E3 2009 is going strong, and Hearts of Iron III from Paradox Interactive is one of the hundreds of games on display. The third game in the Hearts of Iron grand strategy series will offer the same great depth that fans have come to expect from it, with plenty of new interface features that should provide much more useful information at a glance. Like the previous games, Hearts of Iron III will take place in the mid-20th century with a focus on World War II, though like in Hearts of Iron II, you can choose to play as just about any nation in the world.
Who's Making This Game: Paradox Interactive, the Swedish-based developer that created the Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron grand strategy games.
What the Game Looks Like: Hearts of Iron III looks like a deep and complex strategy game, just like the games that preceded it. The series has never been about its graphics; instead, it has always been about immense strategic depth.
What There Is to Do: Hearts of Iron III lets you try to build your nation up to be an international superpower by developing your economy, production, technology, and military at home. If need be, you can also sabotage or wage war against enemy nations abroad.
How the Game Is Played: To accomplish your goal, you'll research 12 different technology trees in these various disciplines and will have the option to set the computer artificial intelligence to manage any number of them if you don't care to handle them yourself. You'll also be able to control your military at different levels; not just at the top level of larger corps but at the battalion level. You can even control military at the individual soldier level, if you care to, though considering the fact that you might have hundreds of divisions of soldiers, you'd have to be pretty determined to dig that deep. Another new aspect of Hearts of Iron will be that you can set automation even in large-scale military orders. For instance, playing as Germany during World War II (Germany fought a war on two fronts; the Eastern theater in Russia and the Western theater in France/England), you can assign your computer-controlled ministers to tend to one front while you focus on the other. You can also give your computer-controlled generals simplified orders, such as selecting a handful of enemy provinces and ordering them to attack those provinces by way of Blitzkrieg. Additionally, Hearts of Iron III will have more than a dozen different map overlay views that convey lots of different information, such as a battle-progress overlay that labels contested hexes with color-coded status numbers indicating how well the battle is going in your favor (a higher number in green indicates a battle in your favor; a lower number in yellow or red indicates you're losing). Another color-coded map menu shows, at a glance, where your enemy's forces are strongest in red and where your own forces are strongest in green. Hearts of Iron III will also have an icon-based alert system that surfaces red or green icons in the upper-left corner to indicate favorable or unfavorable developments, such as successful research coming to an end or the start of a revolt in an occupied territory. The game will even have a new weather system that affects certain in-game conditions, such as grounding planes that would otherwise have flown into battle or increasing attrition damage to troops in the cold.
What They Say: Lead programmer Johan Andersson concedes that even though the new computer AI automation options should make the game a bit easier to play, Hearts of Iron III will still be a complex, hardcore strategy game.
What We Say: We're not going to argue with Johan's assessment. Hearts of Iron III will offer a lot of complexity, but hopefully, its new automation, map overlay, and interface tweaks will make it easier to play. The game is scheduled for release later this year.