Hearts of Iron IV - Review

Author: Claudio Chianese
Date: 2021-01-26 10:29:25
Is history determined by impersonal forces, by the economy, by the great masses? Or is it possible that individual activity radically changes the course of things? Put like that, it sounds a bit like an introduction from the Rieducational Channel, but it is a fundamental question. Faith in the inevitability of events, for example, is a common trait of totalitarian regimes, argues Hannah Arendt. And, instead, there are those who have said that liberal democracy represents the end of history. What is the answer then? Boh. When in doubt, let's play.

Let's play, however, with a game that speaks of history in a peculiar way. Hearts of Iron IV is the latest incarnation of the classic series that Paradox dedicated to World War II. Since its origins it has always proved to be a saga in search of its own balance between complexity and playability. The first two chapters were after all simple games, closer to board games than to war itself, while the third was lost in a tangle of minutiae, of great simulative value but digestible only by the strongest stomachs. Hearts of Iron IV finally manages to square the circle, recovering the treasures buried in the tombs of the ancestors. The result, I tell you right away, is really suitable for those who want a war game with attributes, but don't want to sweat over voluminous manuals like a telephone directory.

In practice, it means that your nation will produce rifles, tanks, planes and so on in parallel: the more factories you dedicate to a certain line, the faster the production will be. You can, of course, change direction in the course of construction, but this will result in a loss of efficiency. The interesting thing is that all of this equipment does not become units, as it usually happens in strategic: it ends up, rather, in a warehouse, and that's where you distribute it to your divisions. Just to give an example: you have a hundred heavy and a thousand light wagons set aside. You can make a single breakthrough force, or deploy heavy tanks to support infantry formations, or use light ones in small reconnaissance units, and so on.

But now that you have your soldiers, you have to decide who to shoot at. The diplomatic system of Hearts of Iron IV is revealed, at this point, compact and well thought out. Each nation has an ideological tendency, whether communist, fascist, democratic or neutral, and based on these tendencies it decides who to ally with. You can influence another country, or attempt a coup. And then enter into treaties, or send volunteers and equipment to support friendly nations. Everything has a cost in "political points", a currency that accumulates daily and that is spent both for diplomacy and for changing the internal structure of your state.

Which basically means changing the laws or choosing a national focus. As for the former, these are things like extending the leverage, or mobilizing the economy: points are spent in exchange for benefits, in the end. The system of national focuses is more complicated, so much so that explaining it in a few words is an unlikely undertaking. Let's put it this way: every nation has a tree of political decisions, interconnected to each other, ranging from the modernization of armies to the diplomatic set-up. Italy has a "branch" concerning the exploitation of Libyan oil, one for the ground forces, one for the navy and another that allows you to choose between an alliance with Germany and autonomy.