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Parents' Guide to

Hearts of Iron IV

By David Chapman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Highly detailed, frustratingly complex look at WWII.

Game Linux , Mac , Windows 2016
Hearts of Iron IV Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this game.

Community Reviews

age 11+

Based on 9 parent reviews

age 13+

Amazing Strategy Game for History Fans.

If your kid loves thinking strategically (including micro-managing) and loves history, then this game is perfect! The game includes mods that can span from (as I've seen) 1900-2030. So you aren't limited to just world war 2. In terms of violence, well it's a war simulation game, casualties will be usually in the hundreds of thousands if not millions, but none of it is shown, they are only numbers on a screen. When you first play the game, it is really hard to understand all the buttons and functions but doesn't worry, with each game it gets easier until soon enough it feels like there isn't too many options!
age 12+

Highly complex (but not gory) World War 2 simulator

Hearts of Iron IV (often abbreviated as HOI4) is a complex World War 2 strategy game, where a player leads their nation through World War 2. The game starts off in history, but events will usually deviate to some degree, creating innumerable alternate historical possibilities. The warfare you see is generally about as violent as a board game. If you zoom in, you can see soldiers, tanks, warships, and planes moving and shooting at each other, but these are not realistic depictions, and the most violence you will see is an airplane being shot down (and vanishing before it crashes). The actual numbers and casualties are realistic for World War II, although historical atrocities are deliberately omitted. Gameplay is very complex, and the tutorial is not adequate. The best way to learn this game is probably from watching Let's Plays on YouTube. Even then, hours of trial-and-error are required to even grasp the basics. This game is not for those lacking in patience. This is the main reason for the game's age recommendation. There is no sex or profanity in the base game. A few military leaders are depicted smoking cigarettes or pipes, but that is the only representation of drinking or drugs. As for role models, well, it's World War II. Some of the historical figures are good role models, some are bad role models, and some of them are the actual Nazis. No review of Hearts of Iron IV would be complete without mention of the mod scene. This game is incredibly easy to mod, and Paradox has put a lot of work into supporting the modder community. Some of these mods, such as the incredible Kaiserreich, are easily worth the purchase price of the game. This does carry the risk of more explicit content, as new mods are not subject to approval before being uploaded. However, it also means that this game is particularly well-suited for children who are interested in game design. It is not hard to understand the game files and alter them. A fun project might be taking an ancestor who fought in World War II, and adding them into the game as a general.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (9 ):
Kids say (40 ):

There are lots of words that can be used to describe the events of the Second World War, but "easy" will never be one of them. War is difficult. War is complicated. War is a series of tough choices strung together and overlapping each other, with consequences that reverberate long after decisions are made. The developers of Hearts of Iron IV understand this and have put together one of the most detailed and complex World War II strategy games available. On the one hand, this makes for an intensely involved experience where even the smallest change can have a global impact. On the other hand, it also makes for an overwhelming experience to all but the most dedicated fan of the genre.

With its sparse graphics, dense menus, and heavy focus on statistics and deep strategy, Hearts of Iron IV caters to a very specific audience, and it's not exactly kind to newcomers. While the game does technically feature a tutorial for new players, it's pretty much useless for teaching you how to play. Instead, you'll be learning the basics through trial and error -- a LOT of trial and error. And considering some decisions you make early on might not have a noticeable impact until much later, you may not realize you're in an unrecoverable position until you've wasted more hours of effort. Eventually, you'll start to get a better understanding of the mechanics of the game and how to progress through the war with some effectiveness, but it's a grueling and time-consuming chore that's likely to frustrate all but the most hard-core wartime strategy fans.

Game Details

  • Platforms: Linux , Mac , Windows
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online?: Available online
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Release date: June 6, 2016
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Topics: History
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions
  • Last updated: October 8, 2021

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