention those looking for a solid World War II grand-strategy game - are sure to feel daunted by Hearts of Iron III. When one looks at the newest addition to the series and compares it to the previous installments, they'll very quickly notice that the level of complexity has been ratcheted up by several degrees in Hearts of Iron III.


One of the most noticable differences in Hearts of Iron III has to be the game's new design focus. In previous Hearts of Iron installations, in-game provinces could be hundreds of kilometres in width, and whole corps would be moved around with a click of a button. Hearts of Iron III's new design focus has been focused downwards - for example, the amount of provinces that you'll be fighting over has increased by what seems to be a factor of four or five and frequently, in even the most fought over fronts, provinces will be held by a mere two or three brigades of troops. Fairly streamlined affairs such as diplomacy and tech research have also been bolstered in complexity.

In some ways this is a positive boon to the player - diplomacy now gives players more options, allowing for countries to purchase licenses to build units they might not otherwise be able to produce or giving Axis members the ability to declare limited wars. The amount of things that need doing in Hearts of Iron III can be a little daunting, especially at first, and have also included the ability to allow the computer to take over just about anything to allow you to focus on specific issues.

More games news, reviews and blogs


Not everything benefits from this increase in complexity though. Indeed, in many ways parts of Hearts of Iron III have arguably become worse than in previous installments. Take research, for instance: in the second game, nations had one to five research teams with which they could research things such as new battleship or tank designs. It was simple, yet still allowed for both major and minor powers to research effectively. This system has been done away with for a more complex system in Hearts of Iron III, where players now research component parts to units such as tanks.

Where in the previous system you'd research the tank itself, you now research its engine, gun, armor, and reliability. Moreover, each nation can now research only so much as its leadership points allow - an all encompassing resource that needs to be divided between not only research, but also spy production, diplomatic action points, and officer training. This is all well and good for larger nations, but smaller nations are now generally penalised to a greater degree than was ever seen previously and tend to lag far behind their historical counterparts.

Criticism aside, the real focus for the Hearts of Iron series has always been fighting the war and in this regard there's no question that Hearts of Iron III has made great strides. Once again, Paradox has made this much more complex than it used to be. Where in the last game you could often keep an easy tab on even the vast Eastern Front, allowing players to what you were doing at all times and crush the enemy AI with ease.

Fighting the war is now truly daunting, but for the appropriate reasons. Paradox has shifted the focus so that you will now devise the composition of your own division via a new command structure. This means that brigades are put in divisions, divisions into corps, corps into armies, and so forth. Moreover, you can now command these forces to take or hold objectives while the AI will then attempt to do manage with the forces its designated forces. Some players may wish to keep the whole thing under their control, but it never seems as though this is an unambiguously better or worse choice than previous Hearts of Iron titles.

Most Paradox fans - not to mention those looking for a solid World War II grand-strategy game - are sure to feel daunted by Hearts of Iron III. When one looks at the newest addition to the series and compares it to the previous installments, they'll very quickly notice that the level of complexity has been ratcheted up by several degrees in Hearts of Iron III.

This new format shift has also made thinking about how you divide your forces and how you use them to be much more important than it was previously. In the new system, several new rules have been applied, including frontage - which allows you to only get so many divisions into an attack at once while the rest stay in reserve - and the inability to units that have attacked directly to resume the offensive immediately upon taking a province. This makes planning an advance (especially a blitzkrieg) much more complex but also rewards proper planning to a degree that just wasn't possible in the first two games and elevates the gameplay to a significant degree.

This isn't to say everything is improved in Hearts of Iron III - or even that it's necessarily as good as what was presented in the second game when it comes to the title's actual combat. There are some fairly obscene throwbacks to the first game that make no sense when obvious improvements had been made. In the naval portion of the game this is most evident when it comes to carrier warfare where CAGs are now shown as detachable air units that can be given their own orders. Previously this was completely automated (for good reason) as to do otherwise offers little more needless complexity.

While some players may in fact enjoy this change, it's my opinion that most will infact see it as having diminished the elegance of the previously well-tuned naval combat system for no appreciable gains. Likewise, usage of air power has been cluttered by some odd design choices that do little to improve that portion of the game, but these are minor annoyances.

If concerns are raised over some of these design decisions then it is unfortunate that they are only the edge of some fairly significant (and often inexplicable) errors or just plain odd design decisions that plague the whole of the game. Perhaps the most evident is the frankly odious condition of the map itself in which a slew of errors are abound. Important cities - such as Stalingrad, Kiev and New York - are often vastly out of position. Furthermore, the resource trading aspect of the game has been distinctly harmed due to a change whereby direct resource for resource trading is no longer possible outside of the Comintern. Instead, nations must purchase and sell resources - which would be fine if not for the fact that money production has been seemingly scaled down, making it exceedingly hard to find buyers for your surplus and even harder to rectify your shortfalls.

But perhaps the worst problem is the interface itself or, more specifically, the amount of feedback it affords the player. In contrast to the old system, there is no instant way to assess how many divisions you have in each province, nor important values like their units' organisation or combat values. Add to these problems a whole host of smaller issues such as the lack of election events and a disappointing tutorial, and Hearts of Iron III starts to feel like it was rushed out the door.

Hearts of Iron III: Specs

  • 3GHz processor
  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 4GB hard-disk space
  • 1GB of video memory
  • DirectX-compatible sound card
  • DirectX 9.0
  • 3GHz processor
  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 4GB hard-disk space
  • 1GB of video memory
  • DirectX-compatible sound card
  • DirectX 9.0

OUR VERDICT

From the start, we wanted to like Hearts of Iron III. Everything is in place for an absolutely great game that's unfortunately bogged down in a mess of bad design decisions, bugs and some odd gameplay changes. There's no doubt that fans of the series will look past the games faults as they are now and find what's enjoyable, but ultimately the most disappointing thing about the latest Hearts of Iron is the fact that fans will need to look past so many of them.

Find the best price