One of my favorite Paradox games of all time has to be Hearts of Iron II. I’ve played the game so much, my friends constantly tease me about it and ask how I can play a game that basically repeats World War II over and over again. I was always able to say that there was always a different country to play or a different strategy to try. I’ve put more hours into HoI II than any other game that I’ve ever owned—literally thousands of hours.
One of the best part of the game has always been the different mods that have been made by the community. Paradox welcomes the modding community for their games and even goes the extra mile and commercially publishes some of the best ones.
Darkest Hour is one such game. It takes many of the aspects of the core game and improves upon them, with the most significant change being the map. There are a great number of new provinces in the map that eliminate many of the choke point issues that the original HoI II had. The map has basically been completely redrawn from the ground up. Along with the redraw of the map is a complete overhaul of the technology tree. The tree covers technology from pre-World War I all the way up to the Cold War. One of the changes that I enjoy the most is the automation of the intelligence system—no longer do you need to manually send spies to each and every country. Instead, you just set your intelligence budget and which countries to focus on and it sends them automatically. That frees you up to attempt missions as you see fit.
Another major change is the fact that some of the lands that were under direct control in HoI II, such as Egypt and India for Great Britain and French Indochina, have been partitioned off into puppet states. The combat system has also been reworked. Battles now take much longer and the losses really are noticeable. On the positive side, Generals gain experience and new traits much more rapidly. The AI has also been drastically improved and provided me with quite the challenge as it seemed to realistically counter just about everything that I tried to throw at it.
While all these changes make a difference in the World War II scenario, I would be remiss to not talk about one of the most exciting aspects of Darkest Hour—a World War I scenario. World War I is a timeframe that hasn’t really been covered in detail by Paradox. While Victoria I & II (Victoria II review) both include the time frame of World War I, they are more economic and geopolitically-themed games, so the simulation of warfare is not the same as the games in the Hearts of Iron Series. Playing World War I in a Hearts of Iron game is immensely satisfying and a complete change of pace. World War I took place before the rise of armor and aerial warfare so it is much more reliant on infantry and trench warfare.
Darkest Hour adds just enough to Hearts of Iron II to make it seem like a different game, while still retaining the look and feel of the original that brings back such great memories for me. I have already played through several games from both sides of the World War I and World War II scenarios. The only thing I would have loved to see is a scenario that lets you play all the way through the entire 1914-1964 span of the game—however at the same time I can understand why that is not an option.
If you are a fan of World War II grand strategy games or of Hearts of Iron II in general, this game is definitely worth the modest $9.95 price tag.
Darkest Hour is available now on Steam for $9.95 and does not require the original Hearts of Iron II.