Creating games dealing with World War II, developers usually suffer from tunnel vision and concentrate on great powers such as Germany, Italy, Britain, France, Japan, the US and the USSR; other countries are conquest fodder. Paradox Interactive in the past allowed players to control any country on the globe but those countries all had “vanilla” features and attributes.
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Shortly after Hearts of Iron IV came out, the publisher provided their first customized minor power, Poland, as a free upgrade. The recent DLC, Together for Victory, goes much further. The aid that different parts of the British Empire provided to Britain is recognized with distinct detailed national focus trees, political functions, production capabilities and troops.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India all provided vital elements to the war effort. However, the 1936 scenario may not turn out with a Churchillian “All for the England” picture. Major cracks were already showing.
The new countries are not the only elements in the add-on: some new features can be used by all powers. The most exciting of these is the new “Spearhead” battle plan. With this plan, a formed army along a set front line can launch a narrow powerful thrust toward an objective instead of the older broad offensive line. Such a movement is perfect for encirclement and hammer-and-anvil attacks. The risk, of course, is flank counter-attacks but “no guts, no glory”.
A more mundane addition is “continuing focuses”. All powers can use these after completing ten national focuses. Continuing focuses include functions such as construction, production and training. These activities will keep running throughout play until players choose to stop them. The advantage of this concept is that players no longer have to select national focuses in those areas, speeding a build-up or having housekeeping activities done automatically. If you run out of national focuses, this also gives you something to spend your points on.
Another new feature that might be overlooked by gamers dead set on combat is the “autonomy” system. Under the leader’s portrait are two buttons: managing occupied territories and managing subjects. Managing occupied territories allows the great powers not only to demand more troops and resources but gives the option of releasing the territory to be a puppet or to become a playable power. Managing subjects has similar demands but acceding to demands allows the subject to gradually rise from colony, puppet or dominion status to independence, thereby showing how increased dependence on subjects weakened the imperial power’s hold on them.
The add-on includes the overdue lend-lease option to soak Uncle Chump and sharing techs between members of the same faction. The usual bug fixes and AI tweaks are present as are improved 3D modeling and officer portraits. The Commonwealth countries use primarily British tech but have their own general and troops like the Gurkhas, Sikhs and Maoris. These countries’ research capabilities are hampered because of having fewer slots; Canada having three slots and the rest two. New national voice-overs lend a nice feel of verisimilitude to the proceedings.
The Suppressed Have Long Memories
Players can choose an uncontroversial historical path for each of the five new counties where they aid the Mother Country as they did historically. Few feathers are ruffled and the game becomes a fight against the Axis but even then the autonomy system leads to the dissolution of European empires. A much more entertaining and enlightening path is to start with the 1936 scenario to discover all the long standing grudges against Britain using the political national focus trees.
Canada, long a dominion with a tradition of self-rule and good manners, is the least troublesome of the subject countries. Her path to more independence is to work with the Crown economically and socially. Flirtation with fascism and communism is possible but is only possible with full independence and only ends in gaining Labrador and Newfoundland. Canada was the first subject to get combat-ready troops to England and provided strong convoy escort throughout the war.
New Zealand is beginning to chaff under the Commonwealth but independence is dependent on the world situation and gaining political power by aiding Britain. Her political power can rise by assimilating the Maoris. Her small contagion of troops made up in skill, especially the fierce Maoris, what it lacked in numbers.
Australians never forgot Gallipoli or forgave Britain for that debacle. Relations with the Mother Country were already strained by 1936. Australia can break ties with Britain quickly, lean toward the US and eventually create a Southwest Pacific coalition of democracies. Alternatively, she can either build up autonomy points, remain in dominion status while going fascist, allowing her to take New Zealand and create an empire. With the same prerequisites, communism is a possibility leading to a workers paradise with New Zealand as a puppet. The exploits of Australian troops in North Africa and the Pacific are legendary.
South Africa follows a much darker path. Harkening back to the Boer days, she can become Nazi with all of the racial overtones as early 1937. She can also become a police state by remaining with Britain and developing “special” police squads and racial laws. At the same time, South Africa is extremely wealthy and can lay many resources at Britain’s feet. True to the Boer ancestors, South African troops made significant contributions to the war effort.
India (British Raj)
As the only colony in the pack, the “jewel in the crown” had become even more restive since World War. The advocates for independence were divided as how it should be achieved: one group led by Chandra Bose wanted to use force while the other included the Indian National Congress (INC) promoted parliamentary politics. Together to Victory allows players to choose between the two if the goal is freedom. The Bose-style group heads down a road to fascism and Germany. In 1938, they break with Britain and divide the Raj in half, taking the southern half. The two halves go to war immediately. The INC party stays with Britain and gains independence through autonomy points. Eventually, India was still divided into warring parts but the rugged Indian 4th Infantry Division was indispensable in North Africa while the Gurkhas terrified the Germans in Italy.
If players don’t break away from the United Kingdom, they often fight a lonely war in Europe. Player’s units cannot be brigaded with their allies so they must move and fight separately when they arrive at the front. India, Australia and New Zealand must keep large forces back home to fend off the Japanese with the Indians possibly invading Mesopotamia. When they fight together, they can form their own armies with their own officers.
Hearts of Iron IV: Together to Victory still suffers from scanty and scattered documentation. Players will find themselves going from wiki to forums to YouTube looking for tidbits that should have been in one place. Nevertheless, this add-on opens a new door for an already superlative product. Hopefully, Paradox will soon give us the lovely mess that was China in this era.