Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour20 Oct 2012 0
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
The third expansion for Paradox Interactive's acclaimed World War 2 real-time grand strategy game Hearts of Iron III has just been released. This expansion has come after the expansions Semper Fi and For The Motherland. Wargamers were promised additions and enhancements worthy of an expansion. Will they get these in Their Finest Hour?
Elite Units and Espionage
Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour has brought with it an array of unique elite units. These units include, but are not limited to: Ghurkhas for the United Kingdom, the Waffen SS for Germany, Imperial Guards for Japan and Rangers for the United States. The new and unique units that are added to each major power?s arsenal are a welcome addition to the game, as these units are more powerful and specialised than the standard army units that can be produced. However, these units do come with a production cap, so you cannot simply recruit as many as you would wish or desire. This realistically stops the player from over producing ahistorical OOBs that could seriously unbalance game play. As we can see below while playing Germany, Waffen SS units can be directly built within the ?Production? screen.
Espionage and covert operations have also been expanded with new missions. This extended system has many new additions that everyone will appreciate. Setting up your spy rings is now far more important than before. The first major change comes with the addition of ?Covert Operation? points that must be accrued to enable the player to set various spy missions in motion. For example, to launch a coup in a target country you must have a minimum of twenty covert operation points. The below figure will show you how the game displays covert operation points being gathered against certain countries. You can also directly influence provinces on the map by sending your spies to gather information, or slow down the enemy by causing confusion through changing road signs, etc... The player can also set his spies to work with new missions on the intelligence screen: i.e. ?Counterespionage,? ?Military Espionage,? ?Tech Espionage,? increasing the perceived threat of a country (propaganda) and disrupting national unity. Now, all aspiring intelligence leaders and propaganda leaders have plenty to occupy themselves with!
Strategic Warfare and Combat Tactics
A new ?Strategic Warfare? screen is one of the other additions of this release. This compares your strategic losses to the enemy by using graphs and visual displays. As the war progresses, this feature will become an invaluable reference tool for all players. Visual displays are certainly a handy tool for those understanding and contemplating the complexities of waging a war. Also, there is a simple mechanism in the production screen that allows the player to ?Lend Lease? IC to his/her allies, making economic diplomacy much easier than in the past. The enemy can inflict losses on the convoys that are automatically set up to deliver these goods, but some aid will always get through. If we look at the two figures below we can see our land and sea losses compared to the enemy. (I really need to sort my convoy system out!!) There is also much more useful information available, at a glance. I love this enhancement.
Your leaders can now acquire new traits (as like seen in previous Hearts of Iron engines) such as ?Urban Assault Specialist,? ?Desert Fox,? ?Mountaineer,? ?Jungle Rat,? ?Ranger? (forest combat), ?Swamp Fox? and ?Hill Fighter.? These are indeed welcomed labels for your nondescript leaders to strive for! Combat tactics have also been added. Every battle starts with leaders picking a particular tactic, and this 'choice' can be affected by a new ?aggression slider? that the player sets (see figure below). Higher aggression levels translate into the commander on the spot picking higher risk tactics, so an element of trust in commanders comes into play here. The rules governing armour and armour piercing (anti-tank) have been revamped, making these weapon systems much more important in the scheme of things. I can see mini arms race's developing between opposing sides as one strives to out do the other in regards to building units that implements these attributes. Great!!
