Hearts of Iron II PC CD-ROM
by Paradox Interactive
Developed by Paradox Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Hearts of Iron II, an introduction.
Hearts of Iron was a grand strategy war game set in the World War II era. The game wasn't a simulation as such and allowed you to create your very own World War II. Fancy playing through the whole of World War II in charge of a 'minor' nation such as Tibet? No problem. Hearts of Iron allowed you to take charge of any one of a number of nations and take on the challenge that your chose nation would bring. Diplomacy, research and tactical planning were all required and for those who spent the time learning how to play the game it offered a very rewarding experience. Like Europa Universalis the game is a real time strategy that you can pause at any time to make decisions.
What's the game about?
Essentially Hearts of Iron II is an improved version of Hearts of Iron. Several elements of the game have been reworked and polished to make the game more accessible and a better experience overall. Research is now much more straightforward as is organising battles. More units have been added and a more detailed map with more provinces has been included. The game has 19 scenarios in all and you can play a full campaign as a multiplayer game over the Internet if you wish or play over a LAN (more on that in a moment).
What's good about the game?
The main improvement has to be the interface which is much more inviting than in Hearts of Iron. Extensive and informative tooltips save you the task of clicking through different menus to find valuable information. The main categories Technology, Diplomacy, Production etc. are now tabbed, meaning you can quickly move from one screen to another in an almost effortless fashion. Hearts of Iron only came with a few scenarios but the range on offer in Hearts of Iron II is much better. There are 19 in all with 4 of these being open ended scenarios covering the crucial years, 1936, 1939, 1941 and 1944. The remaining 15 scenarios are more focused on historical events such as Operation Barbarossa, The Ardennes Offensive, Rommel in Africa and the Spanish Civil War. This gives the gamer a more comprehensive experience of the World War II time scale and the range of material on offer here means you're not going to have experienced all the game has to offer for many months to come. If you like to take your strategy games online though then you really are in for a treat. Up to 32 players can play together. Nations can either be shared or you can choose different nations and play against each other.
What's not so good about the game?
The biggest problem with Hearts of Iron II is the learning curve. This isn't a game where you can jump right in. It's not even a game where playing through the tutorials once will allow you to make sense of everything. It's a game where you'll have to put the hours in to fully appreciate the different elements and how they interweave with each other. Another issue I have with the game is its support for just one screen resolution. The game only supports 1024x768 (with no windowed mode on offer) and as a result if you're playing the game on a TFT of 17" and over you'll have to read text that looks plain ugly and is rough on the eyes. It also has a few other side effects that we'll mention in a moment.
How does it look?
Graphics are not as important in strategy games of this nature but having said that you still expect a certain standard. The visuals on offer in Hearts of Iron II are best described as functional. Those of you that have played a Paradox Interactive game before will be completely familiar with the look of the game. What Hearts of Iron II has going for it though is an excellent interface which makes the wealth of information that the game contains, so much more accessible. The graphics that represent your military units do look poor though and if you are playing the game on a TFT with a native resolution of above 1024x768 then they manage to look even poorer with their blocky low detailed appearance (the game on the whole has a blocky and uncomfortable look about it if you are playing on a 17" TFT or greater). Another side effect of this fairly low resolution is that you can't see a lot of the map at any one time. Yes you can zoom out but the detail in the zoomed out mode is not as good as it should be. In fact the locked screen resolution is a bit of a mystery as the first Hearts of Iron game allowed you to change screen resolutions, as do most of Paradox's games, so to take away this feature for Hearts of Iron II seems a step in the wrong direction.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
There's nothing to complain about here as Hearts of Iron II is completely deaf gamer friendly. Paradox's games have a history of providing their wealth of information via text and Hearts of Iron II is the same in this respect. It's also worth mentioning that the game manual is superb. Written by Chris Stone, the manual is written from a gamer's perspective rather than from a developer's or publisher's perspective. This means it answers the questions that need answering and doesn't contain any abstract references that whilst they are nice to read, don't help you learn how to play the game. Game manuals are usually poor efforts so it's great to see such a well written book (with 90+ pages) that provides such informative insights on how to play the game.
I've no doubt that this is one of the finest games to date based on the World War II scenario. Yes there is a great deal to Hearts of Iron II and the learning curve is Mt. Everest like in its steepness but thanks to the tutorials and an excellent manual you will be able to get to grips with all the game has to offer, although it will take dedication and for those who just want to install the game and then get on with it, it may come as a bit of a shock. Some key areas of the game have been streamlined and simplified to make the game more accessible but there's still are a lot more to learn than in an average strategy game. If you can put the time aside to learn how to play the game though you'll find a richly rewarding experience and there are few games that come as close to this in capturing as many aspects of World War II.
Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
(Click the letter or here for details)
A cracking sequel to Hearts of Iron that offers impressive depth and virtually unlimited replay value. The game is fine for deaf gamers but you should be aware that the game has a huge learning curve and you'll need to be dedicated in order to fully appreciate what Hearts of Iron II has to offer.