Hearts of Iron 2

Hearts of Iron II

Developer: Paradox Interactive

Release Date: Quarter 1 2005


Genre: strategy
Setting: WWII

There have been hundreds of games designed around the concept of WWII. Most all of them focus on a specific theatre of battle, or become even more detailed and concentrate on a specific battle or series of battles. There are games that cover small unit tactics and games that cover large scale combat at the strategic level. Hearts of Iron 2 goes above and beyond all that has come before. HoI2 is a game of grand strategy that takes you to a level of game play that truly shows you why WWII is called a World War. HoI2 is a game that has no boundaries other than what lies just beyond the horizon and will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself into a full range of experiences. In HoI2, you will have to manage resources, develop new technologies, direct the military, build and disperse units, build up defenses and production sites, manage domestic policies and government and last but definitely not least, do the diplomacy and trade thing.

Resource management revolves around acquiring and holding the areas that supply the items that are needed. Oil, metal, energy, rare materials, supplies, money and manpower all are necessary to run a country and keep the wheels greased for the war machine to move forward. All of these items go into what HoI2 calls your country's Industrial Capacity (IC), which you will use to determine how much you can build at any time during the game. Your IC is also affected by the amount of factories you have at your disposal, as well as the amount of manpower available to work in those factories. Keeping your countries infrastructure intact becomes very important for the furtherance of your production capabilities.

HoI2 has a great system for technological advancements which reflects the difficulties in creating new technology as well as determining who may be best suited to develop said technologies. Research is done by scientists and engineers from various fields and professions ergo each advancement will require different specialties and skills. In HoI2 you will first need to determine who will be doing the research by selecting a group from a list provided (each country has its own detailed list of available groups to do the research). You will note that each group has its own set of skills represented by icons designating various fields like Engineering, Aeronautics, Electrical, etc. So, to maximize your research you will want to select a group that has those skills that match, as closely as possible, those skills required by the advancement they are to research.

Research is not generic either. There are 9 broad categories that can be developed: infantry, armor, naval, aircraft, industrial, land doctrine, naval doctrine, air doctrine and secret weapons. And, within each category, there is a very extensive tree allowing for developments to branch in many different directions. Sometimes your decisions will block off some paths and open others. The section on R&D is almost a complete game in and of itself and has the potential to keep you engaged as a separate game all it's own.

Now, what would an RTS game be without an army to send out and destroy your enemies? HoI2 will put such an army at your disposal, and not just a few companies but entire armies - spread, potentially, all across the planet. In HoI2 you do not command individual soldiers or squads of men, but entire divisions. On the sea your military is made up of naval warships and transports, in the air you control entire squadrons of planes. As the supreme commander of your country's military forces you control the fate and destiny of tens of thousands of men and their vehicles. You will move your forces about the world conquering it province by province. It's almost like playing the ultimate version of Risk, as you work your way across the continents taking land from your enemies and adding it to your own.

The manner in which you maneuver your forces is quite simple - just select a unit, select a destination and voila off they go. You may be asking, "Is it really that easy?" The answer to which is yes, should you not be concerned with strategy and tactics. And should you just simply wish to send your forces off to their deaths, it really is that easy! But for those of you who wish to develop their skills in the Art of War, HoI2 has the tools to allow you to do so.

When working your military forces there are almost more options at your disposal than can be properly discussed in a simple review of the game. You have nearly complete control over your military in that you can send forth your units from their bases and their current locations and bring the war to any point on the map (of course you also need to be able to get there…). Should there be an area that is being held by a battalion of Panzers from the Wehrmacht, you're probably not going to want to send in a single division of infantry to deal with them. Oh, but you do have that division of Sherman tanks over there 2 steps way, and then there is the need for air support from that base way over there, and don't forget the artillery barrage to lead off the attack… One of the greatest features of HoI2 is the ability to coordinate actions using a number of different units from all over the board. You can schedule attacks on the enemy so that units that are closer to the pending action will wait until the units that are farther away have an opportunity to get there.

Air units can be sent on missions including air superiority, bombardment and escort for bombers. Naval units can be sent out to patrol, interdict shipping or hunt subs. The combinations you can establish between your forces are nearly endless. However, no matter what you may want to do, your army will not want to continue to fight if it gets hungry or runs out of ammo. Make sure to keep your supply lines open. And don't forget to check the weather in the area your sending your troops to, you don't want them to get bogged down in 3 feet of mud…

Not only will you be going out to conquer new territory, but you also need to look at protecting what you already have. This is done in a number of ways by garrisoning units and building fortifications and defensive hard points. Anti-aircraft guns, shore batteries and tank traps are among the items that will help you to defend your homeland from invasion. You will also want to be improving the production facilities in various areas so that you can build a bigger and better army, which you will, of course also need to defend. All of these improvements and fortifications will eat into your IC and as the game progresses, you will find that there just are not enough supplies or goods to go around and do all that you feel you need to do.

Speaking of home, your responsibilities are not only to manage the military forces of your homeland, but to also manage the government that military is fighting for. You'll be required to do so by managing the domestic and foreign policies of your homeland. Here you will determine if you are Democratic vs. Authoritarian, an Open vs. Closed society, Interventionist vs. Isolationist, and so on. At the beginning of the game, each country will have the settings for each category set to what would be appropriate for that country during that period. Through the course of the game you will have the opportunity to modify your own country's policies as well as perhaps influencing other countries' policies to try to bring it more in line with your own.

Diplomacy plays a big part in the game. Wars may be fought on the battlefield with bullets and tanks, but they are also fought in the offices and embassies of the world with paper, pencil and the spoken word. In HoI2, you will get a taste of what diplomacy is all about. World War II was called a World War for a reason - it involved countries and people from all over the World. Alliances and treaties were formed, agreed upon and broken all throughout the war as the tide of power ebbed and flowed across the globe. When you look into the diplomatic aspect of HoI2, you will find that the game does not limit itself to the major players in the war. You will have the opportunity to negotiate with dozens of countries across the globe - Australia, Tibet, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, and Afghanistan to name a few - and the list goes on and on.

Your diplomatic skills will be tested as you negotiate treaties with the various countries around the world, not only on military matters, but also on commercial/trade matters. There will be times when you may find yourself running short of a resource that you need to continue the good fight. You can either go out and try to take more territory to increase your production of that resource, or you can go to your neighbors and trade for it. At times you may find that you will have to pay more than a resource is worth especially if you're desperate enough. Welcome to the world of negotiation and diplomacy.

HoI2 is not an easy game. HoI2 is not a simple game. HoI2 is a game that you will have to hone your skills against as you would your favorite Buck-knife on a good old Arkansas stone. It will take you to new heights of RTS gaming and perhaps new lows of desperation as the enemy crushes you under the iron tread of its tanks. The complexities of the game keeps it from getting boring and the diversity of the game will keep it interesting for the hours and days that you devote to mastering its intricacies. For those of you out there that are aspiring Arm-Chair Generals, this is definitely the game for you.

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About the Author, Carl Pabst, Jr. (A.K.A DemiUrgoss)

I've been gaming since the days of the original TSR D&D and have grown up playing just about every PnP RPG created. Eventually with the age of computers, I started getting into RTS and military strategy games. And then came the MMORPG Asherons Call which changed my computer gaming forever. These days when i'm not gaming I'm working with the Los Padre's Council BSA and my son's Cub Pack - when not conquering the virtual world.