“It’ll be over by Christmas,” Hearts of Iron IV [official site] thinks to itself as the engineers at Paradox fiddle with its guts. “They’ll send me home via Steam-tube, rather than back to the frontlines of testing and development.”
No such luck. The World War II grand strategy game is due to spend another Christmas in development. That’s good news for us though because it represents a commitment to the cause. Rather than dashing for release while the shells are still falling, Hearts of Iron is standing firm. The last time I played, in a huge multiplayer session, there were several interface and balance issues in need of attention. That’s exactly what they’re getting – I spoke to Paradox at Gamescom and they told me how things stand.
A great deal has been reworked, overhauled or replaced so I won’t list everything. Many of the improvements relate to the interface and the entire (brilliant) system of setting up fronts and commands seems to be working efficiently. Setting up invasion plans involves a few clicks of the mouse, and the arrows on the map can be bent, squashed and stretched. Controls for air support and bombardment are neater, and there are increased and improved choices on the national trees for major nations. Britain’s looks particularly healthy, allowing for slow and intentional dissolution of the Empire or attempts to bolster it in various regions.
There’s much more. One change that is indicative of the process is the removal of transport ships. Divisions with a battleplan that requires naval transport will now have convoys assigned to them automatically. Previously, every step of the process required personal management and the new method not only cuts down on that micromanagement but also prevents the kind of oversights that seem extremely unlikely at the strategic level of command.
This streamlining of processes actually allows for a deeper and more complex game. After all, if a system is counter-intuitive and commands are difficult to implement correctly, players are likely to avoid certain options. Rather than complexity of command and interface, Hearts of Iron is moving toward complexity of strategic choice and simulation. That makes scenarios like the one in the new trailer more of a possibility.
World War II: Episode V: The Empire Falls Over