Hearts of Iron 4: La Résistance Review25 Feb 2020 0
Hearts of Iron 4: La Résistance Review
Released 25 Feb 2020
I struggled for some time to figure out how I felt about Hearts of Iron 4’s latest DLC, La Résistance. Paradox has delivered several new HUGE new focus trees for some very interesting states (Republican/ Nationalist Spain, Portugal, and France/ Vichy France/ Free France), a reworked Spanish Civil War, a new espionage system, and two new unit types, Armored Cars and Scout Planes.
This being said, the changes that were made outside of the focus trees feel less 'effective' than changes in the last major DLC, Man the Guns, where the headline feature was the ability to build and customize a fleet of ships for combat, along with overall changes to naval combat. However, the new additions are more nuanced and largely not bad. There’s a lot to talk about here, so let’s get right into it!
¡NO PASARÁN (New Focus Trees: Republican/ Nationalist Spain, Portugal, France/ Vichy France/ Free France)
While not being the states expected to receive reworks initially, the new focus trees for these nations are wonderful and huge. Absolutely massive. For someone who enjoys the game and the ahistorical options available, it’s a dream come true. The new zoom feature on focus trees comes in handy as these trees are veritable mazes of choices. It’s almost too much to choose from, something I experienced as playing Republican Spain for this review. A fair amount of very powerful choices require you to ask the Soviets for aid, something I did not realize until I had fully routed the other three factions (we’ll get to the fact that there were four factions in the two-sided civil war in a minute). However, once you get used to the new changes, there’s a whole wealth of opportunities for you in these new trees. It almost feels more akin to one of Paradox’s more grand strategy-esque titles in the sheer amount of choices offered, which is far from a bad thing.
As it was with Man the Guns, these trees allow for historical and ahistorical options for your selected state. All three of the featured states get foci that can bring them down the paths of democracy, fascism, communism, or unaligned monarchies. The monarchic options are quite interesting, as Portugal, Spain, and France have had quite crazy histories with their kings, reflected in the options available. The Portuguese, for instance, can promote their own monarchy while sending troops to aid the Carlists (Spanish monarchists) in their struggles next door. Meanwhile, both the Spanish and French have options to join factions with each other or gain casus belli on each other, depending whether their respective royal families wish to form an alliance or claim land that was (briefly) theirs. And those are just the unaligned monarchist options! Like I said earlier, there’s a lot going on here, and if you have an interest in playing any of these three states, the focus trees alone would make La Résistance worth it.
THE SPANISH ULCER (New Feature: Spanish Civil War Rework)
Akin to the Japanese decisions that can escalate conflicts in China, the prelude to the Spanish Civil War is full of decisions. Depending on your initial focus choice of either the anarchists or the fascists, you seek to retain hold of as much of Spain as possible before the war inevitably breaks out. Much of this comes in the form of countering the AI leader of the other Spanish faction seeking to accelerate the progress to the war, as the longer you can postpone the war, the more prepared you are. Garrisons in provinces can be swayed from one side or the other, and foci you take prior to the war can award you with more troops when the fighting starts. And oh, you will need them.
Spain is a famously horrible place to conduct a proper war in, with its vast amount of mountains and hills causing trouble for logistics teams and providing ample opportunities for guerillas to strike more conventional forces. This is displayed in a brutal fashion when the Spanish Civil War finally breaks out. Soon after the war begins (with a very crazy frontline, as it’s decided partially by what garrisons supported a particular side), a modifier will be put into place that causes immense movement and combat penalties to ALL combatants, including any foreign volunteers. This simulates the terrible logistical realities of fighting in Spain, and it really is a (S)pain to deal with. Fortunately, you can make decisions in certain provinces to 'prepare an offensive', temporarily removing the negative modifiers.
Remember earlier how I mentioned it can break into a four-way war? Sometime after the war begins, the anarchists and democrats will begin fighting amongst themselves, as will the fascists and the monarchists. This splinters the forces and territory of both factions, and the ultimate result is a bloody mess of wading through the countryside. This can take a long, long time, as many of the levied units you gain will be three battalions of regular infantry. That, coupled with the logistics/ combat penalty means that ten divisions surrounding and attacking a single enemy division could be at it for months. This is speaking from personal experience, of course. If you can ride out the somewhat tedious nature of the war, the penalty eventually fades, allowing you to mop things up. The war is an enjoyable novelty, but it can really drag out towards the midpoint after the lines solidify. The saving grace comes from the dissolution of the combat penalty and the fact that you can slowly train units that are actually meant for combat, rather than groups of folks handed rifles and pointed at the nearest hill. HOI4’s main selling point is the combat, and it’s best when left alone.
