Hearts of Iron IV – The ‘What if?’ World War Simulator

After an extensive amount of revision for my history A level, I’ve developed a yearning for changing events. What if, Hitler sent the panza division to Dunkirk? What if JFK wasn’t assassinated? What if Trump was? What if I spent time doing my essay instead of playing Tetris into the early hours of Monday morning? Problem is, we haven’t developed any technology of the sort so in the mean time I’ll stick to virtually changing 1936-1945. Paradox Software’s latest ‘epic strategy’ game Hearts of Iron IV allows the player to take control of any country in 1936 or 1938 and dictate their actions through out the World War 2 , historically accurate or not.

Now that’s the simple summary out the way, time to get into the nitty-gritty. The gameplay is pretty complicated. I say ‘pretty’ with a fear of admitting how long it took me to even understand the game and I know I am nowhere near mastering it. It would take longer than this train journey to Manchester to describe to you so  I advise anyone interested to watch a twenty part tutorial if they want to learn. Whilst this has immediately turned off a lot of you already from even consider buying the game I’ll try to show you why I am having so much fun with it.

Paradox Software have used all their expertise in this game to create a thoroughly enjoyable game that keeps you engaged. They have allowed room for imagination they perfected with their genre-defying City Skylines and nailed the historical feel they gained knowledge about in Europa Universalis IV. The game all takes place on a boardgame-style map of the world which has acute detail when you scroll right into the forests of Northern Russia and an enchanting feel of scale of when you zoom out to see the continent of Africa. This allows for some real immersion in the game’s single-player as you genuinely feel strength when you can crush countries like Lithuania and keel over in fear of the Nazi Regime blitzkrieg-ing through the entirety of Europe. The UI is neatly designed also allowing an easy button press to take off a lot of annoying features like the day and night cycle (who plays with that seriously?) and to toggle on and off allied battle plans. That one comes pretty important when your pal Stalin is planning a separate plan for each of his thirty armies but you can’t see what your two divisions of Mongolian Calvary are up to. Side note: Don’t pick Mongolia unless you want to sit there for 2 hours trying to develop an army even Greenland wouldn’t use (Long live the Mongolian Fascist Regime).

Whilst the gameplay is too complicated for me to explain, take my word for it when I say it works. In fact, it’s so well designed even your craziest dreams are possible, for instance, what if the USA suddenly turned communist? I don’t know but it sounds fun. Every country has its own ‘National Focus’ tree which gives them tailored and well thought out event trees you can go down, which give their own benefits and drawbacks respectively. Even as I write this I want to just name off possible things to try out and see what changes. To make it even more fun I advise turning off historic AI so theirs even more randomness to their actions. As for the actual combat, it would make any battlefield tactics enthusiast giggle like a little school girl. To continue my quest of keeping this review simple I’ll just state theirs a lot of micro-management possible and depth to the battle plans but can just be set to auto and watch your troops plough through the lands of your enemies.

A major enjoyment factor for me is the politics and diplomacy threaded through the game. The game allows you plenty of options to interact with other countries like improving relations and creating factions but also allow for you to influence a political party’s popularity or even cause a civil war if you’ve got the political power to do it. I enjoy it so much because every sensible interaction possible has an ‘event’ for it. This is simply a little news article that pops up with a headline and a bit of text explaining whats going on but shows that extra bit of care that Paradox took to make this game. I challenged myself to find one it didn’t have it for by being Czechoslovkia and pushing to capture the German Reich but lo and behold a little article popped up stating ‘The Fall of Berlin’ and detail explaining how the Czechs pushed through. Like the gameplay, the politics is sensible and believable, an example being if Poland invaded Finland, Finland would join the allies and bring in the UK to help them. On the other hand, if Finland flipped to a communist state it would call on the great Mother Russia to stomp them out. This sometimes leads to even more countries piling in to defend certain pacts and alliances to the point where you ‘accidentally’ cause World War Two to happen three years earlier.

Although a lot of my playtime is spent on me playing on my own adventures, the multiplayer allows for even more surreal game experiences. Like being every country in south America and sweeping the USA out the game before they can even consider the Nuclear bomb (We got you Japan). This is of course, assuming your friends don’t just want to solely take you out the game as early as they can. Which has its own enjoyment factor as you have to end up trying to get one ups against them in the micro-management combat, there’s also nothing more satisfying as capitulating another player’s country. Now there are loads of features I’ve left out and not talked about ( Navy, Air Combat, Factories, Division Designers to name a few) but I hope I can convince you when I say it’s probably my favorite game I’ve played in recent history. In fact, I’d go as far to say it’s overtaken the Civilization series when it comes to these strategic epics – However that could just be due to gross amount of playing the games – and if I knew about it last year probably would have been my game of the year.

As a lovely side dish, the game is constantly being updated with a weekly development log and a super active modding community behind it allows for fine tuning of elements and allows some countries that get overlooked to gain as much enjoyment as playing as a major power. Whilst I could name problems like the sometimes silly A.I when it comes the automatic combat mode or occasional bugs in online mode, they have a really minimal effect on the overall game experience.

I hope my abnormal amount of praise for this game convinced you to give it a look. I don’t usually have this much to talk about. Let’s just hope that Mongolia will finally get’s its buff to be as powerful as the German Reich and finally fulfill my dream of the entire world being under the Mongolian Fascist Regime.

