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Tópico: AAR - EXCLUSIVE AARLander HOI3 Preview

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    AAR - EXCLUSIVE AARLander HOI3 Preview

    This is part one of a three part Preview of HOI3 published in the AARlander, magazine, AARland's monthly publication. Part two will be posted on June 27th. The final part on July the first. Enjoy!






    Early last Wednesday afternoon I was still a hard working employee, once in a while taking a peek at the Paradox forum to see how the HOI3 writing contest progressed. But then something caught my attention “HOI3 preview is ready in your Press-account”.
    A long story short; I went home right away, too bad for my boss, installed HOI3 and drooled like a Paradox fan should. Having read about half of the dev-diaries and seen the screenshots I had the feeling this game was going to rock even more then its predecessor had. Hearts Of Iron III is my personal most anticipated game of 2009.



    Back then I didn't decide to write a full-blown preview of the game. I would perhaps mention some of the new fancy options of interest to the After Action Report-writer (if any) in the coming AARlander but that should have been about it. I have never seen myself as a proper game (p)reviewer as I tend to miss a lot of important things and tend to play differently from the current gaming-youth. Yes, I use the 'pause' button a lot....getting old or something.

    Over the weekend I saw a few early previews pop up. None of them were suitably comprehensive and it seemed like they were written by guys who must think; “What's this? Hearts of Iron....I have heard something about it, didn't these games have something to do with WWII?”, and write a concise preview about the feel of the game they have played for a feel hours.
    Thus, I got the feeling I shouldn't keep it all to myself. After some contemplation and a brief discussion with myself I concurred, and thus decided I had to write a preview as well.

    This preview will be different from the others however. I will aim for it to be more comprehensive at several important points and thus this will be fairly long read. It will be different as well as I am addressing another audience: Paradox/HOI fans (instead of a cross-section of gamers) and writing from the same perspective.

    I have played HOI2 for hours on end, wrote several AAR's and did some simple modding as well. But please, keep in mind I am no preview writer like the others, next to that my memory is letting me down sometimes (I should have remembered to press ctrl for the combat menu). Lastly I will sometimes sound more critical then the average reviewer, more critical as I expect so much of it. In the end you will see I am also far more positive as HOI3 is turning out to be a damned good game.


    Where to start ?


    With a game as big as Hearts of Iron this is probably not a strange question to ask. Without a doubt, the most frequently played scenario will be the 1936 one as Germany, '39 being a close second. But for a challenge “June '44, Gotterdammerung”and “Feb '43, The Tide has Turned” are good options as well. I have to admit I dreamed of an EUIII style 'whenever you want campaign-start’ for a while but this would have been far to labour-intensive for Paradox to implement.
    As you will probably do, I miss a 1940 'Fall Gelb' scenario. This should thus be high on the list of the modding community after August 4th.



    For those new to HOI there is the tutorial, I say those new to the game but I think it is wise if anyone takes a look at each of the six short, and funny, tutorials. A ‘strange man’ will explain to you the different tasks ahead. Tasks, which can always be handed over to the AI either at the start or during the game.

    After 'the strange man' has lead a newbie through his first glances at the complex system he is best off to start with one of the four quick-start scenario's. In each of which he only has to take care of a certain part of the labour.



    But that is not what I did, to be honest I wasn't wise enough to head my own advice and go through the tutorial. I plunged into the 1936 scenario as Germany right away. Unfortunately I couldn't remember everything about the HOI2 game-mechanics and had to retrace my steps in order to refresh my memory with the tutorial.

    Half an hour later I was back at the start. Building my first custom divisions, going through the countless screens of tech and the warnings I found in the top-left of the screen. Let's take a little survey of all I encountered.




    The Map


    The first thing you look at having started a scenario is the map. It looks very nice in my opinion. Zoomed out you only see the regions and borders, rivers and seas but when you zoom in the map changes smoothly. Regions break up into several provinces and the unit counters reveal additional information. The number of provinces is staggering as well, we are talking about as much as three times as many provinces as in the previous HOI. Let's dream away thinking of the vastness of operation Barbarossa this time around.

    Ok, not all province names are spelt correctly. Some are positioned a bit too much to the north or south and some coastlines don't exactly match. And I would wish for a bit more difference between the different types of provinces on the map.

    But the important thing is; the map is strategically sound in most areas. Let's take a closer look at Holland.



    The main Dutch defence has always taken the advantage of water into account. The centre of Holland is defended by the rivers to the south and the artificial and obsolete 'Waterline' to the east, later bolstered by an additional line of defence on a series of hills more to the east; 'The Grebbe-line'. Now, if we take a look at the map we see the province of Amersfoort blocking up all roads into Holland. Defending this province and digging in your troops should stop a German advance. The riverline of Maas and Rhine (combined) constitute your southern defence (Rotterdam and Den Haag should be north of the river) and give an easy front to defend: Fortress Holland.

    What I missed on the map were the Urban-areas. There are some in Western Europe and Great-Britain but they are lacking in such profound places as Leningrad, Stalingrad and Moscow. Even NYC isn't an urban area. I sure hope this will be mended before release.

