Complete Review Of Hearts of Iron III, For the Motherland

Tuesday, August 16th 2011. | Games News

Hearts of Iron III is one of the most complex games a player can now pick up, install and play. It deals with the expanded era of World War II and allows a player to choose any country that existed in the world at that point and guide it’s destiny through the titanic conflict. Naturally most players gravitate towards the biggest powers of the period, from the United Kingdom to Communist Russia and Nazi Germany to the United States, but the possibilities included in the game are truly endless.

For the Motherland is the second expansion for the grand strategy game, developed in house at Paradox Interactive, and, while the feature list might be a bit slim at first sight, the new download only package manages to change the game in very significant ways that go from the addition of partisan control and a new system for internal politics work to the addition of more modding support and an increase in performance.

Gameplay Review
One of the big under the hood changes made in For the Motherland is the map. When the original Hearts of Iron III was launched a lot of fans, war gamers, geography buffs and people with general knowledge of the position of Moscow complained about the big inaccuracies that could be seen with the naked eye. The developers at Paradox Interactive said that their primary concern was not to create a perfect replica of real world locations but to make a map that served the necessities of the gameplay.

For the Motherland they re-built the map from the ground up, with input from the community and modders, and the changes can easily be seen in the game. Capitals are now much closer to their real world places, there are more rivers flowing everywhere (with major impact on battle planning) and the terrain features have been reworked to move the game closer to the real world. Another long term fan request, to see the war cabinets of other countries, has also been turned into a feature in For the Motherland and the developers also found the resources to add some more complexity to internal politics and to the effects it can have on military operations.

For the Motherland also introduces the Wargoal system, meaning that the messy pre-determined peace settlements are now gone, replaced by a more elegant system. There are also a lot of changes to how the Artificial Intelligence that powers the other nations works. The countries that a gamer manages to ally with will now be better able to see the objectives they are aiming for and will work actively on achieving the Allied Objectives that are set on the map.

The enemies will also be more active, with Russia now defending more in depth against the blitzkrieg assaults of the Germans and with the United States and the United Kingdom better able to coordinate their actions in order to retake Europe from an occupying power.

The improvements made to the A.I. are also visible at the tactical level and the impact is increased by the work that Paradox has made to improve the capabilities of the Theater system. It is now easier for players to set objectives, stances and allocate resources to secondary fronts in order to focus their attention on the most important battles.

Another interesting addition, separate from the main campaign, is the addition of five new smaller scenarios that are designed for those who want to engage in some tactical thinking without committing to a long term gaming session.

They are all important actions from World War II that often were overlooked in a Grand Campaign: Operation Desert Fox, the Battle of the Bulge, Operation Unthinkable, the Southern assault scenario and Fall Blau. The scenarios are well designed, balanced and, at times, challenging and there’s quite a lot of customization linked to the objectives for each involved nation.

For some fans of the Hearts of Iron franchise, those who have been with the series since the first game, the fact that this is the second expansion in two years for the game and that the list of additions is small will be a sign that Paradox Interactive is over monetizing its game and charging for changes that should be delivered via patches. But let’s remember that even Hearts of Iron II had two expansions and that six months after the launch of Armageddon almost everybody was convinced that the game would have been a lot poorer without it.

Graphics and audio Review
For the Motherland is an expansion for a grand strategy game, a complex piece of software that is designed to track the destiny of all the countries in the world for a number of years, so no one would expect to see the game win any awards for the beauty of its graphics or for its clever use of texture mapping.

When compared to some of its peers, although not many company deliver such complex strategy titles as Paradox Interactive does, Hearts of Iron III is a stand out because it manages to deliver a lot of information via its user interface without overwhelming the player (as long as he has an understanding of the game and took a look at the manual) and this is something crucial for a strategy game.

The biggest User Interface addition is the Theaters tab in the upper right corner of the screen, which will allow the player to quickly see his military situation on all fronts while also getting an at a glance look at what the A.I. believes it needs in terms of troops in order to achieve a mission.

The sounds are also something that the strategy gamer will not be too concerned about and all the appropriate cues and prompts are present in For the Motherland. There’s also new music that might not please classical music buffs but manages to evoke war, both in its heroic and its disastrous incarnations.

Multiplayer Review
The options for multiplayer games are the same as in the original Hearts of Iron III and, of course, all the matches benefit from the improvements made to the game mechanics and to the single player features. The game is more interesting when confronting a human opponent but matches can take a long time and need dedicated participants.

Conclusion
For the Motherland does not have the same impact on the core Hearts of Iron III gameplay that previous expansion Semper Fi had but it still manages to introduce a host of changes that players will soon find they cannot do without.

It’s now easier than ever to understand the information that the game delivers and there’s less hassle when managing the most complex aspects of the Hearts of Iron III experience. The entire game is smoother than before and the changes made to the code base also mean that the game is faster now than it was when the original package was launched, no less than two years ago. As always the biggest selling point for the most hardcore of Hearts of Iron III fans is that For the Motherland will now constitute the base that most if not all the major mods will use and that alone makes it a must buy.

The developers even made it easy, via the debug_saves variable in settings.txt, to create a set of autosaves that cannot be overwritten, which is an invaluable game feature for those who are interested in recording long games to create After Action Reports or to brag to friends. For less hardcore gamers this is still good value for money, the kind of expansion that works with Semper Fi to make Hearts of Iron III one of the best grand strategy games of all time.

Paradox Interactive has not yet said whether they are thinking of delivering more expansion for their flagship grand strategy title but their recent track record suggests that they will so gamers need to download, play and enjoy For the Motherland while it’s still fresh and before a new expansion moves in to steal the show.

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