By Bob Collins, 12/15/2016
Together for Victory, the first DLC for Hearts of Iron IV, released today. I’ve already been playing it thanks to a press copy from the fine folks at Paradox Interactive, the developers and publishers of the title (as well as many other strategy games I highly suggest everyone to check out).
A quick rundown of the new features of the DLC:
- New Focus Trees and Events for Commonwealth Nations (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, British Raj, and South Africa)
- Alternate history options for Commonwealth Nations
- Autonomy System allowing for subject nations to be able to break free from their foreign rulers
- Ability to request Lend-Lease
- New battleplan command “Spearhead”
- Tech sharing bonus for Commonwealth countries, assuming they remain loyal to the United Kingdom
- Battle log, giving you statistics on prior engagements to have a better idea on why you won or lost the battle
First, let’s talk about my favorite new feature in this DLC, the Battle Log.
Any time the game can present more information to you in a clean, easy to understand way is a win. Here, the Battle Log will show you losses due to combat and attrition, modifiers for the combat (such as river crossings, envelopment, air superiority, out of supplies, etc.), if the battle was offensive or defensive, specific equipment lost, and what division templates are involved.
Being able to determine where you’re losing certain types of equipment, especially when you’re operating over several theaters of war, is a huge boon. Being able to make an informed decision on either upping production, or changing out what divisions are operating in the battle zone, is fairly important to ensuring you don’t drain your country of equipment and manpower at an alarming rate. Many tanks from Rommel’s Panzer Corp were lost in the Balkans before I learned that particular lesson.
A tech research bonus is provided to Commonwealth countries, with a further bonus for techs that are researched by other Commonwealth members. But, it’s only available if you maintain your loyalty to Britain. It’s nice that some of the countries that aren’t the “bigs” of World War II are able to keep up in the research department with a mechanic like this, with further improvements able to be made by pushing down the focus tree. If your desire is to run with a different crowd, you can get a research bonus through focuses with another country depending on who you are playing as.
For instance, I tried out Australia and found out that your options for continued research bonuses lay with either Japan or the Comintern. Germany seemed to not be a part of the equation, but that’s likely due to the alternate history path that Paradox has set up for Australia, being able to form it’s own faction with Japan. The point here is that you have other viable, supported paths of play for these countries that weren’t previously super accessible before.
I am concerned about some things for this DLC, chief among them being the paid battlecommand “Spearhead.”
Among the complaints about Hearts of Iron IV, mostly from veterans of the series, is the inclusion of the battle planner. For those unfamiliar with it, the battle planner allows you to set up fronts, garrison units, create defensive lines, and plan attacks from sea and land. Specific to the complaints are that the game becomes too easy through their use, giving you modifiers to your battles if you are launching prepared offensives, or holding fast in a defensive battle.
I’m not passing judgment on the battle planner, but rather that the latest addition to the battle planner with the Spearhead command is a paid feature.
For those not familiar with the new Spearhead maneuver, the idea is to command your units in such a way so as to facilitate encircling the enemy, thus cutting them off from friendly supply and starving them out before utterly destroying them with ease. Encircling the enemy prior to the addition of Spearhead was something that would either happen by chance as your army would march forward, or you would have to manage your units to force the encirclement on your own.
Given that the battle planner is an integral part of the game, it makes sense to expand it’s capabilities to freshen up the combat experience, as well as make it a more active experience. What I’m more ambivalent on is whether adding battle commands as paid features is a good path forward for Hearts of Iron IV.
Expansions/DLC’s for Paradox games typically add new game play mechanics that are in addition to the current running features of the original box game. Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV, perhaps Paradox’s most well known and successful titles, both have followed this model. Particular DLC’s could be argued to be better or worse than others, but overall have done well. But I wouldn’t say that any DLC has specifically added a granular piece of active game play in the same manner that Hearts of Iron IV has with the Spearhead command.
As I did say, I’m ambivalent about it since Paradox hasn’t introduced a game with this kind of combat interface before, so this is new territory. I am leaning more towards saying that battle commands should be a feature included in free patches as opposed to paid DLC’s, but that’s mostly out of gut feeling about it than any business argument that I could muster.
Now to the headline feature(s) for this DLC, the Commonwealth countries themselves. Are they much improved?
If my experience with Australia was any indicator, you’re still looking at a slow start. Industry is still behind, hostile actions are tucked behind focuses, and the alternate history you can introduce is still riding on the coattails of a larger nations (typically Germany or Japan) stirring up trouble first. The sandbox wasn’t expanded as much as I’d personally like with this DLC, but considering that the game’s premise is to fight World War II your way, some of that disappointment is curbed. Albeit just a smidge.
What I am absolutely in love with is the addition of voiced units. Commanding units in the field now has an added bit of flair as you get responses depending on the state of the unit. Attacking, defending, idle, the whole range available in Hearts of Iron IV. Others might scoff at this bit of added flair, but I adore it being someone that appreciates aesthetics just as much as mechanics when it comes to games, even if not all the nations initially received this treatment. My hope is that this will be added to Paradox’s other games, like Europa Universalis IV. If not, I look forward to the addition in later games. Victoria III anyone…?
So, this will inevitably be the part where you ask if the DLC is worth it.
Together for Victory is all about added flavor. The voiced units, additional focus trees for Commonwealth nations, and the Battle Log are all great additions to Hearts of Iron IV. If those features are of interest to you, than I would say that this DLC is worth your while.
You can purchase Together for Victory through Steam, or directly from the Paradox Store.