East vs. West: A Hearts of Iron Game Preview (PC)

I loved Hearts of Iron III. It was a bit bloated, a bit deterministic and not everything always worked, but it was a WW2 wargame and I’m a wargamer at heart. Now, Imagine Hearts of Iron, but set in the post WW2/Cold War era, and it’s still got all of its wargame elements but it’s also got highly robust economic, political and diplomatic elements as well - like Europa Universalis, Victoria and Hearts of Iron rolled into one big nuclear package. Say hello to East vs. West, a spin-off project from the same guys who brought you Arsenal of Democracy. This game takes you from the turmoil of the post war era in 1946 all the way to the official fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

This is more than an update of Arsenal of Democracy though – for starters the time frame is significantly different. Spanning a whopping 45 years (which is ‘whopping’ because the game ticks through at hourly intervals, which was for the 37’-45’ timeframe of the vanilla game), you get to pick any country in the world and guide it through one of the most tense periods in human history. Obviously the prevalent theme of nuclear war permeates the game – the Doomsday Clock, a visual representation of the papers Einstein and Oppenheimer would publish commenting on how close humanity was to destroying itself - is forever on display for you to see. The state of the game influences the clock, with it either ticking closer or away from ‘Midnight’. We haven’t been told explicitly what happens when the clock ticks noon, but we imagine it can’t be good. They have talked though about how you can essentially ‘reset’ the game by causing everyone to wipe each other out and then rebuilding from there. I can’t help but feel that loading an earlier save would be easier.

Yes, quite sure thank you...

Thankfully, the base wargame features and infrastructure is all still there, which is what makes this project exciting: the guys have also revamped all of the other areas of the game as well. The technology section, for example, doesn’t only just cover military tech now. Everything from researching new weapons, to engaging in the space race, to making your nation an economic powerhouse is represented in the highly flexible new tech interface. You can even give the AI ‘goals’, which lessens the micro-management involved with researching tech. Obviously, keeping your country prosperous is important too, and the new trade interface allows you to participate in the open market. Resources and resource management is also important, and you can always start a war to secure more resources. You can research and unlock commodities, which you then build and export out to other nations, so trade is very important. This also ties into the political system as you can embargo or be embargoed, which can hamper trade. Logistics and supply have also been revamped – there is a pool of ‘International Shipping’, which every nation may draw on to ship their assets across the world, whether it is troops, equipment, resources or trade items. Thing is, trying to go after a nation’s shipping to try and starve them up or disrupt supply flow also hurts you as there’s less ships to go around, so you have to be careful there.

There’s also the political stage post World-War 2, both nationally and internationally. Obviously there is the Warsaw Pact and NATO, with the USA and Soviet Russia leading the two sides and everyone else at the start of the game being neutral. There’s also the United Nations, which is not there right at the beginning but it gets formed pretty quickly. Then there’s the political situation within your own country, with different factions vying for power, and you as leader can make decisions that are split into national and international categories. Through-out the long history of your nation you get to interact with all of this however you please, so long as you don’t get taken out. Especially if you get taken out, actually, as the Government-in-Exile system has been removed.

The fall of colonial power, in Africa and in Asia, is a key theme for this game

A brand new system that’s been added into the game is population. Each province provides a number of population, which is divided up into a number of age-groups. Birth-rates and making sure your population is fed and well educated becomes important, and if a war goes badly and you lose a lot of your army, you can lose entire generations from the population, which can have consequences further down the line. Your population expands of course naturally with new births, but you can also assimilate populations that come from other cultures, which may emulate systems seen in CK2 and other paradox games.

There is a reason East vs West was our game of the show at this year’s paradox convention. Paradox games always manage to offer a wonderfully overwhelming amount to depth, but this game seems to crank things up to 11. We’ll try and temper ourselves until we actually get our hands on some playable code – you should always be careful when someone promises the world, but the team sound confident and most of the features seem to be already in place, there’s just a couple of things left to work out. There could definitely be something special here, and you all should keep an eye out for it when it releases sometime in Q2 this year.

Most Anticipated Feature: All of it.

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By nocutius (SI Elite) on Feb 06, 2013
I was a bit worried that this wouldn't much of an improvement over the HoI3's cold war scenario, nice to see me being wrong yet again :).
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 06, 2013

By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Feb 06, 2013
Yeah, I was fairly excited by this, has to be said.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 06, 2013
Instant buy, though I did need quite a bit of time-out after playing "HOI III". "Panzer Corps" and "Unity of Command" give me my "Panzer General" fix, and on the whole I'd have to say the latter does combat quite a bit better than Paradox, but "HOI III" is still in my Top 20.
Like the Aegod titles, it's hard to learn and very difficult to master, depending on how much free time you have. The Cold War period has always fascinated me, probably as I born into it's apex.