Hearts of Iron III is a High-level "Grand Strategy" game set in the 1930's and 40's. In this game you get to face the challenges and triumphs that have hitherto been the preserves of a select few of history's great...or notorious... leaders: Roosevelt, Churchill, De Gaulle, Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini to name a few. And those are, of course, the roles that many will assume. This game gives you the chance to explore the "What if's" of WWII. What if Hitler had not held back the panzers at Dunkirk? Had not delayed, then cancelled the invasion of England? Had started Barbarossa earlier and captured Moscow? All these choices and many more are yours to make. And you don't have to be one of the principal protagonists, you can chose to play the period as Poland, New Zealand, Ireland or Cuba, or about any other country you can think of. You are not going to be looking into anyone's eyes as you stick in the butter-knife as you do with my other "Paradox" favourite "Mount and Blade". .....Combat is conducted at corps, army and division level so you will learn of casualties in the hundreds and thousands and victories and defeats at the province level. But combat is just one of the elements that determine the rise or fall of your chosen nation. And, of course, Grand Strategy is not all about combat. Omar Bradley remarked that "Amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics." Just as vital to your final success or failure in the game will be how you handle your industries, your domestic politics, your diplomatic overtures, your intelligence network and your technology. Within this game it would be conceivable for Germany to dedicate resources to nuclear and rocket technology to a point where she develops mushroom clouds well before the allies....and what would that have done to the course of the war?
A game this involved needs a manual as thick as a Bible....or a great tutorial.....And boy do they have a PRICELESS tutorial! Each of the six main areas of the game: Basic concepts and the map, Diplomacy, Production, Technology, Politics, and Intelligence are explained to you by a third-rate Austrian painter with a pioneering "Soul-Patch" approach to facial hair. Who better to teach the mechanics of world domination than the last guy to try it for real; The runner up in WWII; the lead singer of the NSDAP's roller-coaster 1939-45 World Tour, let's hear it for "Herr Grofaz" himself!...Take it away Mein Fuhrer! And he does, with background music from "The Flight of the Valkyries", he rants his way through the running of an embryo superpower in a way that had me rolling on the floor and coughing up a lung I was laughing so hard. If Paradox polish up the rough edges and keep this tutorial for the finished game we'll know that not everyone has checked in their cojones at the counter of political correctness.
"Hold on," I hear..".I don't want to play politics or shovel coal around the map, I just want to roll the Wehrmacht up the Strand or Island-hop the Japanese fleets into Sydney Harbour." And in Hearts of Iron III you will be able to do that! Any and all functions can be delegated to your "cabinet" of minions in the shape of a new Artificial Intelligence that has been developed from the ground up to form the heart of this game. It is currently still being developed in the Beta, but it is no dummy, even in the preview that I got to play. I tried to bum's rush Poland and got my Panzer Divisions and Jagdgeswadern sliced and diced and handed back to me by the "Outnumbered Polish" AI while the French came storming out of the Maginot line to kick my assets halfway back to Berlin..... Second time around I treated the AI with a little more respect, practicing classic Blitzkreig "Schwerpunkt" tactics while holding the French at the border and atritting the technologically inferior tho' numerically superior French Armee de L'aire. Although multiplayer will be available, the AI is going to be the heart of this game for campaigns as long as WWII. And it is already shaping up to be a different animal from the dumb, predictable and easily fooled AI's that we have seen in so many other games up till now. The second good laugh I got while playing and reseaching this game was from the nitrogen-storm that developed in the forums following a question about the AI being developed for HoI3 versus the AI of "Empire:Total war". If you want to learn more about Artificial Intelligence as it is being developed currently in the gaming world, the differences between HoI and the "Total War" games and the honest and open way Paradox' lead developer Johan Andersson has been liaising with the knowledgable, loyal and, at times, rabid HoI fanbase, then you can do no better than check out the Paradoxplaza forums, Look for "AI-question for Paradox" it's already on page 5 of the HoI 3 forum. But be prepared, it's already 9 pages long, and then follow the link to the Total War Centre where the storm really starts to rage. :-)
This game has me standing in the sand at Kittyhawk watching the Wright brothers and crew feverishly testing and repairing flight controls, trying to get the engine to start, and filling the sandbags for the launch counterweight.....and all my fingers are crossed, I'm muttering my Paternosters, and praying with every fibre of my being that Johan and Paradox can make this one fly right out-of-the-box........ and off the shelves.
Launch is scheduled for August 4th and like so many HoI fans Ima holding my breath.