Hearts of Iron 4: Waking the Tiger is Out Now08 Mar 2018 0
Hearts of Iron IV’s latest expansion – Waking the Tiger is finally here. Probably one of the most packed premium expansions I’ve seen in a while, it focuses on China and the wars that break out in that region prior the main event in Europe.
We’re still working on our review, but we’ve been playing it through this week and are ready to give some initial impressions. We’ll break this down by features as they are listed on the store page, so you can get an idea as to what kind of value you’re getting:
Chinese National Focuses
We’ve only just moved on to China now, but so far things seem pretty cool. The focus trees for China and all the minor warlords have been completely reworked and combined with everything else and the new Border skirmish feature (below), the Asian theatre is that much more interesting.
Decisions and Missions
The Focus Tree system has really come into its own, but I still feel it has a long way to go in terms of how it needs to avoid disrupting the natural flow of gameplay. One things that’s helped though is the offloading of certain decisions and events onto a dedicated UI element, called ‘Decisions and Missions’. The base mechanic as free, since it’s tied to the core of the game, but Waking the Tiger adds a lot of dedicated flavour stuff for specific factions, as well as other contextual things you can unlock during Wars.
Part of this is the new Border War mechanic that’s exclusive to the Chinese Warlords. We’re still a bit fuzzy as to how these unlock (it’s a Focus Tree thing apparently?) but when they do, you can station troops along the border of a rival Chinese power. After paying some political points and waiting a bit, a ‘Border skirmish’ starts between a limited number of troops. The winner takes the border province (or, at least, doesn’t lose it).
It’s a shame you can’t control the forces involved in these conflicts, as some of the best times I’ve had in HoI4 to date was making the best out of limited forces, but there you go. We'd love to see this or something like it roll out to the rest of the world, or give rise to a Cold War era expansion of some kind.
Commanders’ Traits and Abilities
Definitely our favourite part of the expansion– Commanders have been overhauled completely and now have way more personality as a game element. Every commander spawns with randomised traits, which in turn can influence what abilities they can unlock in the new Skill Tree. The free update splits a general’s skill level into four different stats representing Attack, Defence, Planning and Logistics, but the skill system formalises many of the things the game tried to do before. Have a general fight in Winter a lot, and he can unlock a Winter specialist skill.
Chain of Command
There are also Field Marshals (which can be used as regular Generals, FYI) which can oversee a group of armies, giving their own bonuses to every Army within their command (in addition to each Generals’ bonus). This is also, technically, a free feature, but Field Marshals have access to special Field Marshal skills and traits (see above) which you pay for. Without these, the simple generic bonuses from their stats are what get passed down.
Further down the line I’d like to see this improved with new Command abilities – which is another premium feature using ‘Command Power’ as a new resource to do one-off, but potent, actions. If it can somehow be tied in the war planning feature, that’d be great. Command power is also used to unlock General skills and traits, above.
New Axis Focus Tree
Japan and Germany have had their Focus Trees completely overhauled. There are two parts to this as far as we can tell: the main, historical tree (and non-narrative areas) are actually part of the free patch – what you’re paying for is the alternate history options.
I don’t know the full details of Japan’s new options, but in a game I was playing I saw the nation have its own Civil War as the ‘State of Japan’ declared war on Japan proper. For Germany, the military can come together and depose Hitler, which then opens the doors to Germany going Democratic, Communist, or bringing back the Empire.
Surprisingly, my time with this part of the game has been surprisingly boring. As Germany you never want to start a war too early, but having fought the Civil War (which was challenging but doable) and restoring the German Empire… I’ve now hit 1941 and nothing else has happened. It seems removing a power hungry and totalitarian nut-job like Hitler simply makes the world an almost game-breakingly peaceful place. I’m going to have to start a war myself, at this rate.
And the rest: There are plenty of other new little changes that are part of the premium expansion. For the free acclimatisation mechanic, you get new unit skins that change depending which weather-type they’re resistant too. You can now capture enemy equipment and consolidate forces to conserve manpower and experience.
Unpicking what’s free and what you’re paying for was a little bit more difficult than we expected when it came to writing this update – a lot of the core new mechanics are free, with the premium expansion including extra detail. It’s still a significant investment at £15/$20, but unlike the Apocalypse expansion for Stellaris there’s definitely more value for money here.
We’ll try and collect our thoughts for a more formal review next week.