A Division has no orders,

-Sam Burdis

P.S A Levels are finally here and Summer so I’ll be returning probably in September sometime and whilst I travel to Salford for a university interview I hope I’ll be speaking to you from a comfy student union. x

 

Hearts of Iron IV – The ‘What if?’ World War Simulator

Her Story Review – Take a Notepad!

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Her Story is well, you can’t really give a definitive genre, it is a watchy-detective-simulator-thingy which leaves the player a file full of video clips that consists of snippets of interviews of a woman taken over several days.

Now going into Her Story I knew nothing about it except I should bring a notepad with me, and for the love of your hair not being ripped out, bring one with you. Her Story left me with 3 pages full of notes and a whole bunch of emotions bundled up in my head.

Let’s start with the gameplay side of things, there is minimal. You search into a search bar certain words or quotes and either a video will come up or it doesn’t, it’s really that straight forward. But don’t let that bum you out, Her story makes up for this in the unique journey you will go through.

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Her Story allows you to create your own path in the game without even knowing it, you’ll get ideas in your head about the story and it’ll completely change just after 2 minutes of footage. There have been plenty of times where I was confident on an idea then to discover a massive pothole-of-a-twist in a clip.

Now the narrative when put in order is a quite a dark tale. Yet when it is played in the random order you make it is intriguing and jam-packed full of twists and turns making you crave the end of it and so you can see how it all plays out and what has happened to this woman and without going into spoiler territory, it definitely will leave you in a state of disbelief and shock. Not to mention the final twist that you’ll see when you’re finished with the game.

The aesthetics of the game is different as well, giving a nostalgia feel to an old computer complimented with every now and again flicker on the screen making you see a reflection of your character which really added to the dark underlining of this game, Even if it did make my heart jump out of my chest every time it happened.

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A problem I had with the game though was the lack of clues it brought. I got to a point in the game where I would run out of two words to use then go back through the clips trying to find a word to search that isn’t “a” or “boobs” (Trust me, you will get desperate). It isn’t a really huge issue its just really annoying when you are (or you think you are) so close to the end and you have to go back through several clips just to try and find a quote that might not even work.

But that might not be a problem for everyone and is definitely part of the never-ending puzzle so don’t let that spoil your hunger to play this game. What I would say though even if you remotely like a puzzling style or gameplay you crave something unique then this game is at least worth a try, and definitely is worth picking up on a sale.
I genuinely had a good time with Her Story it was a pleasant treat among the asset flippers and the DayZ-Clones that flood the steam store at the moment.

-Sam Burdis

Her Story Review – Take a Notepad!

SUPER HOT, SUPER HOT, SUP- My First Impression of Super Hot Beta

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I have been pretty hyped about Superhot since the release of its prototype just because it was a unique, simple idea that no one had really done yet. You move, time moves. You stop, time slows to a near stop. Whether you are frantically spraying at a red crystal being or trying to navigate slowly through a maze of flying bullets it still keeps to your pace. So when I heard the news that twenty two new levels were ready to play I just had to drop whatever I was doing and give it a go.

Going into this beta build I had low expectations about amount of content I would get but I was just happy to get a reason to play Superhot again. I was pleasantly surprised at the beginning of the game with the theme of an old computer UI which added to the surreal feeling of this whole game and the funny interaction of typing by spamming the keyboard kept me entertained through the dialogue scenes (Why can’t cutscenes do this? On wait quicktime events….). I was also happy to find it had controller support which later would make movement and shots much more precise.

Jumping in, the story sets itself up that the player’s friend had hacked into a server and had come across this game called ‘superhot.exe’ and that’s when we were dropped into the blank, crystal enemy filled world.

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The mechanics this game offers are still the centre or the experience. Common questions with these one-trick-pony games are normally “Does it get repetitive?” Short Answer, No, Superhot makes sure there are constant changes of environment and scenarios to keep it fresh. Long Answer, Sort of. Even though you do get introduced to new mechanics and new weapons every other level, it still got a bit repetitive when you had been on a level for twenty minutes. I feel the problem was my style of play but I will get into that later.

There was a nice little feature though, if the player was stuck on a level for too long it gave you the option to activate god mode which was pretty fun running around with bullets flying past you and I think is a better option that just a simple skip button like seen in GTA V. However, when the ability was first presented to us we didn’t realise it was a ‘You suck, take this to help’ but more of a power-up we had somehow unlocked so when we realised, it sort of put a downer on the whole experience. I didn’t see any punishment from using god mode but I feel if this ever becomes a timed score-based game then there might be consequences.

The story was interesting though, even with the little I saw I still enjoyed the pacing of the protagonist slowly (but surely) turning insane  and what changes that brings to the game but I think it’s definitely is going to have a deeper meaning when the game is complete and some fourth wall-breaking seems to be on the plate.

Luckily when I played this game I had LauraKBuzz by my side (UK Editor for Destructoid, Journalist) to observe both ways this game might be played. I played it as a more FPS style of game but still sticking to the slow moving mechanic whilst Laura went with a more Turn-based style where she tried to predict each movement and bullet paths before shooting the gun she had herself. My method wasn’t the successful one in the end and Laura managed to complete more levels than me. With Superhot being slow and tactical it’s not that well matched with fast-paced games like COD or Battlefield but still speedier than XCOM or Civilization It really does make a unique footing in genres.

SUPERHOT, SUPERHOT, SUPERHOT, SUPERHOT, SUPERHOT,SUPER-

-Sam Burdis

SUPER HOT, SUPER HOT, SUP- My First Impression of Super Hot Beta