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Expansion - Hearts of Iron IV: Man the Guns Review

Edited by: Tiffany Lillie
Check out the review of Hearts of Iron IV here.

Paradox Development Studio is well known in the PC community for its niche market. Famed for their grueling grand strategy simulators, Paradox focuses in on what it does best and offers it in a variety of different flavors. These games have never been for the grander market, nor have they ever tried to make themselves out to be. From Europa Universalis to Stellaris, every Paradox studio title is intended for those gamers with a love for the minutiae of empire-building and the sweeping tide of grand conflict. Hearts of Iron IV, originally released in 2016,is one such title. The World War II simulator has received continued support from the developers in the form of DLC expansions, with Man the Guns being the most recent. Loaded with additional content to completely revamp the game’s core naval systems, along with a host of changes to government and overall quality-of-life, the only question now is whether or not Man the Guns is a worthy addition to the series.

A War to End All Wars

For the uninitiated, delving into a Paradox Interactive title is something akin to building your first computer without a complete manual. Hearts of Iron IV is certainly no exception to this reality. Much like every other title developed by Paradox, Hearts of Iron IV is a grand strategy simulator that puts you in direct control of your nation with an almost datasheet-like system that will bombard you with an egregious amount of information that you probably won’t think is important — but surprise, surprise: it’s all important. While it can be a grueling process to become familiar with its robust features, Hearts of Iron IV is a truly rewarding experience, so long as you are willing to give it the necessary time to understand.

Hearts of Iron IV is set within the scant few years leading up to World War II, the climactic conflict that engulfed the entire world in its raging inferno. As is to be expected of a global conflict, you are able to play any of the available nations, from Argentina all the way to Nazi Germany or Mother Russia. Of course, it's important to note that many of the minor nations are given far fewer options. If you’re not a veteran player of several hundred hours, playing your third how-Mexico-conquered-the-world run, then you’ll likely be sticking to the major powers of the game. Regardless of which nation you choose, you will find yourself diving down into the guts of your nation’s estate. Government policies, economics, ground forces, production, trade, naval, and air forces are all at your disposal and demand your attention. You must prepare your nation for the inevitable war, and you must decide whether you will weather the coming storm or fan the flames higher for your own ambitions.

Of course, as gratifying an experience it may be, the sheer complexity leaves several systems of the game lacking in depth, clunky, and messy to deal with at times. Over the past two years, several updates and expansions have been added, fine-tuning and overhauling major facets of the game or adding more depth to the many available nations for more varied playthroughs. The first to be added in 2019, Man the Guns is one such addition to the already extensive game. It's an expansion DLC that offers a much-needed overhaul for the naval system, and it also delivers a more diverse national focus system to four nations: The United States, The British Empire, Mexico, and The Netherlands.

Out in the Open Seas

As its title and cover art of strapping, shirtless sailors would suggest, Hearts of Iron IV: Man the Guns is primarily focused on its significant additions to naval organization and strategy. Compared to the ground forces, air and naval combat have felt like something of a constant afterthought, involving no more than clicking on a fleet and sending it off in a very generalized direction with a very generalized set of instructions, hoping for the best. While air-based combat is still waiting for that kind of love, the wolves of the sea have received some much-deserved love. Similar to how you can completely reorganize army divisions to suit your needs, naval ships now have the ability the be upgraded and redesigned. This allows you to not only change your naval vessels to suit any specific task you require, but also gives you the opportunity to refit older ships to help them keep up with newer models.

The sea chart has been cut into smaller pieces in certain areas now, allowing you to move your vessels around with more accuracy to help you avoid enemy ships or the new mines. More orders have been added as well, such as minesweeping (for the new mines) and you can even drill your naval and air units in peace time in the same way you can ground forces. Commanding your naval forces can still be somewhat clunky at times, but their continued naturalization into something more akin to ground forces is an important change that ensures quicker comprehension and easier gameplay. Speaking of making things easier, amphibious vehicles have been added in, giving you an extra boost for punching your way into enemy coastlines or providing solid support at a major river crossing.

Those Who Will Lead

New National Focus options offer new ways to play with some nations. The United States has been given Congress, requiring House and Senate support to enact major events while also offering many bonuses and unique story points. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, a second civil war might occur, repeating the succession of the South for independence in a new, alternate history. Mexico is transformed to represent the conflict-ridden nation that it was, licking their wounds from their recent civil war and leaving you to decide how best to help your people rise from the ashes. The British Empire is given more control over its colonial vassals, allowing you to unite or simply decolonize them at your will, even giving you the option to retake the original colonies of North America, if you’re gutsy enough. The Netherlands now have the alternate-history option to reinstate the monarchy at your whim, but the majority of their update revolves around how to better function as an exiled government.

While it will largely be of little interest in most single-player games, governments in exile is a new facet of gameplay that will add a bit of longevity to multiplayer campaigns. After a nation has capitulated, that nation’s government will be sent into exile, usually under the patronage of a more powerful nation still in the game. This allows you to stay on the board as their selected nation, no longer in their homeland, but now with a host of added bonuses to fight back and reclaim their land in a glorious Reconquista.

Other changes include fuel as a new resource that is required to functionally manage vehicles, ships, and planes, requiring you now to stockpile them and keep a close eye on how you use these powerful weapons of war when the gas is being rationed out. Several new map filters have been added to make it easier for you to spot things like ideology, terrain, infrastructure, and population density. In truth, this still only scratches the surface of what Hearts of Iron IV: Man the Guns has to offer, and there is still yet more that comes with this extensive expansion.

7

The Verdict: Great

While it will do little to sway newcomers into picking up this title, Man the Guns is a fine addition to Hearts of Iron IV and a must buy for dedicated fans. A naval revamp, tons of changes for governments, and tweaks that make things easier or add more depth, make this DLC a worthy addition.

Alexander Leleux
Written by
Wednesday, 03 April 2019 06:14
Published in Strategy

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Alexander grew up with a controller in his hand and remains the annoyance of his gaming friends for being ‘that guy’ who continues to use one even when he’s playing on his PC. By day, he is a graduate student in medieval literature and a freelance writer. By night, he is an avid gamer, hobbyist, and victim of an unhealthy Warhammer addiction. With a passion for stories of all kinds, he firmly believes that video games are an excellent means of communicating a narrative and hopes to one day make his own mark on the Gaming Industry.

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