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Posted on Jun 8, 2010 in Electronic Games

Hearts of Iron 3: Semper Fi – Paradox Interview

By Robert Mackey

Hearts of Iron 3: Semper Fi features major changes in the Chain of Command function

I’d say that "Semper Fi" probably contains about five times the content "Armageddon" did, with countless interface and AI overhauls

The Hearts of Iron series, one of the first grand-strategic World War II games on the market, has formed the core of much of Paradox Interactive’s portfolio for years.  Along with the Europa Universalis (aka, EU) series, Hearts of Iron (or HOI to strategy gamers) has set the standard for what PC-based strategy games can be … and some of the issues with developers who stretch to the limits what coding can do.


Consequently, Paradox Interactive has, over the years, developed a reputation for player support unsurpassed in the industry-it is not uncommon for their keynote games like HOI or EU to be patched every few months, with a new patch leading to an entirely new gaming experience.

HOI 2 and EU 2 (and 3) started a new trend with Paradox: add-ons that are effectively super-patches that result in nearly new games based on the current engine.

Hearts of Iron 3: Semper Fi, in this reviewer’s opinion, will be one such "game-changer" add-on that will result in a new and hopefully even more engrossing gaming experience.

We were given the opportunity to ask Paradox a few questions about "Semper Fi."  Having reviewed HOI3 for Armchair General last year, I was eager to ask the team at Paradox about the major changes planned for HOI3.  As an old grognard, I tend to be fairly picky and blunt about problems I see with games-be they counter-and-hex, or bit-and-byte based.  Hopefully, the lads from Stockholm won’t take it too personally … Naming conventions for games are often indicative of major changes (e.g., "Armageddon" for the HOI2 add-on). Why "Semper Fi"?

Paradox: It is a phrase we believe represents what we wanted to accomplish with the expansion. First of all, we wanted to tell our fans that we are always faithful to them and keep making the games that they want. Secondly, we wanted to make improvement to the Pacific Theater of the War.

ACG: Hearts of Iron 3 was a substantial change from HOI2-graphics, gameplay and an entirely new engine. When I reviewed the game after 1.3, I found it still had some major issues in AI diplomacy, supply and generally odd AI behavior (e.g., USA never invading German-occupied Europe but having 3,000 brigades defending Washington, or the UK filling up the Channel Islands with dozens of divisions). What are the major changes in HOI3‘s AI that build upon the much more successful 1.4 patch? Is the Soviet AI going to improve, along with the Japanese? If so, how?

Paradox: We’ve done serious improvements on the naval and invasion AI to make it take things closer to current bases, to form supply lines and to do island-hopping. To strengthen the soviet AI we’ve focused on defense-in-depth and tactical withdrawal.

ACG: One of the things I adore about HOI3 is the "chain-of-command" system. However, I found that it often had little to do with logistics and more to do with giving bonuses to subordinate units (via the commanders). Having seen a few screenshots on the Paradox forums, I understand that PI is making some major changes to how the command structure is reflected on the game map. Can you summarize these changes/additions and talk about how you expect they will impact game play?

Paradox: There are three major changes that help you organize and visualize the chain of command in "Semper Fi." First of all, you have the order-of-battle browser, which lets you manipulate your chain of command easily with drag & drop. Second, we have the scaling of your counters depending on the level of the HQ, so that army groups are far bigger than a division. Finally, we’ve added lines that connect the hierarchy on the map, with indications of when units are too far away from their headquarters.

ACG: The technology tree has been an object of some debate with HOI fans. Many miss the "Tech Teams" approach of HOI2, while others loved the deep detail of HOI1‘s specialized development tree. How has the HOI3 tech approach been received, and what modifications are you planning in "Semper Fi"-new techs, new approach, or just tweaking the existing structure?

Paradox: There have been no major changes to technology for "Semper Fi."

ACG: From the wonderful "Developer Diaries" that PI is famous for, I was delighted to read that you are planning on adding the ability to upgrade brigades. This is a great thing for me personally-I hated playing the USA only to have to disband my "leg infantry" Regular Army brigades, when in reality they were "upgraded" to motorized and later mechanized units (as were the German, British and Soviet forces throughout the war). Can you elaborate on what led to this decision and discuss some of the motivation for this change?

Paradox: It was one of the first features we thought of when designing the expansion last fall. It is something we’ve never been able to simulate properly before, but now we had a good solution for it. It is always a strategic decision in the game when you do it, as you simply just don’t upgrade all your unit at once.

ACG: Will "Semper Fi" be a major change in gameplay-ala HOI2: Armageddon-or is this just an "uber-patch" meant to fix some major issues in HOI3? The posters on the Paradox forums often ask the same question-is this something new and worth buying, or is it just the player having to pay more money for the game they thought they were originally buying?

Paradox: I’d say that "Semper Fi" probably contains about five times the content "Armageddon" did, with countless interface and AI overhauls, together with plenty of new features that improve the game on many levels. Of course, we’ll always see people saying that it should have been in the original game, just as people say that the first cars should have come with a gps.

ACG: As a big Victoria fan, I loved the ability (even though there were major problems) to export a game into HOI2: Armageddon. With the new Victoria II planned for later this year, are you planning on having the ability to export games into HOI3: Semper Fi? How are you planning to handle the scripted events problem that existed in Victoria I-HOI2 games, where players could never research secret weapons, etc?

Paradox: We don’t know yet how this will work out. We’ll have more info about it soon, I think.

ACG: Another big discussion topic on the forums has revolved around naval and air warfare. Some players feel that naval warfare, especially submarines, have been given short shrift, while others feel that airpower is either underpowered or overpowered. What changes are planned in "Semper Fi" to naval and air warfare? How will this impact the current convoy/supply system?

Paradox: One of the main things is the balancing of naval combat around the concept of task forces instead of just the biggest stack you can make. This makes the naval game more of a challenge, i.e., which ships, where and when.

ACG: Last question. What, in your opinion, is the single biggest change to HOI3 that will be in "Semper Fi?" Why should a gamer buy this add-on?

Paradox: The biggest change is in the entire feel of the game. The interface improvements alone make the game so much more fun to play.

About the author:

Dr. Robert Mackey, LTC, USA(Ret) is a member of the adjunct faculty of the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College and a former assistant professor of history at the United States Military Academy. He is the author of The UnCivil War: Irregular Warfare in the Upper South, 1861-1865, is a regular contributor to Military History and World War II magazines and blogs on the Huffington Post.


  1. These are the worst answers i have seen — it sounds like a half-wit was being interviewed. They should either get a PR firm to help them or fire the idiots they have now and start again.

  2. The program is simply amazing. You will not find another Grand strategic wargame that can match it. Semper Fi certainly made this a new game.