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Posted on Apr 7, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Hearts of Iron II Doomsday – Game Review (PC)

James Lombardi

intro.jpgThese days you can pretty much play a game of World War II in just about any genre you want. Of course there are the detailed tactical war games, the numerous first person shooters set in the war, and more World War II RTS games then you can shake a stick at. I was never sure why shaking a stick really denoted any particular quantity, but I gather that it’s something people are wont to do towards large numbers of things. Regardless, there are very few grand strategy games set in the World War II era and despite its flaws I stand by Hearts of Iron II as being the best. As good as it was, I was still getting a little “World War II”-ed out. So when it was announced that the expansion to the game would take us to the next logical setting, the Cold War, I immediately started printing mass quantities of the Manifesto of the Communist Party to distribute to the Capitalist nations I liberated.

The Doomsday expansion adds a few new gameplay features along with numerous small features that players have requested over the life of Hearts of Iron II. If you haven’t played Hearts of Iron II, I’d suggest checking out our previous review here, as explaining the additions of the expansion take up too much space to also explain the basics. I would however advise reading the conclusion to get the general point of the review. Because the Cold War was a time of espionage and covert dealings the major addition to the game was a new Intelligence tab. Before this expansion, your only action along these lines was to try to stage a coup in another nation. Unfortunately, I don’t believe I ever saw the percentage chance of success exceed two percent. Now the player has expanded options and the percentage chance of success is based on how many spies (up to ten) that you’ve managed to slip into the other nation. The more extensive your spy network the better a chance you have to pull off missions such as stealing blueprints, industrial sabotage, research sabotage, funding partisans, increasing dissent, etc.

It is quite nice the rare times your attempt to steal a blueprint works. Politics are always so dirty…

Ultimately, even with the maximum number of spies in the target nation, few of the espionage missions have more than a 30% chance of success it seems. While this does make reasonable sense and keeps espionage from unbalancing the game, I found myself using it less and less as time went on. However, there is a more passive use to having spies in another country. The spies give you information on what the other country is researching, how many and what kinds of units they have, and what they seem to be focusing their production on. With one or two spies the information is sketchy and incomplete, but as you push towards ten spies you get a fairly good picture of what the other nation is doing. All in all, the intelligence comes out to be more of a way to keep busy during downtimes in the fighting instead of a radically altering game feature.

While the intelligence section is the major new addition to the game, other systems received some new upgrades. Obviously, the tech trees have been expanded to include advances to carry the player on through to 1953, and some of the older things have been reorganized. Also rather than just one type of carrier now, you can add escort carriers to your navies (with its own separate tech path). Also a new feature was added to the doctrine tech trees, so that you can abandon a doctrine path and start a new tree. You can abandon each level of military doctrine and take different branches within the same doctrine or even switch to a whole new type of doctrine.

After seeing the stunning results of Germany’s campaigns in Europe to investigate blitzkrieg tactics. I stayed out of the war until Portugal joined the Axis. Then I decided they’d make a great additional state.

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