    As you expected the different layers are all there again. This way I found out about the lack of supply for my troops in Eastern Prussia. Not until I managed to build some convoys was this problem solved.


    Customizing your divisions.


    From the moment I read about the division designer I wanted to try this out. A little 'gadget' which adds only a little extra immersion perhaps, but is certainly a lot of fun. Now you can spend your well-earned Cuban IC's on that second division to defend your island. You can mix and match every type of unit you have researched or bought blueprints of. Customisation is the big word!

    Will this 'gadget' be boring quickly? Perhaps it will, perhaps it won't. However you now get the option to either build a lot of 2 brigade units or less 4 or even 5 brigade divisions. Creating, for example, a heavy battering ram by including heavy and even super heavy armour will give your forces supreme shock value and hitting power. Keep in mind, however, super-heavies are terrible slow. Add some extra artillery and engineers for additional defensive staying power or build several garrison units composed of a single garrison regiment and a battalion of MP to keep the dissent down and the guerrillas at home.



    In multiplayer game the division designer will be a good friend. Imitate a certain German dictator by fielding a great number of armoured units which aren't even worthy of bearing the title 'divisions'. Or trick your opponent into thinking two armoured divisions can be stopped quite easily. He doesn't have a clue you have composed them of five regiments each, three of which are heavies.

    All of a sudden the division designer turns out to be a very interesting addition, if you ask me.


    More on June 27th
    - Combat systems and Combat AI
    - Unit hierarchy
    - Diplomacy, Politics and Intelligence
    - Spanish Civil War and Poland, 1939
    - AI aid
    - Peace, annexation, exploitation
    - etc.

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    Muito foda... Faço questão de comprar

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    complentando a AAR




    Being mauled by the AI, HOI3 and combat


    Quickly I realised the 1936 game I was playing wouldn't give me the impression of Hearts Of Iron 3 I wanted for many hours. Hence I returned to the scenario-menu and chose Republican Spain by simply clicking on the map. Only later I found out this early build wasn't yet stable enough to provide me with this.
    1938. The Spanish Civil War is drawing to a close. But perhaps there will still be something to save for the Republicans. A better way to 'taste' the new combat system can't be found. Within two months the AI completely smashed me. Lines were pierced and my troops evaporated, I was completely mauled. But, I had fought!

    On the divisional level not much has changed since HOI2. It worked fine it will work fine again. Move to click and ctrl-click for a support-attack or strategic movement order (how stupid of me not to find out I had to press ctrl and thinking this part of the game wasn't implemented yet). Air commands are a little bit more elaborate. You can decide to operate in a certain region, province or decide on a certain radius from a province. The last option is the most interesting: you can set the unit to operate in a V shape area from a certain radius behind a designated province. Thus, you know where you want to break through, bomb everything in and behind that province.

    The major changes to the combat system are on the higher levels however. First a proper unit hierarchy is added. You don't build HQ's anymore; you simple create one when you need one. Attach units to a new corps or a corps to an already existing army. All the way up through Army, Armygroup and Theater command. Same goes for the fleets and air wings.






    I had to clean up the hierarchy of my units beforehand though as I didn't want any divisions to be directly attached to the armies or army groups.



    With the hierarchy in place you can decide to take command at a higher level. This will probably come in handy fighting on the Eastern Front although I haven't experienced warfare yet at such a humongous scale.
    Several orders can be given to a corps. Attack or Blitz (don’t worry about being flanked!) a certain objective or several objectives. This thus leaves us two methods for the attack. The regular method on the divisional level, and the new method at corps level. Through some inside information from Paradox I found out however they are currently adding a few more ways. No promises yet so we will have to see. I most certainly hope they will try to implement the TOAW (the Operation Art Of War) method of arranging an attack on a province in detail.
    The other options at corps level are: defend one or more provinces and stand at the ready at a certain location. The same orders can be used for armies. But keep in mind you can't give an order to a unit lower on the echelons once you have given an order to the corps or army.
    So far I have only used the corps command orders to defend certain locations or, reassemble a corps after a long drive through Poland during which the divisions ended up all over the place.


    A corps is ordered to attack the German lines, all subordinate units are highlighted.


    After my first experience with the combat system playing as the Republicans I deemed taking the helm at the other side would be a simple walkover. How wrong could I have been! During several hours of play I fought an enervating battle for Spain. In the south my Nationalist troops were being driven back from Granada as far as Seville. In the north, around Barcelona I could hardly hold the line as well. Only on the central front, around Madrid, were my troops victorious. In the end I managed to cut the enemy in half and drive on Seville to aid my beleaguered and battered troops. HOI at it's best! Even though the grand-strategy of the AI didn’t make much sense. Instead of going for Seville they should have created a strong defence. The strategic AI, however, is one of the things Paradox is still improving before release. And already it was giving me a hard time at ‘normal’.





    The war was over too early however, without a message or event (same thing I experienced playing as Poland). Madrid and Barcelona had fallen to my arms but in the south the Republicans had a good chance of capturing Seville. Valencia was still firm in their possession. My campaign against Poland, Fall WeiB was over just after I captured Warsaw and cut the Polish army in half, the Reds hadn't entered the war yet but got their slice of Poland all the same.



