It has been a long time since Hearts of Iron II was released--almost four years, in fact. Back then, we gave the game an 8.3 and said that it was publisher Paradox's finest hour. In the interim, the publisher/developer has been toiling away on a third game in the series, which will see the map-based real-time strategy game run to 15,000 provinces across every country in the world. It's ambitious, and we got to see those claims in action with a brand-new demo of the game.
Like Hearts of Iron II, the third game in the series will cover World War II. You'll be able to play as any country in the world, and while it will be beneficial to control one of the major Allied or Axis forces, there's no reason you can't head up Romania or an equally small nation instead.
We got to see Hearts of Iron III at last year's Games Convention, but at that time we saw little in the way of gameplay. The folks at Paradox showed us a lot more of the game during our recent visit to Stockholm, and it looks to be shaping up nicely. You'll command your armies using a world map view, and it's from here that you can dip into the various menus that will influence your actions. The diplomacy menu will let you see your relationship with other countries, and you'll be able to see each nation's political allegiance towards democracy, communism, and fascism.
Another key aspect of the game is where each country stands in terms of being aligned with the Allied powers, Axis forces, or Comintern. This affects certain skills, because the Comintern states, for instance, can barter for goods, whereas the Axis powers tend to take things by force. You also have to take care of technology, and the game displays tech trees where you can allocate resources to things such as infantry theory. We're also promised a greater number of intelligence considerations, which are tied in to the number of spies you have, and it's all about allocating spies to certain countries over others.
The military aspect of the game promises to have stronger AI than before; you'll be able to tell your troops where to march and then let the computer take care of the rest. The game will also give you hints every step of the way, so you don't need to have played the previous games to get into the third. We also like the new leadership option that gives you greater control of your country's manpower, right down to lower-level skill groups and university graduates.
Hearts of Iron III has plenty of great ideas in place for its late-2009 release, and we hope to see more of the game in the coming months. Make sure you command your troops to check out GameSpot for more info soon.