Marching south comes Hearts Of Iron IV: Arms Against Tyranny the latest expansion for Paradox‘s grand strategy titan. In this latest update, you take control of one of four possible Nordic nations. Each with its own unique focus trees and unique twists to its gameplay. Fight off the Soviets as Finland, deal with a civil war in Norway, defend yourself as Denmark, struggle with neutrality as Sweden, and sit around and do next to nothing as Iceland. Or do the opposite of those things. The DLC has plenty of alternate history content for you too.
In addition to this, there is a reworked industry system which can grant decent puffs for your weapons of war. An arms trade system to get more guns or sell more to boost your construction. And a new special forces tech tree which can give some powerful buffs. Hearts Of Iron IV: Arms Against Tyranny adds a lot but is it any good? Read on in this review!
Story – From the Front
Much like I said in my review of the previous DLC, Hearts Of Iron IV: Arms Against Tyranny doesn’t have a story. At least in the traditional sense of the word. This isn’t a narrative video game. This is one based on historical fact. I know this goes without saying but getting into sections like this always feels odd when the game in question lacks a story. With that said, the DLC is not without some narratives and storylines within it. Mostly these come with the events which will pop up now and again to tell you about current events both in the wider world and the nation that you play as.
It is decent stuff. And unlike the vast majority of Hearts Of Iron IV mods the text isn’t overlong and overwritten. I do feel that more should have been done to provide better tutorial text for the new elements. As there isn’t any really. I’d have been fine with a pop-up loading the DLC up for the first time and going from there. This isn’t to say the new stuff is hard to understand. But I do feel it could have been better presented. Though the UI itself is still easy to read and navigate which does help.
Gameplay – War Inc.
There are two major additions to Hearts Of Iron IV: Arms Against Tyranny; the introduction of the new focus trees for Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland. With Finland’s new tree having been added as part of a recent free update. And we see the introduction of the new arms trade system. Yes, there are also the changes to the special forces system and the alterations to industry. But I’ll touch upon them shortly.
And yes, whilst it does go without saying, the core gameplay loop is pretty much the exact same as it always was. I know that doesn’t need saying, but some aren’t quite as perceptive as you dear reader. The new focus trees are pretty much as you’d expect them to be. A decent balance of historical and alternate history options. Each nation has a wide variety of paths to go down. As you can understand I can’t talk about every single path open to each of the nations updated. But I’ll go over the ones that stand out for me for better or worse in due course.
Arms for Fun and Profit
The biggest change, and the one with the most long-term impact, is the introduction of the new arms trade system. One which is added to all nations. Not just those updated in the Hearts Of Iron IV: Arms Against Tyranny DLC. In this new system, you can “Sell” weapons and equipment to other nations. I say “Sell” as you don’t gain money from doing so. You instead gain a lease of that nation’s industrial capacity for the lifetime of the deal. The buyer nation will essentially loan you industrial capacity to you until the deal has concluded. Functionally it gives you a handful of civilian factories for a limited time. Or just half of one depending on the scale of the deal.
This grants you a short-term construction boost. And allows you to expand and further develop your country to levels you might never have been able to. And those with more civilian factories than military can use them to buy large amounts of guns that they couldn’t produce otherwise. It is a great feature. But don’t feel that it is in the grand scheme of things as impactful as it should be. Especially when you can find anyone to buy from you or lack the industrial capacity to get what you need.
Queen of Kings
In addition, there are changes to industry with the addition of Military Industrial Organisations. Rather than spending your Political Power on a company that will offer a flat buff to your chosen area, in the DLC when you build and research weapons and equipment, you can assign a company to it. This company will reduce the time taken to unlock that research and will gain experience. This experience can then be exchanged for a buff that you can add to what they specialise in. For example, if your infantry equipment company levels up you can add a buff that makes your infantry weapons do extra soft attack damage, or makes them quicker to produce.
This can be a great help to nations with smaller manpower pools or weaker starting industries so you can squeeze as much power from your troops as possible. For example, Norway doesn’t exactly have the best of starts. And given that you’re essentially on a time limit before a civil war kicks off and you become a target of Germany’s war machine. So you can specialise your equipment to better deal with the oncoming threat. Or to aid said threat when you throw your lot in with them. The choice is yours.
I have to say that I’m not all that impressed by the Swedish tree. However, they make for a great nation to just try out the new changes to industry and the weapons market. The big issue I have is that just about every industrial decision that you take will cause you to lose stability and that can trigger strikes which in turn can turn into a civil war if you aren’t careful. Which really limits your ability to build up and grow later on. It isn’t the worst twist in the DLC. But it is annoying.
