Hearts of Iron III is a grand strategy game in which you take control of any nation in the world from 1936 to 1948 and try and guide them through, or away from, World War II. You’re in control of everything from the armed forces, industrial production and research through to diplomacy, politics and espionage.
Technically, if left to its own devices, Hearts of Iron III should play out as a step by step recreation of WW2; its causes, alliances and conflicts. However, as you can take control of any nation, the game is ripe to be messed with.
You could play out history, step by step, leading to WW2 as written in the history books, and see what happens to your nation. Or you could create your own alternative history timeline; perhaps America never embargo Japan, so the Japanese never attack Pearl Harbour. Keeping America out of the war and leaving China to hold their own against Japan and Britain, and Russia weakened while fighting Germany.
As you probably assumed, a large part of the diplomacy and politics of your nation will centre around WW2 and the three factions at the centre of it all. the Axis, the Allies and the Comintern. These are headed by Germany, The British Empire and the Soviet Union. All other nations, through various actions, can slowly align with one of these factions.
Will your nation survive the war? Perhaps even thrive? Who will you have to side with, and what deals will you have to make, to secure the independence of your nation?
As well as this in-depth diplomacy system, Hearts of Iron is also a complex military sim. The scope of military organization ranges from brigades all the way up to entire theatres of war. The technological advances and tactics your nation has developed, and those of your enemies, will scrupled how you fight your wars. Everything from movement patterns, through to the exact mm of your anti-tank guns, will make a difference.
It’s very much a game in which you must make your own fun and challenges.
Hearts of Iron III will not be for everyone. Paradox Interactive, as both a developer and publisher, are amazing at servicing niches in the gaming audience. It may lack state-of-the-art graphics and sound effects but Hearts of Iron III, is an amazingly deep strategy (emphasis on the DEEP).
There’s always more to learn, more mechanics to manipulate and a level of complexity that makes it difficult to penetrate as a new player without considerable effort.
But if you’re already a fan of games like Europa Universalis, love simpler strategy games like Total War, or maybe just want a real challenge; Hearts of Iron III might just be the game you’re looking for.
May I also recommend having a read of the ‘Newbie guide’ in the Hearts of Iron Wiki before your trial. You could have a read while it downloads!