    As seen in the division-designer not all types of units (brigades/regiments/battalions) are available right away. Some need to be researched before you can build them. Others will be improved through various levels of tech-research. As we know from HOI2 there are several categories of research. This time around there are more then ever! The categories are: Infantry and Armour, Escorts (including submarines and transports) and Capital ships (including carriers), Bombers and Fighters, Industry, Secret (yep, the nukes), Theory, Land doctrines, Naval doctrines and Air doctrines.
    Unlike in HOI2 however there are no tech-teams. You distribute your available leadership over several tasks. In this way you can set the sliders to the amount of projects you wish to research. If for some reason you need to upgrade your Infantry units quickly you spend more points on leadership until these projects are completely researched, turning your attention to Diplomacy or Officers afterwards. Some of you might miss the tech-teams at first but be assured this new system works very well, especially for the smaller nations.




    The AI saves the day


    Having focused so much on fighting the war I had paid almost no attention to my economy and politics. Certainly a quick look at my political screen had told me all the right laws were in place to allow my nation to focus on warfare but apart from that and fiddling with the production sliders I had done nothing. Thus it might not be all that surprising my economy had been ran into the ground. No trade deals had been made to acquire the resources I was lacking. And I lacked a lot of them.



    At that stage of the war I didn't want to focus on anything else but crushing the Republican drive on Seville however. With a few clicks I turned over the control of Diplomacy (which includes trade) and Production to the AI. Within a week my economy was saved, I didn't waste loads of IC anymore and my building plans were back on schedule.

    So far I haven't taken control over Politics and Intelligence myself. When the Republicans were finally defeated I quickmarched my armies to Portugal as I deemed the Portuguese should be the next to fall under my steel-nailed boots. My plans were thwarted however. I couldn't declare war right away. My neutrality was too high. And so I took over from the AI and ordered my 'spies' to lower my neutrality. A long and time-consuming process.



    As the press-preview version is an early build of HOI3 the game hasn't been optimised yet. Thus stability is lacking when time passes and more units get involved. Over time my CPU usage increased until it was at 100%. After that the game crashed and I couldn't play on. Hence I haven't played Barbarossa yet and couldn't continue after the surrender of Poland with the 1939 campaign. Paradox told me stability will be one of the last things they will work on before publishing.
    One of the others most certainly being the lack mouse-over messages in some places and filling up some 'place_holders' throughout the game. The aforementioned addition of some additional methods to attack on the divisional level, extra stuff, might assure us they are on schedule.

    Poland, Annexation and Exploitation [/b]


    My first stint of massive warfare came with the September ,1939 game I played over the weekend. It was during this game I started to use the corps-orders to defend certain objectives and re-group a corps after a long drive. This bit of AI-help proved to be very useful.
    On the Western front (still 1939) I noticed a lot of activity amongst the French troops. They weren't fighting the historical “Sitting-war” but instead tried to break through my defence. Apart from the division on the border which had their full number of troops about half of the divisions in the west were being rebuild. When I had to send these units into combat I experience something new. Instead of completely dissipating after being whipped out the unit re-appears in Berlin and is reconstituted instead. Sending them to the hinterland of the front they originally came from I gave them the time to rebuild and used them to plug holes in case of an emergency.



    I haven't seen many wars end yet. 'Browsing' through the different scenario's I saw Great-Brittain being given the choice to annex or puppet Italy.



    After the Polish army surrendered I could decide which policy to pursue regarding their nation. Everything from the option to let them rule themselves to Total Exploitation.



    Just before they surrendered, I couldn't make a separate peace with them however.



    A few other things

    As you might have seen I use counters in my games as I like the look of them and they give more information at a glance. You can however change to sprites quite easily and they look good as well.
    So far the sprites I have seen differ from faction to faction and within a faction there are some differences in colours.



    It was at this time I found a little button in the screen of my ships called “sunk ships” quite a useful addition for AAR-writers. My fleet hand not sunk any ships yet. I can remember HOI2 DD had a similar screen for a commander's history and achievements. Couldn't find such a thing in HOI3 yet though.


    For those writing an AAR there is also a nice new addition. It is simple, press F11 for a screenshot, or F12 for an impressive picture of the entire globe. The last one is huge!





    So much more has to be found out and it dawns on me every time I fire up the game how massive it really is. The amount of control you have over every single aspect of your country is just wonderful. At some times this would just swamp you if not for some AI assistance. Paradox has really done a terrific job in this new addition to the game.
    Of course you can always find a few flaws if you want. For example unit names: Creating a new corps, it will be named 1st Corps HQ. While all other existing corps are named in the “XVIII” manner. However, until I see some big flaws this all will just be nitpicking.

    The verdict


    Hearts of Iron III is what you all hoped for and have been waiting for. This game is a worthy successor to HOI2 and I can only say Paradox did an amazing job!

    August 4 will be a great day for all of us when we can start downloading the game from Gamersgate. The hardcopy will be sold in the US from the 4th, in the UK and Scandinavia from the 7th and in mainland Europe roughly a week later. I hope you can be patient for another six weeks.

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