Don’t let the stupendously grand scale of Hearts of Iron III fool you: this is a game that thrives in the intricacies of the politics, diplomacy, battle tactics, and resource management responsibilities of the period surrounding and including the second world war. Events start in 1936 and stretch through to 1947, leaving a great deal of time for you to get your grand-strategy on as well as get stuck in to operational-level gameplay and further your progress through time and technological prowess with the game’s technology tree. If you can look past some of the bugs and unusual diplomatic behaviour (and the resulting historically-inaccurate alliances), then you may be very interested in what Hearts of Iron III has to offer.
Hearts of Iron III’s gameplay is multi-faceted to say the least. Expect to experience the typical features of a grand-strategy game - technology trees, industrial production, political considerations, army/unit/squadron control, espionage, and diplomacy are all staples of the genre after all – only set between 1936 – 1947 and going into incredible detail.
This third iteration of Paradox’s sublime series improves on the gameplay of its predecessors by making available combat doctrines and also areas that were previously limited/absent from Hearts of Iron II. The result is the ability of nations to follow the combat doctrines of other nations, leading to things like Blitzkrieg-style combat being utilised by the Allies. Improvements to the mechanics have also resulted in the ability for players to mix and match various brigades (from military police to guerrilla forces) within each division.
Naval and Air Forces
This is where the game behaves a little more like its predecessors. Naval and Air combat have been given less attention than ground forces when it comes to improvements from its predecessor. Submarine warfare is also paid woefully less consideration than action above the water as well. Overall, there’s just not as much detail in the Naval and Air forces as there is with the ground ones.
Some changes, such as the separation of carrier air groups into their own distinct air units, are much welcome however. You’ll also see improved technology trees in both the Naval and Air forces of each power.
When it was first released, Hearts of Iron III was plagued with enough bugs to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of its grand-strategy gameplay. After some patches from the developers however, the game became the intricate grand-strategy affair it was always supposed to be. Its scope is as impressive as other grand strategy titles (Hegemony III, for example0 as is the detail you can go into when taking control of your chosen major power at the game’s outset.
Diplomacy, economic development, military tactics, internal politics, and industrial construction/production are all covered here, though admittedly with some problems when it comes to the AI governing the behaviour of some of these features. The AI can result in some very poor decisions after all, and ones that cause the game to deviate from the historical framework that the game (and indeed reality) is centred around. Still, if you’ve got a decent computer with powerful enough hardware, you should be able to enjoy the game without too many stutters or slow-downs. It is after all one of the grandest-scale and ambitious strategy games of its type ever made.