But this gives you time to build up your forces using the new special forces tech tree. When you research one of the three special forces branches you can upgrade that branch as you would a military doctrine. Exchanging Army, Navy, or Air experience for some powerful, buffs. You can upgrade marines to be able to escape from any coastal province. Or upgrade your paratroopers so you can drop in light tanks and cause more havoc behind enemy lines. Sure, you might have a bit of a slow start as Sweden, but oh boy. Plan things out well and you can be devastating!
Cha Cha Cha
I have to say that of all the playthroughs that I have done for my review I have to say that Finland has been my favourite. With the Winter War acting as a great challenge to your skill both on the battlefield and in planning ahead for it. When you start your resources are limited and you have to deal with internal political issues that plague your leaders. There are a range of different ways you can deal with the oncoming Soviet threat. You can align with the Allies, your Nordic neighbours, or the Axis, or try and go it alone. There is a chance to turn communist and avoid the war if you are so inclined. Goodness, Finland’s Democratic tree is a rarity in Hearts Of Iron IV as it isn’t boring!
A neat twist for the Finnish leaders is their Personal Agenda. Each leader has schemes that they want to achieve which will boost or diminish their influence depending on how well they are doing. For example, one leader might want to eradicate fascism and defend their nation. In that case, you need to reduce the influence of fascism in your nation and not lose core territory. Doing this will improve their public support and gain buffs for the nation. Failing to do this will reduce it but give you options to switch out to others as you wish. Though I do worry I found a bug in one run where, despite winning the winter war and gaining land I was still losing influence. But hopefully, that can be sorted at a later date.
Of all the trees that I have played in this review of Hearts Of Iron IV: Arms Against Tyranny the Danish tree is arguably the most overpowered. Well, the non-aligned path is. The democratic path once again has the issue of feeling underpowered, especially given the state you find yourself in. The power of the non-aligned path is somewhat balanced by the fact that to get the most out of the non-aligned path you need to get your timings perfect otherwise you might find yourself in a two-front, or even three-front war!
Iceland’s tree can be a challenge. Especially bearing in mind that you start with next to no manpower regardless of which path you pick. And the communist tree seems rather broken. And not in a good way. As you can join the Comentern and stage a worker’s rebellion in the UK, but the nations that rise up are Democratic and join the Axis. And given that the UK has buffs to protect against ideology drift in the first place, if you go down that path you’ll spend most of your time waiting around and doing nothing. There is the ‘Viking’ path for them if you want to try it. But if you do you’re a braver soul than I am dear reader.
Breaking My Heart
In all fairness, I feel that Hearts Of Iron IV: Arms Against Tyranny is a fine DLC and has been fun enough to review. However, as mentioned previously some of the new gameplay mechanics it adds aren’t as impactful as they should be. With odd exceptions, like the new Military Industrial Organisation system. But that is mostly because it’s thrown in your face so often that you can’t miss it. The changes to special forces are great but feel hidden away.
The new trees are fun for the most part. But given how differently they play there isn’t much harmony between them. Some have a balance of power mechanics. Others have leaders with agendas. And some just have a focus that makes things nominally difficult. And whilst the previous DLC’s balance of power stuff felt tacked on for some nations it was at least a consistent feature across all three of the big nations that got it. Here it is so scatter-shot that it undermines the final experience. Again, the focus trees are fun enough. But as a whole package, I don’t think it quite lands.
Graphics & Audio – Morale Boost
When reviewing a DLC like Hearts Of Iron IV: Arms Against Tyranny talking about the graphics and audio always feels odd. As much like the core gameplay loop, not much changes. The graphics are on par with the rest of the title and the prior DLCs. With the UI being decent enough to navigate around. Sans prior mentioned issues. Each of the updated nations gains some tweaks to the look of their forces. And they get their unique soundbites for each of their troops. Whilst this may be a minor thing, I have to say that I do love the artwork on some of the focus tree icons.
Especially variations on the Nordic Council tree for each political path. And I hope that in the future Paradox can better theme their icons. As if modders can do it I see no reason they can’t. Music wise it is fantastic stuff. As one would expect from Paradox. Wonderfully produced and adds to the feel of your campaigns. I can’t say that I would ever listen to the soundtrack out of the game. And truth be told I’d rather listen to my music and podcasts when playing rather than soundtrack. But for people that are into this kind of stuff, they’ll get a kick out of it.
Hearts Of Iron IV: Arms Against Tyranny was reviewed on PC.