Hearts of Iron IV is a grand strategy game by Paradox Interactive set during the events of World War 2. It was released on June 6 2016, the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. Hearts of Iron IV allows you to take control of any of the countries that existed during the events of World War 2. There are two starting points. 1936 and 1939. The former allows you to change the destiny of the war, while the later pretty much places you right before the outbreak of war.
HoI4 is a whole lot more accessible than its predecessors. Which maybe a turn off for some. The interface is easier to understand and factories are easier to manage compared to ICs of past games. Armies are much easier to recruit and command, assigning them to frontlines, creating battle tactics that allows player to macro manage a war instead of concentrating on each individual battle. Supplies are also easily understandable and to manage. Overall, it makes the game easier to digest by sacrificing some of the depth.
The National Focus trees are, in my opinion, one of the best additions to the game. In previous games, events like the Remilitarization of the Rhineland and the Auschluss of Austria was determined by the date and several other conditions. Now, it is determined by the National Focus where players can choose to focus on different aspects of a country, such as the industry, politics and diplomatic areas. The seven major countries (and Poland through the DLC) have their own unique National Focus tree while the other countries all share a generic tree. This allows for a lot of ahistorical playthroughs, from a 1941 outbreak of war to a full German-Soviet alliance, from a Communist Canada to a Democratic Germany. Though the option for a historical playthrough remains, I’ve seen some atypical behavior from the AI, such as France challenging the Remilitarization of the Rhineland leading to World War 2 starting in 1936.
The AI, as is typical of this kind of game, is disappointing (you’ll get used to it). The battle plans aren’t always executed efficiently and strategic deployments are used randomly, leaving your divisions out of supply rather quickly. Battles are still best played manually, though the battle plans can stand in if necessary.
Diplomacy… could use a little work. The creation of custom factions can be frustrating. Members of a similar ideology will often opt for the primary faction (Axis, Allies and Comintern). Even countries where you have a hand in overthrowing the previous government. And when war is declared against a non aligned country, they might join up with the Allies even if it was a fascist country (if the Axis were already destroyed). And then your democratic custom faction will be at war with the Allies, which is kind of ridiculous, when the fate of a small fascist country brings the entire democratic world into another war so soon after the events of the last one.
A different kind of game from Hearts of Iron 3, but still very much fun to play and gamers previously intimidated by the difficulty curve of past HoI games can try getting to the series with this entry.