Hearts of Iron III is not just a strategy game, it is a strategy simulator. This game is the definitive World War 2 simulator. It takes all the aspects of World War 2 into a game where you plan the war by the hour as if you were the leader of a real nation. It is an interesting hybrid between being turn based strategy and real time strategy. On one hand it is a pausable RTS game, on the other hand, the game has the hour as the basic unit of time which means if you slow the game down, it plays like a turn based game. This is especially useful if you want to track the war step by step, in this case hour by hour. As the ruler of the nation, not the general, you only make the large scale strategic decisions, not the tactical decisions, which are all taken care of by your generals.
As the leader you also take care of diplomacy which is unlike other strategy games where you can “talk” however often you want, and about whatever you want. Again like in real life you spend intellectual manpower to send diplomats abroad on missions such as negotiating trade agreements including not just trade of goods, but debt related issues, and paying for a country to produce units for you. There is also the political aspect of diplomacy, where you can sign defensive pacts, non-aggression pacts, even alliances. Most importantly, if you are part of one of three “factions”, the Axis, Western Allies, or Communist Allies, you can use diplomacy to influence other countries to align with you over time. If you are playing as a neutral country, you can just align yourself with a nation, so if you want to be the axis leader of Sweden, this game is for you :D.
Let me pause for a moment and say that unlike other games, this game includes every country that existed during World War 2, and you have the choice of playing any one of them. You can even play as a commonwealth country independently of Britain.
You also get to control production and the distribution of the production to different industries, however I have no idea how this game works for capitalist countries as I’ve only played fascist and communist countries in this game. I have picked up hints that you have less of a degree of control over your country in weaker governments, which is not the most appealing gameplay to me, but to each his own.
There is the brainpower aspect of the war, mainly: politics, technology, and espionage. These elements of gameplay are separate but interdependent. One thing to notice is that under the technology tab in the game, you not only control which technology your country is researching but how brainpower is distributed among the other categories mentioned above. In politics, you really cannot change your government system, but you can change your different political policies from social to economic issues. This is the political playground for those of you who want to test out your political beliefs (just kidding, social and economic policies are already set for you by the government in power and its ideologies. However, you do have control over things like conscription laws, degree of freedom in your country, how much emphasis on education or industry or military mobilization etc.). Political support for parties can change slowly over time, meaning if you are a republican country, you must beware of not being re-elected.
Finally, regarding espionage, you can do classical spying, or get involved in sabotage and political mingling. The only weakness of this game is the espionage, where you don’t really have control over the numerical amount of spies you send per country, although you can set priorities for them on a scale of zero to three, and you can only have one spy mission per country even if you have multiple spies. Other than that this game makes absolute perfect historical sense, and you will feel as if you are making real decisions for your country if you are playing this game.
The only other detail that is inaccurate is the german flag. We all realize that the Nazis were responsible for the genocides of around 30-40 million civilians but that does not mean that one should sacrifice a historically accurate flag with a swastika on it to make the game “politically correct”. Simply displaying a flag in a game should not equal support for that regime, especially when it is displayed to identify people of that regime. That way of thinking is so erroneous, I can accuse paradox interactive of supporting communism because they displayed the historically correct soviet flag in the game for the soviet union. Instead, the game designers have identified Germany with the flag of the German monarchy, which is even more offensive to monarchists as that is saying that the Nazis who killed 30-40 million, and the king of Germany who only cared for the well being of his people above all, are the same people.
Historical Accuracy: 5 out of 5
I would go as far as calling this game a historical simulator. This doesn’t mean that the computer artificially make sure certain events happen, but it makes sure the game makes historical sense if the leader of the nation was you instead of *insert historical leader here*. Aside from the fact that the flag of Nazi Germany in this game is the flag of the German monarchy for some reason, this game follows historical detail to the finest details. It should be really appealing for people who are World War 2 buffs.
Realism: 5 out of 5
The game is truly epic in scale and you get to experience all aspects of being a leader. I cannot describe even the basic details in a few sentences.
Difficulty: 5 out of 5
If it isn’t obvious already, a game with fine detail like this game is harder to learn than most games out there. The task seems overwhelmingly impossible at first, however if you are willing to put the time and effort, if takes only a day or two to learn. I suggest starting by choosing “The Gathering Storm” historical start, then find Spain on the map and choose Nationalist Spain. This is happening at the end of the Spanish Civil War, when it is clear that the Nationalists who are just outside of Madrid, are winning. It is relatively small scale, and hard to mess up, so it is an ideal first game to learn the game mechanics.
Sellability: 2 out of 5
This is a somewhat important factor, but shouldn’t bother anyone picking up the game if they truly love deep strategy. What sellability means is how well this game is doing on the market. The big failure of capitalism is that smart people who should be playing games like this are prevented from finding this game because only the big companies can advertise the hell out of you, making most smart people waste their brains on dumbed-down games instead of brain stimulating games such as Hearts of Iron. If you are a person who has found this game, consider yourself one of the lucky few. Consider yourself one of the chosen.
Popularity: 5 out of 5
This is not based on how many people play this game, this is based on how well this game is liked by people who have tried it. Pleased to say that if you have a circle of intellectual buddies, go ahead and present this game to them, and the chances are very high that they will like the game.
Affordability: 5 out of 5
For a game like this, I would expect it to cost $100-$150. However it costs a mere $10, or $45 if you are willing to buy all of the extensions to the game. In short, this is one of the best deals you can find in your lifetime, and the game costs a few dollars on sales on steam, or $10 with all the extensions if I remember correctly.
Final Verdict: 5 out of 5