Custom Game and Operational Orders Map Modes
The new ?Custom Game Mode? (CGM) is also a significant new feature. This allows you to customise your country of choice before you begin playing. The player goes to the customisaton screen and has a certain number of points to spend on, like ?Diplomacy?: by altering alignments, joining or leaving factions (although, for obvious reasons, you cannot alter faction leaders). The second stage is ?Research?: where you can start with a clean slate and choose the techs you?ve researched, or you can just alter a few within the constraints of how many points you have to spend. Lastly, there is ?Deployment?: you can produce and deploy your combat units and buildings on the map. All of this is great for those ?What-If? campaigns, testing and sandboxing. (see figures below for visual examples)
The ?Operational Orders Map? mode will also be an unfamiliar enhancement noticed by players of this expansion. This handy addition allows the player, firstly, to view all of World War 2?s operations in detail, like: Case Blue, Case Yellow, Citadel etc... It also allows you to create your own detailed Operational Plans, enabling the player to share them with friends and allies alike. In addition, this is likely to enhance any AAR's tremendously, created by players. A nice touch I must say! (see figures below)
Naval Forces and Combined Arms Enhancements
Although the naval system still isn?t perfect, more in-depth naval invasions are now on the cards. No longer can you just sail your transports to some god-forsaken beach and dump them. They now take longer to unload, simulating the delays seen in historical amphibious assaults, so you can't just arrive on the beach and go in with all guns blazing. This graduated unloading system is now something players must consider into their strategies when planning amphibious assaults. It?s not all bad, however, as improved landing craft can now be researched and developed to overcome many of the logistical problems faced by the player. (see below)
The combined arms system has also been tweaked. When you go to the build screen, all units are now colour coded enabling the player to see at a glance the different types of units that can be built. There is also a handy little calculator to work out your combined arms modifiers. Infantry are now the key units in combined arms calculations. For example, if you combine an Infantry brigade with an Artillery and Tank Destroyer brigade, you can rack up a massive 15% combat modifier! Excellent!! (see below figure)
New Scenarios and Multiplayer Chat Mode
Included in Their Finest Hour are two new scenarios: ?The Spainish Civil War? and ?The Winter War 1940.? These are two interesting stand alone scenarios in their own right?resulting in key developments that affected World War 2 in various ways?but they also afford the new player a way to lessen the steep learning curve of this game (its complexity attained over the past several years), as they are far shorter and less involved than plunging head on into the larger campaigns. (see figures below)
In addition to all of this, there is also a new multiplayer chat mode. This has an auto ?faction join? function allowing new players to sign in. This is a great new feature that will hopefully encourage more ?old sweats? to take the plunge into the multiplayer arena. Multiplayer is where the game truly comes into its own, and if you can find the right crowd and you have a few hours/days on your hands, I can only encourage old and new alike to play multiplayer. If you don?t have much time on your hands, or you have trouble finding opponents, then the AI is ok. AI has been tweaked in this release, but the results of this seem to be both better and worse. However, the game is really transformed when played against human opponents.
This is a must get expansion for all HOI3 fans, as there are significant and welcomed additions/enhancements included here. These add even more to the games immersion factor and all-round playability. Veteran players will appreciate all the additions in this new expansion.
The game?s overall complexity is one of its many attractions, but for new players the learning curve is certainly steep. Hearts of Iron 3 has been about for several years now, and each expansion seems to increase its complexity on top of a foundation (the original Hearts of Iron 3) that was already seen as too complex by those who were used to the Hearts of Iron II engine. Some may even find this intimidating. The two smaller scenario's included in Their Finest Hour will be a welcomed addition for new players; while they will allow seasoned veterans with not too much time on their hands to dip their toe into the multiplayer side of the game.
A few may argue that some of the enhancements included are more chrome than game changing, but I would disagree. I think Their Finest Hour is a must have for any serious HOI3 wargamer and newbie alike. The changes to espionage and the additions of elite units alone, make the expansion worth purchasing. The marriage of Hearts of Iron III and Their Finest Hour has created something so immersive, detailed and fun to use, that hours can go by without even notice (?yes dear....I'm switching it off right now........?)
1) The AI appears to be smarter on the defence now.
2) Artillery and Anti-Tank units are now more important both on offense and defence.
3) Espionage and enemy covert operations are now more dangerous and must be factored into your overall strategy.
4) The Custom Game mode opens up endless opportunities both for the serious modder and casual gamer alike.
1) Minors have slightly less freedom in the overall scheme of things.
2) The AI will still occasionally make reckless and wasteful mistakes when on the offensive. Paradox Interactive has not gotten the AI balance quite right yet, vis-a-vis a player?s offense/defence. It's good, but with a promised AI patch next year, we will have to keep our fingers crossed and wait. Or (if you have the time), you could throw caution to the wind and try multiplayer!!
Review written by: Chris Cole
About Chris Cole
Chris Cole started wargaming in the late 1960s after finding the hobby via chess and model soldiers. His first wargame was SPI's PanzerGruppe Guderian that arrived in his first ever Strategy & Tactics magazine, which he is still collecting!! From that moment on, he was hooked!! By the age of 14 he was playing SPI's War in the East/War in Europe. After serving in the army as a tank crewman he joined the AA, even playing chess in the turret of a Chieftain tank!! He loves all wargames, from ancients to sci-fi!! But his favorite games include World in Flames (ADG), War in the Pacific: Admiral?s Edition (Matrix Games) and Hearts of Iron III (Paradox Interactive). Chris is also an avid film buff who collects black-n-white films, and a keen reader and student of military history. He lives in Cannock, England with his lovely wife.
Forum username: Empire101
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