STRATEGIC ESPIONAGE ACTION (New Feature: Espionage and Intelligence)
What a thrill! The new espionage and intelligence systems have added some much needed character to what used to be a very bland section of the game. The player used to look up other states and see very basic information on the number of factories, divisions, and manpower they had, with not much else. Now, Intel on a state is broken up into four categories: Industry/Civilian, Army, Navy, and Air Force. Each of these comes with varying levels of information, depending on how much Intel on that field you’ve gathered. For example, if you have open trade with a state, you will gain Intel on their Industry, and can see how much manpower they have, as well as estimates of their fuel and convoy count. For the military side of things, the more Intel you have on a branch of their military (generally gained through combat), the more details you get on them, such as what divisions they are fielding, how many of each type of division there is, and what the makeup of the divisions are, should your Intel be high enough. This also includes a breakdown of what technologies the state has researched, but this also can only be found through a high amount of Intel.
So, let’s talk about spies. These brave men and women can be recruited through the new Intelligence Agency tab. After “building” your Intelligence Agency by briefly allocating civilian factories to become your personal Q, you unlock your first spy. You can send them out to do a few standard missions that should be familiar to players of Crusader Kings 2; they can boost an ideology or spread anti-government propaganda in states you’re no fond of, reduce the risk of resistance movements in friendly territory, provide diplomatic pressure to become more friendly or trade you more goods, set up counter-spy operations to catch the other guys doing the same to you, or set up Intel Networks. These will slowly increase your Intel on the target state overall, but will more importantly allow you to undertake operations such as assisting resistance networks, infiltrating a specific sector of the enemy industry to steal techs (!), or committing good old fashioned sabotage. There are more options, and there is a lot of potential for what can be done with spies. The espionage layer is a bit strange because as far as I’ve seen, tinkering with your spies adds fun flavor but doesn’t feel hugely impactful, though admittedly it may be that I just haven’t utilized my agencies correctly. In a game that has quick and dirty wars, you might not see much effect from your agents, just as using strategic bombers on targets you quickly overrun feels pointless. But the things that your agents affect can be somewhat abstract, and the effect they have on the war as a whole can be difficult to parse.
PLANES, TRAINS, AND ARMORED AUTOMOBILES (New Unit Types: Scout Planes and Armored Cars)
These two units occupy a strange place in the game world. Neither make much sense for a low-industry state to go after, but fill special niches that a state with factories to spare could make great use of. First, we have the Scout Plane. Scout planes are unarmed but speedy aircraft that can only fulfill the new Air Recon mission. This mission will fill your Intel on the area your plane targets, and can also provide some further information about the forces in the area. Interestingly, you seem to be able to fly these missions over areas you don’t control, even if you’re not at war with them, so you can confirm your suspicions about your neighbor gearing up to attack.
The Armored Car has a more complicated role, as there have been several changes made to accommodate it in its new place in the game. The way garrisons and policing of resistance areas has been reworked to be an off-map concept (a feature added in the free patch). Now, you can assign specific policies on how to treat the local populace, and what types of divisions you want to deploy to police in the region. Much like cavalry, armored cars excel at suppression, representing the fact that it was quite difficult to be a partisan when fast, armored units were speeding around your occupied town. As such, divisions utilizing armored cars get the most bang for their buck in terms of manpower, but there is a higher production cost to making armored cars.
In addition to its role as a police car, armored cars also can find work in frontline divisions. This comes in either the flavor of a line battalion, in which armored cars prove to be the fastest land units in the game, but are outclassed by tanks in terms of firepower, or as recon support companies. Recon companies now come in four different variants: cavalry (based on the original recon), armored cars (an option that adds hardness to a division, making it harder to kill), motorized (faster than cavalry but has no hardness, meaning that they can die quickly), and light tanks (it’s a tank). Armored cars, while not very suited to frontline combat, can provide a mechanized army a decent addition to an otherwise soft division, or as a cheaper alternative to light tanks.
THE BELL TOLLS FOR YOU
La Résistance, as stated in the intro, is a strange creature. Strange, however, does not necessarily mean bad. The new focus trees were sorely needed, and the Spanish Civil War still manages to be charming, warts and all. The Espionage mechanic seems like it doesn’t pack a huge punch, but the charm of spying on foes and the small victories you can win feel more than worth the time spent on it. The new units play nicely with the new mechanics as well, settling into roles that we didn’t realize needed to be filled before, but now seem necessary to do their jobs. In all, La Résistance isn’t perfect, but is a worthy addition to the growing library of DLCs for HOI4.