My internet connection during the Paradox Convention was about as spotty as Superted's best chum, forcing me to return with a satchel full of hand-written notes. There's still plenty to write about, not least my dangerous new Wizard Wars obsession, but buried at the bottom of my inky papers are six pages of scribbles about Hearts of Iron IV. As the latest representative of the one Paradox grand strategy series that I've consistently failed to penetrate, HOI IV is an exciting prospect for several reasons. EU IV and CK II are the friendliest incarnations of their respective series to date, and while HOI IV isn't due until 2015, early signs are promising. At the heart of the Hearts is the most attractive map Paradox have ever produced and a new battle plan system that allows players to evade micromanagement if they so choose.
I don't have any footage of the map but I did see an early version in operation. Shortly afterwards, a member of the Paradox Development Studio running a game of EU IV asked me what I thought of HOI IV.
"Well, it makes this look a bit rubbish." It's true. HOI IV's day/night cycle, which tracks for longitude, is lovely, but wouldn't suit the wider timescales of the earlier periods. But it's the amount of information presented neatly, without the need for switches between map modes, that is most intriguing. For the first time, I can imagine playing a Paradox game with the terrain view active rather than flicking between various political and diplomatic options.
Of course, once all of the political complexity is actually in place, things might change. At present, the demonstration model is designed to show off the new planning mode and it has been designed to replicate the actions of an actual WW II leader, placing arrows from divisional structures to points of attack and defence. A couple of clicks and a flick of the wrist are sufficient to set up the invasion or blockade of Poland, and phased orders are available to organise the timing for aerial support, branching manoeuvres and the like.
Along with the micromanagement aspects, one of the stumbling blocks that's sent me arse over tit whenever I've tried to involve myself in HOI is the claustrophobia of the setting. I like the freedom to act within a time period and WW II, being a rather large and significant event that spans most of HOI's timeframe, is quite distracting. HOI IV's AI should allow for more flexibility, although it's unlikely that the war can be circumnavigated entirely. If I'm allowed to derail history by starting a war in Central America, I'll be perfectly happy.
It's far too early for any in-depth analysis but HOI IV is coming and it's looking dandy.