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Hearts of Iron

Score: 65%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Paradox
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

As Hearts of Iron is strictly a Risk-like strategy game, the graphics don't get too technical. The game screen contains the 2D board, and is accompanied by a variety of sidebars and pop-up menus. But as far as board game representations go, this one isn't all that bad.

As you start up the game, you are greeted by Wagner's Flight of the Valkeries, a very appropriate track considering the setting. Various other classical music tracks are included and go well with the gameplay. Sound effects and other bells and whistles, however, aren't all too common, but they are not all that bad either. Considering the nature of the game, though, these things are superficial.


Hearts of Iron is a strategy game on a global scale. Set during the beginning of World War II and spanning up to 12 years, you get to take the reigns of a single country in the conflict. But where other games only let you pick the major contenders, here you can see what would happen if Switzerland would have picked a side, or if Yugoslavia had remained independent.

The game takes place in real-time, with the smallest increment being in hours. The gameplay can be sped up or slowed down, but so much is going on that you'll initially want to take it easy. Unfortunately, in the long run, the total time of a single game is relatively short. No matter what is going on, the game will end at 1948 at the very latest. Expanding the overall time to see drastic changes in history would have been nice, but instead you are usually cut off in the middle of a bloody struggle. There are also only three scenarios to choose from, severely limiting the replay value.

As with most strategy games, there is a tech tree. Hearts of Iron's tech tree is quite possibly one of the most convoluted and unpleasant things I have ever seen. It is so detailed that 90 percent of what you research will never be used, and you can easily get lost trying to navigate to the really important advances. This hindrance stops the flow of gameplay in its tracks.

As if that weren't enough, managing diplomacy and internal dissent is cryptic at best, and you'll spend most of the game paused trying to figure out what to do. Managing your countries' supplies, along with your troops in the field, is virtually impossible by sea, all but forcing you to choose landlocked countries. You must set up convoys constantly, and there is absolutely no warning as to when one of your units is about to run out of supplies and totally disappear from the map.


Handling all the logistics and micro-management tasks feels like you should have been taught a course on the subject. The instruction manual is good only for kindling fires, and the tutorial misses out on key areas. The overall concept of the game, which is to not get killed by the opposition, isn't too difficult to grasp. Just remember, though, neither is the concept of flight, but how many of you out there are pilots?

Game Mechanics:

Essentially, you point and click your way around the map and the various menus. But you must first find your way around the menus in order to use them. There is so much information, most of it worthless, packed into such little spaces that you'll take one look at a unit's information on the sidebar and shut the game off.

A lot of the efforts in Hearts of Iron seem to have been in vain. Too much tedious work must be put in to get even the slightest satisfaction out of it. Throw in a huge number of bugs and little replay value and this game can stay safely on the shelf. Die hard history buffs will get a kick out of the alternate historical paths the game can take, but unless you plan on taking up a new hobby, steer clear of this one.

-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, 300 MHz Processor, 64 MB RAM, 120 MB Hard Disk Space, 2 MB Graphics Card, 4X CD-ROM

Test System:

Windows 98, 1.4GHz AMD Athlon, GeForce 2 mx 32MB video card, 40 gig hard drive, 56x CD-ROM, 256MB DDR Ram, Sound Blaster Live! sound card, T1 Internet connection

Windows Gothic II Windows Hegemonia: Legions of Iron

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated