Thursday, 16 April 2020 17:54

Hearts of Iron IV: La Résistance Review

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Edited by: Jade Swann

Paradox Development Studio returns once more to the beaches of Normandy and the streets of Berlin in their grueling World War II simulator, Hearts of Iron IV. Although originally released in 2016, the World War II simulator has received continued support from the developers in DLC expansions over the years. Now on their fifth entry to the title’s expansion, La Résistance throws you into the nitty gritty world of spies and resistance fighters, using your wit and will to gather knowledge of your foes and turning that knowledge into power as you turn the tide of war in your favor. The question remains: will this pitch of plot and intrigue live up to everything it promises to offer?

No, not really.

Bloated Politics

Focus trees are perhaps one of the most popular attractors for any Hearts of Iron IV expansion, and oftentimes it has proven worth it. Waking the Tiger was the crowning king of such a concept, as it provided a massive overhaul for China, as well as added new paths of alternative history for Japan and Germany. But where Waking the Tiger offered you the chance to give a boot to the virgin Hitler and restore the glorious chad Kaiser before World War II even started, La Résistance just doesn’t quite have anything nearly as interesting going for it.

La Résistance offers three updated focus trees for Spain, Portugal, and France. These are some rather expansive new trees, but bigger does not honestly mean better. France is obviously the biggest attractor and where the new trees shine. As a major power, it receives the most love, and at least they do some interesting stuff for it. With the opportunity to restore the old Monarchy, you have some interesting new paths to align with your fellow Monarchs and bring back some medieval glory to these yellow-bellied modernists. Alternatively, if your nation shifts to fascism or you’re conquered by Germany, Vichy France now has its own unique branch, which is certainly a nice touch. The fun mostly ends there, though, as you slide down south of the Pyrenees for Portugal and Spain. Really, there’s just not much going for either of these nations and the focus trees tend to provide a great deal of nothing. Spain focuses primarily on its Civil War  and then slips off for the most part as the actual war starts to rage. Portugal’s only real attractor is its naval focus, where you can buckle down on trying to restore your strength in the seas, but it never feels like enough to make you any kind of noticeable power when you compare yourself to the likes of the major powers.

Dull Daggers but Fantastic Binoculars

In addition to the new focus trees, La Résistance offers several new mechanics. The problem is that most either feel insignificant or just not worth the effort required to make them viable. There is a tweaked occupation system that goes hand in hand with resistance elements in conquered territories. In complete honesty, this almost never felt like it came up, even when playing with friends. It required minimal effort to keep the territories pacified and its effect on the game was almost negligible, which is sad considering this whole mechanic is the inspiration for the DLC’s name.

Going hand in hand comes the intelligence and espionage system. Overhauled from the previous iteration from Hearts of Iron III, now the charts and numbers have been largely thrown out in favor of named agents like generals. You can send them on missions, have them intercept and decode messages, and send them into occupied regions to aid the resistance fighters. Again, this whole system feels largely underwhelming. To even use an intelligence bureau requires the dedication of civilian factory resources. While major nations will rarely be bothered by this small price, it can genuinely act as something of a paywall for minor nations that just can’t afford their meager factory capacity. Once you have your agents and you’re set to roll out on your missions, they often take forever with very little payoff. For the micromanagement they require, the payoff is often so underwhelming that you’ll likely forget they’re there when bigger problems like logistics and actual combat are on the table. Decoding encrypted messages is really the only benefit of worth, as you gain significant bonuses for your soldiers after the decoding is complete, but they literally only last thirty days when they usually take three times that amount just to decode them.

Honestly, the only new mechanic of benefit is the changes to reconnaissance. With spies and the new recon vehicles for air and land, you can utilize your recon teams to roll into or fly above enemy nations and gather intel on their manpower and resources. If you play it properly, you actually have the potential to know everything an opponent has down to their logistics of remaining supplies and manpower. It’s an incredibly rewarding mechanic that offers significant payoff if you capitalize on it.

The reconnaissance changes are a very welcome addition, but that one highlight in the midst of underwhelming partners just isn’t worth it.


The Verdict: Flawed

Hearts of Iron IV: La Résistance is an unfortunately underwhelming addition to the venerated strategy title.

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