A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hearts of Iron IV is a downloadable strategy game that puts players in control of events leading up to and throughout World War II. The game challenges players to manage troops, resources, intelligence, and more, with their decisions directly affecting the course of history. While there's a definite historic aspect to the game, players' choices can also lead to "what if?" scenarios significantly different from how history actually played out. Although the game doesn't feature any graphic portrayals of violence, it does recreate one of the most violent events in human history. Some of the characters in the game are shown, in portraits, to be smoking pipes and cigars, similar to how the same figures were portrayed in pictures from that time. Hearts of Iron IV is an extremely complex game, with a large number of statistics to follow and menus/submenus to navigate. It's a complicated experience players must learn about through trial and error.
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What's it about?
HEARTS OF IRON IV puts the fate of the world in your hands as you lead your country through one of the most brutal conflicts in history, World War II. You'll take control of a global power fighting on either side of the war or of one of the smaller countries simply trying to weather the storm. You'll be in charge of managing your country's resources and troops, choosing to use brute force or skillful negotiations to steer the course of the war. You have the power to relive history or to change it forever in solo games or in massive multiplayer matches with up to 32 other players.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in gaming. Does it lessen the impact of violence to control large forces without seeing the effects on the front lines from the soldiers' point of view?
Talk about the impact of war. What are the ways that World War II still affects our lives? How would the world be different today if the events of WWII had gone differently?
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