REVIEW: Hearts of Iron IV: No Step Back

REVIEW: Hearts of Iron IV: No Step Back

A revamp of the Eastern front breathes even more life into the undying World War II grand strategy that is Hearts of Iron IV.

Released: Steam
Type: Singleplayer, Online Multiplayer
Genre: Grand Strategy
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release date: 23 November, 2021


Hearts of Iron IV is another of the Paradox grand strategy titles that you can lose yourself in. Whether you decide to enable the historical mode or not, it’s sure to be a wild ride on the alternative history train. I’ve conquered much of the world as the German Reich and personally led France down the path of fascism with bombs raining on the United Kingdom across the channel. Each game offers its own challenges and you never know what’s in store for you when you start it up.

Needless to say, it’s a solid story generator that keeps on giving and No Step Back has put out the siren call that has lured me back in again. This time, I primarily took on the mantle of our good friend, Uncle Joe (Stalin, not Biden). However, I was quickly convinced that I could see myself putting in a full run on any of the revamped nations.

The new trees steal the show. The Soviet Union and Poland get strong revisions while the Baltics share similar ones with a unique touch for each nation.

A Bushel of Focuses

One of the most thrilling elements of Hearts of Iron IV is its national focus trees. I dream of us one day having unique trees for every nation, though I’m pleased that the ones that we do have are exceptional and seem to improve even further with each new content release. They have a huge impact on the way your nation develops and pair well with your own micromanagement in just about every aspect of the experience.

As such, the Soviet Union rebirth has provided an excellent excuse for me to hop in and play one of the major powers that I hadn’t put through a serious haul yet. Whether you’re pushing forward Stalinist ideals and embracing the “historical” path of the Union, pulling for the Trotskyists, or just tossing communism aside for good ol’ democracy, the focus tree offers a huge number of options to shape your nation. An industrial powerhouse with incredibly powerful military capabilities is waiting to be taken advantage of. I crushed Poland and Germany while converting half the world to the socialist side and I had a blast for every single second of it.

Speaking of Poland, both it and the Baltic nations received a hefty touch of love as well. Poland is able to pursue a number of political goals, not the least of which is embracing the Soviet ideals or restoring the legacy of the once prestigious kingdom. The Baltics, on the other hand, offer their own visions of what the nation could be. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia share a few uniquely Baltic paths though they have their own flavor sprinkled in as well. Forming Iron Wolf Lithuania step by step was truly a high point of my time with minor powers and has solidly put me into the camp hoping to see a few minor nation trees sprinkled in with each sizeable update going forward.

Custom tanks? Ja, bitte.

Restructuring the Military

Politics and maneuvers on the national scale aren’t the only positive changes offered by No Step Back. Though the focus trees take center stage, the new tank designer and officer corps features are likely to win some favor from the masses. The designer allows you to tweak designs in a way very similar to what we received for our navies with Man the Guns and works well for further tailoring your forces for whatever your current obstacle is. Pesky fortified infantry give you a problem? Why not light the place up with a glorious mounted flamethrower? Just make sure that you keep it well-fueled as the logistical system from the accompanying free update will require you to make use of new logistical opportunities to keep your boys at full strength.

The officer corps expands upon what was previously offered only in your cabinet officials. Spirits are available for you to choose between which bring both a positive and a negative modifier to your military that can give you a needed edge under certain circumstances. Meanwhile, promotions allow you to bring your military leaders higher in the ranking so that they can also serve as influential advisors and provide bonuses to the nation as a whole.

Rail lines are extraordinarily important after the recent update. If you want to fight your wars effectively, you’ll need to manage your basic infrastructure, rails, and sea routes.


No Step Back is an excellent expansion for any Hearts of Iron fan, though it’s important to note that its most impactful features are fairly localized. Military changes, like the officer corp, armor designers, and military spirits that assist in further tailoring your forces impact nations worldwide though the game-changing focus tree alterations are tied to the Eastern Front. If you plan on playing around in the region, this purchase is a must, though you may want to wait for a sale if you’re not. Unless, of course, you’re a tank enthusiast, and in that case, hope right in and get your kicks running right over the enemy lines with your custom-built war machines.

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December 2021

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