Strategy games can be very complex things. Realistically simulating something like World War Two from a military, political and economic perspective is a very difficult task. And such complexities can be off-putting to the newcomer as they struggle to take in all the various mechanics while playing the game. Hearts of Iron 3, given these difficulties, presents an excellent simulation while still remaining playable. Its greatest triumph is displaying the depth of a historically accurate simulation with the option of automating any portion of the actual play experience. It is possible to, instead of organizing that complex invasion of Poland, to order the Hearts of Iron 3’s system AI to command your troops for you and conduct the invasion itself. For players who are learning the game, this is an invaluable tool, as they get to lead from a strategic perspective and learn the nuances of the game from the AI. The game, therefore, becomes accessible to both those hardcore players who wish to delve into every detail of their World War Two experience, and to those newer players, who want to learn what these games are all about, without being troubled by all of those details.
Next week, Hearts of Iron 3 will have some new life breathed into it by its new Their Finest Hour expansion. This DLC provides some exciting new features and some great new scenarios, giving veteran players an opportunity to jump back into the game, and new players a few more reasons to pick this one up and give it a try. The core game has been out since 2009, and could use a little new life.
While reading through history, one always reads about the great plans throughout history: Overlord, The Schlieffen Plan, and Barbarossa. And while these great operations are always given top billing, strategy games have tended to avoid allowing such planning within their interface. Some of them (War in the Pacific: Admiral’s Edition comes to mind) even require that sort of planning, but don’t provide a way of doing it, save for buying copies of the map and using paper. Their Finest Hour solves this issue by introducing a Battle-Plans Mode. This enables you to map out your own strategic plans, conducting the offensives you always wanted to. Did you find Operation Barbarossa to be fundamentally flawed? Come up with your own strategy and have the game save it for you. You can even load the great plans of history for your consideration or share your plans during multiplayer sessions.
The expansion also provides two new features to give more flavor for individual units in the game. The first is the introduction of elite units. You’ll be able to construct Rangers, SS troops, Russian Guards and the like, fleshing out your armies with the finest troops on the globe. The second change alters how leaders game traits. Now, success in battle will get leaders special bonuses and titles, like Desert Fox or Urban Assault specialist. That will encourage players to pay more attention to how units are used and how leaders are managed. Perhaps it’s advantageous to reassign your leaders for a particular attack, for example.
Economic considerations are reinvigorated in several ways. The game now includes “lend lease,” allowing nations that aren’t technically at war to contribute some of their industrial capacity to other nations. Thus, you won’t necessarily have to declare war in order to support friendly nations in conflict. Instead, you can provide them with the materials you need to win. An additional change is a brand new strategic warfare interface. In its current form, it’s difficult to track the progress of your bombing or U-boat campaigns. This will allow you to see a quick summary of the damage you’re doing to your opponents’ economy, and allow you to adjust your military strategies accordingly.
New playable content is a must for any expansion, and Their Finest Hour includes two new battle scenarios. The first is the Spanish Civil War, as the Nationalists and the Republicans take each other on in an even-up fight that is being supported significantly by foreign powers. The second is the Winter War, the 1939-1940 conflict between tiny Finland and the Soviet Union. The world rooted for the underdog, as the outnumbered-but-not-outmatched Finns took on the Russian Bear, giving him a good mauling before succumbing to superior numbers. These are two conflicts not often gamed out, and both are compelling situations that provide an excellent change of pace from the current battle scenarios.
Their Finest Hour seems to be shaping up to make significant and interesting changes to Hearts of Iron 3 and its core systems. Additionally, it will include tweaks to espionage, naval landings, the combined arms combat system, and the multiplayer chat. Hearts of Iron 3: Their Finest Hour is currently slated to be available on September 26th 2012.