After the jump are my impressions of Hearts of Iron 3 after playing a preview build of the game, I have just slightly updated the piece. This is not a review or in depth look at the game, just some initial impressions.
I have never found myself laughing at a game tutorial before, at least not for any of the right reasons, but this build of Hearts of Iron 3 has made me chuckle. Your guide communicates via pop-up messages which explain the features of the game with some commentary from the guide and some musings on your part. It seems that your guide is a German and has somewhat of a bias towards his country of origin. I was just glad he didn’t go off on a real 30 minute rant about Austria! It was worth going through all of the tutorials especially to see the end of the Intelligence one; if they stay like this in the final version of the game then I recommend you all take a gander at them.
Upon starting a new game, I did as I often do in the Hearts of Iron games, take control of a small country in the Americas and ride out the war in style. By doing absolutely nothing! I took charge of Cuba, for no reason other than it is Cuba. Of course Cuba is a small island with limited industrial power and diplomatic influence so building anything takes seemingly forever. Fortunately being a little island in the Caribbean you don’t have many nations threatening you, so it doesn’t matter if it is going to take five or six months to build that new motorised infantry division your were so looking forward to. Yes my own division, you can create divisions in your own fashion, I decided that a division with 3 infantry brigades and one armoured car brigade would suit me just fine.
Like previous games in the series your industrial capacity is important, on the production screen you are able to adjust slides which control how much of your IC is being spent where. Well that is the idea, some how I ended up with sliders which would not move on my order, the only way I could change them was to press the ‘Need’ button. This sets the IC in each section to the level required, the other option is to leave the whole production area to the AI. It simply depends on how much control you want over production.
The joy of the Hearts of Iron series lies in the long-term planning, your nation may be small and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but by changing some sliders around here and there you may, one day, be able to invade Haiti and join the Axis powers. The intelligence section helps here, you can decide what you want your spies to do in each country; I took the brave step of telling my Bond wannabes to try to disrupt national unity in the US. That should be interesting. Overall the intelligence section seems improved over Hearts of Iron 2, the level of control is greater and gives you a better sense that your spies can play an important role in the game.
The interface has been greatly enhanced for Hearts of Iron 3, it looks much clearer and the new 3D map does go a long way to improve the visual aesthetic of the game, the developers have also brought along features from the Europa Universalis games, the Outliner provides you with a general overview of what is happening with your various units across the globe. The screens for diplomacy, production et al have all received a make over, options are different in some but the overall presentation is much improved over Hearts of Iron 2. One gripe I have with this build of the game is that the log does not immediately appear, the message log is your window to the outside world and allows you to keep track of what other nations are doing. I only found it after messing around with the mini-map (still full of various overlays) and noticing a small arrow next to it. For such a crucial component of the game to be hidden away doesn’t bode too well, though right now this is just a minor complaint about the general interface.
This may just be an early version of the game, but it seems pretty much feature complete, there are some very obvious issues with the text in the game, on some pop-ups words are repeated, but this is the kind of thing that will be ironed out before launch. Right now Hearts of Iron 3 is shaping up to be another great addition to the series, will it attract new players? I’m not too sure, it still is a very daunting game when you first look at it, but those who are fans of the games should be pleased with the way it is shaping up.