REVIEW: Hearts of Iron IV: La Résistance

REVIEW: Hearts of Iron IV: La Résistance

Hearts of Iron IV’s 5th major DLC takes you away from the battlefield and into the world of covert action.

Released: Steam (Base Game / DLC)
Type: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release date: 25 Feb, 2020

Hearts of Iron IV is a game about war. Pretty much everything in the game is either about fighting or preparing for an upcoming fight. While this DLC does not change that, it does give you a bit more to do when you’re not actually at war, be it building spy networks in other countries before war breaks out, or dealing with the unrest in conquered territories.

La Résistance ads and re-works a few things. The two major features of the expansion, that will impact how the game is played, no matter what nation you’re actually playing (unless you really want to isolate yourself in a corner somewhere) are the re-worked unrest mechanics and the newly introduced espionage. Both of these gives you more options on how to play, spies can be used to find out more about your enemy, planting false information, stealing their technology, supporting resistance movements and so on, while the re-worked resistance mechanic gives you more options on how to handle your newly conquered territories. Apart from that, there are new focus trees for France, Spain and Portugal, as well as new mechanics for the Spanish civil war, and a few more minor things.

Spain and Portugal has been united in glorious anarchism!

Spies & Intelligence agencies

The most eye-catching part of the expansion is probably the new spies. The mechanics for spies are relatively simple, although they could be a bit better explained in-game. The first thing you do is forming an intelligence agency, at the cost of some production. Once formed you can then expand it with new modifiers, all chosen from a tab in-game. These range from making your own country a bit safer from enemy spies to suicide pills for your spies, in case the enemy catches them, to code-breaking.

Once you have an agency, you’ll start recruiting agents, that you can either have at home to try and root out enemy spies or send them into foreign territory, where you’ll gradually infiltrate their society, government or army. Once this is in place, you can send your spies on missions. Maybe you want to steal some blueprints for those shiny new tanks the enemy has? Or maybe you want to cause unrest or align the people more with your ideals? Some things that previously were in the diplomacy system has been moved here, but there are also some things that you could not do before.

The intelligence agency and the missions you can send your agents out on are interesting and gives you a few more options, but in some regards this aspect of the DLC feels a bit underworked. You don’t get many spies, and many of the effects are somewhat minor, just acting as small modifiers to other things.

Sending spies into missions can be risky, but potentially rewarding

Resistance & compliance

The second major feature is the reworked unrest mechanic. Where previously you handled the resistance in your conquered territory by having a lot of smaller armies scattered all over the place, and telling them to deal with any resistance, now they’re no longer on the map, instead, each region gets assigned some equipment and manpower to keep the population in check. You can decide how these forces will be equipped, and cavalry still seems to be good for this. There’s also armoured cars in this expansion, which are even better at keeping the population in check, and because they’re armoured, the population has a harder time actually causing damage to them. You can set a “basic” type of force to handle unrest in regions, and then go in and set specific ones for specific regions, if there’s a need for it.

You also get to chose how you treat the population. You could take a very hands-off approach, have a minimum garrison and let them mind their own business. This is worse for quashing existing resistance, but it will make the population less upset with you. Or you could have a larger force present, which makes the population like you less, but it’s better at dealing with existing unrest. You can also choose to put the people living in your conquered provinces to hard work, which obviously makes them far more upset, but you get more resources. When it comes to dealing with resistance, you’ve got two values to worry about, resistance and compliance. Compliance counteracts resistance, and will increase over time, but the harsh treatment of your conquered people will lower compliance. Resistance is how unruly the people are, and how much damage they’ll deal with industries and your garrisoned troops

The unrest system is probably the change that has the largest gameplay impact. You’ve got more options for how to manage your newly conquered territory, and the resistance/compliance mechanic makes it take a bit more time and effort to make your conquered factories safe from sabotage as you can’t just plonk down a big garrison to completely suppress the people. Making it so that your garrisons are no longer on the map also seems to have given the game a slight performance boost in the late-game.

Managing resistance in occupied territories

The Spanish Civil war

The Spanish civil war has been completely re-worked in this new DLC, into something far more interesting. Previously the civil war would just start at a semi-random date, and if you played as Spain, you were forced to chose between playing as the Nationalists or Republicans. In the expansion, you chose side through the focus tree, as your first choice, and then move down it. You can also spend political power to influence different regions, swaying them more to your side, or to put yourself into a better position when the civil war starts by imprisoning generals on the other side and using other underhanded tactics. And to make the civil war even messier, you’ve got more factions than just the Republicans and Nationalists, you’ve also got the Carlists, who wants Spain to be a monarchy, and the Anarchists, which works as splinter factions of the Nationalists and Republicans respectively.

The Spanish civil war has been greatly improved. Where previous the Spanish civil war could be a bit of a slog to play, with low-quality troops fighting over defensive terrain, now you’ve got more options that can change how things play out. You’ve still got low-quality troops fighting over defensive terrain, but at least there’s a bit more to do now. It does feel like the changes have made it a bit easier to win as the Republican side, who previously were at a major disadvantage unless you used some exploits, but on the other hand, most of those exploits have been plugged, so you can’t really “cheese” the civil war-like you used to be able to.

The Spanish civil war turns very messy, once it becomes a 4-way fight

Minor changes

Apart from those major changes, there are also a few minor ones. Other than Spain, both Portugal and France got new focus trees, that changes how you play those nations a bit, giving you more options. The changes here are not nearly as big as with Spain, but it’s still nice to have, particularly if you want to go down a more ahistorical route. The new recon planes also give you some more tools for how to keep tabs on the enemy troops.

Closing thoughts

La Résistance brings with it a few major features with it that shakes up how HoI 4 is played a bit, and all of them feel like they work well, even if I wish the spies & intelligence agencies were a bit more fleshed out. One issue with the intelligence agencies is that if you’re playing a nation that has a large industrial base, like say the US or Germany, you can very quickly get all upgrades. I think it would have been better if the upgrades worked a bit more like research. The best change though is the changes to how resistance works. Making it more automated, while also giving you more choices, just removed some needless tedium of managing your newly conquered territory, while at the same time giving more options. It also makes it a bit harder to expand too fast, which will slow down Germany in particular. It’s not enough to cripple Germany’s military expansion, but it feels like you’re now forced to make more of a choice when deciding if it’s worth invading more countries just yet.

Overall though, the DLC feels like it probably should offer a bit more to really justify its high price. While the new mechanics are good and add a fair bit to the game, they don’t make a huge difference in how you end up playing. That is, unless you’re playing as Spain, in which case it feels completely different. If you’re interested in playing through the Spanish civil war, then this DLC might well be worth getting, even at full price, but otherwise, it’s probably worth waiting for a discount.

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