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Hearts of Iron IV hands-on preview: I would make a horrible Hitler

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 24, 2015
It's no secret I'm a pretty huge fan of Paradox's grand strategy titles. Both Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV are still in semi-regular rotation on my days off, and I could bore you to death talking about setting colonial trade policies.

Researching a new tank? That'll take a year or so. Researching the radio? A few months. Building rifles for your infantry? You can do that in a day.

The interface is much improved from the previous Hearts of Iron, most notably by making it obvious how many divisions are in each region again. The map is also a work of art — as each day passes, real-time lighting indicates whether it's day or night. Combine that with the art itself, which mimics the look of a World War II-era troop map, and it certainly matches (or even surpasses) the production value of Paradox's recent work.

Back to Germany and my humiliating loss. I'm going to blame it on a number of factors, although you're free to just laugh at me.

For one, I was trying to rush things. That one's totally my fault, but with only an hour to play the game I definitely forced a conflict with Poland earlier than I should've. I didn't have enough troops.

Once the war started, however, I found myself thrown off by two factors.

1) You have to simultaneously manage equipment for troops and raise the troops themselves. The equipment is obvious. You designate factories (another resource you build in your country) to build items for your troops.

What I didn't know is that these items then just basically lay in storage unless you are actively training units to use them. Training units also takes months and months, so the whole time I thought I was "making new troops" I was actually just "throwing piles of rifles into a warehouse somewhere in Eastern Germany."

2) Germany starts with a number of aircraft, but you don't directly control these forces. Instead, you assign each air unit to a theater. I understood that much at least! The problem? I assigned all my planes to the East Germany theater, thinking that meant they'd launch attacks from there. Nope. Instead they were just aimlessly flying around my own lands while the Polish air force cut my army to shreds.

Berlin fell to Poland. So much for the German war machine.

Just like starting over

The good news: Like all of Paradox's games, you live and learn. While Paradox wanted us all to play Germany, they let me start over as Japan after my horrible defeat with the precaution that "Not all of the Japanese art is in the game yet."

Japan's a much slower start. You don't have a ton of troops, and those you do are stationed in Manchuria. Your initial goal is basically to pick a fight with either the Soviets or China.

This time around I understood how to train troops and assign aircraft, and my war efforts went a bit smoother. I initially massed on the eastern border of China, but when the Soviets started sneaking forces in to the north I ended up refocusing. I executed a pretty gorgeous pincer move on the Soviets and captured about a dozen provinces just as our demo time ended.


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