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Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Master control over every detail.
Bad: Steep (cliff like) learning curve.
User Score
8.3
(4 votes)
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Rating: 8.3/10 (4 votes cast)

The new Strategic Battle Plan option in action.

There is no proper way to learn a Paradox Interactive “grand” strategy game. Europa Universalis, Victoria, Crusader Kings, they are all fine and dandy – but trying to tackle Hearts of Iron III is like clambering up the formidable walls of a rather obtuse mountain side.  Before I even sat down and played my first round of Hearts of Iron III, I first had to read hours upon hours of After Action Reports ( for those who do not know, After Action Reports are essentially walkthroughs of  a campaign, usually picture heavy) , wiki strategy guides, all the while watching various You-tube tutorials. After educating myself with a plethora of strategies and Order of Battle suggestions, I plugged in and garnished my likeness on the country of my choosing; a country that might unite the world in peace and freedom. One day…

But wait, this isn’t a review of Hearts of Iron III. You are supposed to be looking at Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour. “Thanks, self.”

Ahem, well, I have played various scenarios from Hearts of Iron III, all of them starting in 1936 – some would say this is the best and most  “gamey” way to play, but I know I will need all of the “gamey” I can get. After playing the 1936 scenario with various countries across the three major factions, I found myself starting to slightly understand the inner workings of Hearts of Iron III, Slightly. Yet I must now integrate my prior knowledge of Hearts of Iron III with the new expansion, or more correctly, polished patch, Their Finest Hour.

The units are now color coordinated based on their action.

Most of what is new to Their Finest Hour is the ability to make custom games, adding some unique units, more random events, a deeper yet still flawed naval engagement system, Lend-lease system, new unique map-overlays which will be perfect for Hearts of Iron III AAR’s, and two new historical scenarios: The Finnish Winter War and the Spanish Civil War. Well, that seems like a lot to take in, and it is – but that shouldn’t shake your resolve if you are uninitiated in the world of Hearts of Iron.  This is precisely where Hearts of Iron III excels where most other strategy games do not: extreme scope. To be completely absorbed into the inner machinations of your country, this is what makes a grand strategy gamer happy; worrying about supply lines, foreign diplomacy, elections (if your country allows them), keeping your populace happy, and that is not even mentioning military tactics and maneuvers.

What is exciting for most of the experienced Hearts of Iron players out there is the new option to make custom games. You have three screens: Diplomacy, Production, and Deployment. With the possibility of modding your game files, the player could potentially unhinge their cap on points to spend on techs, units, and diplomatic decisions, allowing for some interesting, albeit extremely ahistorical approaches.  The custom game mode is an excellent choice to add into the series though it begs the question of why Paradox didn’t add something like this earlier. The possibility for interesting game play is greatly expanded with this creative mode.  Another addition to Their Finest Hour that will have the avid AAR  community excited, as well as those who use the multiplayer service, is the ingenious idea to add battle plans, like an overlay, that help you plot out your dastardly movements.  With these plans – which are rather useless in single player, you can set arrows of varying dimensions across your maps along with different colors, stickers, and other action icons to represent as much information as you can.  This would be particularly useful in a multiplayer match as you can share your plans with those on your team and make them privy to your plots for world domination.

What one of the pre-installed historical Battle Plans: Goodbye, Poland.

Some of the smaller tweaks come in the shape of unique units to the seven major countries, e.g., the German’s Waffen-SS or the Japanese Imperial Guard.  These units are more powerful than your basic fighting infantry, but their production cap is much lower than any other unit so that their unique powers can’t become out of control.  You are also given bonuses for making your units more versatile – this is done by deploying brigades with various units attached that add to their combat effectiveness. Once your newly trained elite units have marched through the capital of your enemies cities, forced capitulation on your terms, and razed rebel pockets of fighters to the ground, now you are also able to watch your leaders earn promotions on the field. This makes more sense when you are playing the game, but essentially, the generals that are in the Order of Battle will receive bonuses depending on their location and style: I once became the Desert Fox without Rommel. What a world…

 

There is so much to do and experiment with in any Paradox Interactive Grand Strategy Game, but you won’t find any as satisfying as the Hearts of Iron series. With this new expansion for Hearts of Iron III, you can be pretty well sure that the available options and sheer scope of replay value offered here is enough to warrant the $19.99 price tag. Yes, there are obvious problems with this expansion that are more related to the whole of the Hearts of Iron series: “Why won’t my allies attack alongside me in battle?”  , or “I can’t believe the enemy hasn’t attacked my coastline yet, I have no units’ garrisoned there! “and “Could there  be a worse tutorial for such a complex and absorbing game?” as well as, “Naval Invasions? My AI allies can never seem to pull it off properly!” — but fundamental flaws that have been with the series from the beginning shouldn’t detract from the overwhelming amount of content added to this expansion.  For a weary traveler of the strategy game franchise, and if you haven’t already played a proper Grand Strategy game, than you should give this a serious look as the screens and menus have been more streamlined — and for those of you that are well ingrained with the theories of Grand Strategy Games , well, I’m sure you don’t need to be reading this review.

Hearts of Iron III, you receive an 8 out of 10. No need to thank me.

 

 

Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour Review , 8.3 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
Alex D'Alessandro


Recent graduate of the University of Central Florida. I've been playing board games, video games, and most other types of games since I was a child. These things come naturally to most kids of the 1990's.
  • Alex

    Interesting. I turned them on numerous times but still didn’t really find much use for them. It makes sense that they could be quite helpful, but like most Paradox games, I find my playthroughs to be rather… A-historical.

  • Nats

    The battle map overlays are certainly not useless in single player. I use them as an aid memoire and the plan my game before I start. And the historic ones inform you what the country you played actually did in real life which certainly gives you some ideas if you want to try to recreate history. I love them, they are the best bit of the whole expansion.

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