Hearts of Iron IV, the incredible World War II simulator, packs in a ton of content into a relatively simple interface and gameplay loop. You take control of a single nation out of dozens, pick a start date in the 1930s or 1940s, and you’re off. You must guide your chosen nation through the perilous years of WWII and bring your nation and chosen ideology out the other side, this usually means you’ve dominated the world and painted the entire map as one solid color. This predictable trend is exactly what Paradox wants to change.
One of the major complaints longtime fans of the franchise have had about Hearts of Iron IV is that the game was too simple. Paradox has been listening, and they’re about to ratchet up the difficulty with the newest expansion, Man the Guns.
There are two main focuses for this new expansion, revamping Democratic powers and making Naval combat more important. For now, let’s focus on Democracy.
Various Democratic nations are getting completely new Focus Trees. These are USA, UK, Mexico and Netherlands. Each of these new Trees is meant to expand the options for different gameplay paths and at reducing the overpowered state of a couple of nations by rebalancing the time it takes to get things done. Each tree also has different alternate history paths which should add some spice to HOI IV games. The UK tree is an interesting one, which allows UK players to explore more options in alternate history to deal with the resulting chaos of the second World War. The UK can even pick a new path for the British Empire, basically whether to expand the colonies and potentially claim new/old ones, or to deconstruct the Empire in totality.
America even gets a new political layer with a Congressional system that forces players to have the public support to actually go to war. This added gameplay loop should help reduce the early-game zerging of American players who rush to a particular ideology and then dominate the globe.
A feature in previous games, mainly Hearts of Iron III, is exiled nations. Hearts of Iron IV was mostly missing this gameplay feature until now. In Man the Guns, players can gain access to new fighting forces formed from the soldiers and partisans of exiled nations they host. The impact of these forces is partially determined by the relative power of that nation pre-exile. So there may some possibility of exploiting the AI to gain powerful exiles in this new expansion.
Paradox is even adding in new gameplay rulesets that can be tweaked in both singleplayer and multiplayer games. So if you want to disable or beef up certain mechanics or nations, you now have expanded options for that.
The second of these new trailers, which can be seen below, shows off all of the new major gameplay changes being included in Man the Guns.
Naval combat on a tactical level is getting a major overhaul with the expansion. Ships will now have multiple stats which are tracked in combat, and each one is linked to a critical system. This aspect ties into a new Critical Hit system which allows damage to a specific area or part to partially or totally cripple the related abilities. So if your Cruiser takes a hit to it’s propeller, forcing it to limp back to port, you’ll now have a choice to make, do you leave it behind and risk it getting destroyed, or do you escort it back to port? This risk-reward balance appears key in Man the Guns, because you’ll need to constantly make value judgments on what assets are most important to the war effort.
Players can use Mines now, that means that weaker nations have more asymmetrical options on how to combat superior navies.
Another big change is the Ship Designer. This allows players to completely customize the individual ships in their fleets to specialize for certain roles. So if you’ve wanted to cram as many guns on your Battleships, or create a fleet of sub-hunting destroyers, you can do that now. To add more depth to these new roles, players can also retrofit their ships to fill new roles with older hulls. This added layer of strategic thinking should expand one of the more neglected areas in HOI IV quite a bit.
All of this added depth comes at a cost though. Repairing your fleets is now a much more involved process. Commanders will now need to dedicate shipyards to repairing damaged ships. This added loss of production time makes your existing fleets much more important. In older games of Hearts of Iron IV, players usually thought of naval combat as an after thought in most cases. And even when it was important, spamming out Battleships was the accepted approach. It’s pretty clear that Paradox wants to shift the player behavior away from such practices with Hearts of Iron IV: Man the Guns.
Paradox is also bringing in features from other expansions and blending them in with Man the Guns. The same process of upgrading generals with stats and abilities that was added in Waking the Tiger will now apply to Admirals, adding yet another strategic layer. These traits for Admirals will also offer bonuses like the traits for Generals do.
One other major change involves pathing and giving orders to fleets. Players now have much more control over which areas their fleets inhabit. This more granular gameplay style allows you to assign impassable areas to a fleet. So if you want to path around a heavily-patrolled area of enemy coast, you can do that now. Paradox is allowing players to negotiate docking rights treaties with other nations to make this process a bit easier.
Man the Guns launches as the newest expansion for Hearts of Iron IV on February 28th 2019. The game is out now on PC. This new expansion joins the ranks with several other pieces of DLC for the strategy title. There was Together for Victory which added new minor nation Focus Trees and expanded ahistorical gameplay options. Death or Dishonour followed by adding new custom Focus Trees for Balkan states and creating new pathways for diplomacy. Waking the Tiger focused on the Sinno-Japanese wars and expanded options for players of major nations like Japan, China and Germany to take their nations down new paths.