by Andrew Hallam
reviewed on PC
Screwing With History: 20th Century Edition
If you haven’t heard of the Hearts of Iron series or even Swedish game developer Paradox Interactive you're probably not big on the whole grand strategy scene. Essentially, what Paradox Interactive is best at is screwing with history. One of their greatest grand strategy games, Hearts of Iron II, centres around the player picking any nation in the world to play through the lead up and aftermath of World War II, from 1936 to 1947. This in turn creates hundreds of different scenarios that could play out within the game. Of course it's fun to play through the game historically, invading Poland as Germany when the game prompts you to, but why do that when there's so much freedom to play with? Want to live out Castro's dreams and invade the US as Cuba? Why not? Want to play out the 10 year period as a peaceful Germany under the rule of the world's first hippy, Ziggy 'Freedom-wind' Hitler? Go ahead!
Hearts of Iron II is still a great game, even after numerous expansion packs and a full blown sequel but for the developers behind Darkest Hour it still wasn't enough. Darkest Hour takes Hearts of Iron 2 and kicks it up a notch by expanding it both 20 years into the past and future from the era where Hearts of Iron 2 took place. Now, with a whole 50 years of history spanning from 1914 to 1964 to mess with, there's even more freedom available to the player.
Breaking News! Canada Invades Russia!
Darkest Hour's development is a result of Paradox Interactive licensing their Europa Engine to indie devs, essentially allowing them to tweak the award winning gameplay formula even further than any mod team could. However, this doesn't mean that Darkest Hour is anything revolutionary. For those of you who haven’t played a Hearts of Iron game before, here's the gist of it: You choose your playable nation from an immense list of practically every nation in existence at the time of your chosen conflict, either starting in 1914 or 1936. Then it is your job to govern the country, focusing more on the military elements than your average SimCity social stuff. You'll be choosing weapons research from detailed lists of tech throughout the time period, from the simple infantry rifle to the attack chopper and atomic bomb. This in addition to what units to train for your country's military.
Where it becomes interesting is the freedom of choice the player has. At any time you can choose to deviate from the historically accurate path and create your own alternate history where Canada is a warmongering nation of savages or Russia is a democratic peace loving nation. The possibilities are endless. However, if you played the original Hearts of Iron games, you've most likely seen it all before. In essence, Darkest Hour can be described exactly by its tag line: 'Made By Fans, For Fans'. It is the collaboration of efforts from various community members to improve upon Hearts of Iron 2 by tweaking the AI, game map and various gameplay mechanics within the game. But that's not to say it isn't a good addition to the series.
Good for newbies wanting to get into the series. Great gameplay and performance enhancements.
Not enough new content to justify its price tag.