Hearts of Iron isn’t a very flashy RTS, but it’s very deep. The entire series was a bit bumpy, it had many flaws, but was loved by hardcore RTS fans. The game allowed you to get an inside look at how WWII strategy and tactics were done. Most important of all it was addictive as ever and had a lot of features and deep research trees.
Hearts of Iron
Release Date: 11/24/2002 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 75%
The first game in the series was generally enjoyable but had a lot of flaws. It looked very generic trying to copy Europa Univeralis’s style. The menus were cluttered, the audio wasn’t qued right with actions, the AI was spotty, and it just wasn’t as polished as it could have been. It was a huge hit with strategy players and they regarded it as one of the best strategy games of the time, and the best WWII strategy game at the time. While Commandos was already long going, Hearts of Iron stole the deep tactical side of fans and the series was a hit with them.
Hearts of Iron II
Release Date: 1/4/2005 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 83%
Over two years fans had waited for a sequel and they finally got it. HoI3 is considered the best game in the series because it pretty much fixed all issues from the first game. It allowed an incredible amount of depth and gave you control of all sides of WWII. Play as the Japanese in China, or help fight the Nazis in Russia. This is what the first game should have been, but it still had a couple major issues. It was really hard to get into and was confusing for the first few hours. Most strategy games like this have a steep learning curve and require patience. The presentation looked even more dated and was way behind in terms of graphics from other strategy games. This didn’t stop fans because the series continued on.
Hearts of Iron II: Doomsday
Release Date: 4/7/2006 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 78%
With the success of the second game, Paradox release the expansion that included WWII and also part of the Cold War. It was basically Hearts of Iron II with nukes and make the game that much more intense. It still had the dated visuals and various other issues that Hearts of Iron II had, but was really solid and fun. The $20 price tag was a nice incentive, overall the game was just solid and fans who wanted more Iron II would love this.
Hearts of Iron III
Release Date: 8/11/2009 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 77%
While the WWII genre was already dead, Hearts of Iron III marched on. It finally delivered a higher-budget game with 3D graphics for once, it also addressed most of the issues from the last games. The game was pretty much redone to make you feel like a general instead of a drone by cutting back on micromanagement. The main issues were just lazy oversights like the typos in the game, translation issues, constant slow down from too many calculations in the background, and various other issues. While the old ones were fixed, new ones arose which really hurt this threequel in the end. It’s still a solid game, but fans of the series were getting bored at this point.
Hearts of Iron III: Semper Fi
Release Date: 6/7/2010 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 65%
Hearts of Iron pretty much lost all the fans as they moved on to better games. 2010 is late in the game for WWII games and Semper Fi did little to change the underlying issues of the series. It added new features, but various bugs remained that fans of the third game were fed up with. The series at this point got very little attention and even big-name game sites looked the other way. Paradox has always been known for making lesser-known strategy titles for the truly hardcore fans. Semper Fi added a fun Japanese campaign, but other than that was disappointing.
Hearts of Iron III: For the Motherland
Release Date: 6/28/2011 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 64%
Instead of concentrating on a fourth game Paradox continued with the tired, and now dead Hearts of Iron III. The game had been running for three years and there wasn’t much left to win fans over. Once again, the game fixed some previous issues but brought new ones, this time a lot of balancing issues. Many things like the US and UK have an unfair advantage because their economies are incorrectly set up and various issues like that. The game even had a scheduled third expansion that was later canceled.
Hearts of Iron was a great tabletop-style strategy game that in the end failed to keep fans interested because of the constant issues that plagued the series. Will we see another game? Maybe not because 2013 is a year where the last thing people want is another WWII strategy game. However, like Company of Heroes, if Hearts of Iron does something fantastic with the genre and series fans may come crawling back. We’re starting to see a real pattern here. Almost every WWII series has eventually driven itself into the ground. What can developers do to fix this? Not much. There’s only so much you can do with a historical event.