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It would be impossible for me to cover everything Paradox has fixed, upgraded and added in the “Torch 1.3.3” patch for its grand strategy masterpiece Hearts of Iron IV, which just rolled out today. I’d be writing a novel, not a news article! Still, I wouldn’t be writing about a patch at all, if it didn’t amount to a fairly dramatic improvement in the game – and it certainly does.

As a bonus for those of you who can’t get enough video content, I’ve included a rundown of the patch notes by Count Cristo (referenced with permission):

Many of these changes seem obvious on reflection, like “AI will no longer declare war on nations which control no territory”. What’s to invade, right? Or remember when China would plunk down half its armies defending against a possible invasion by Vietnam or Siam, while Japanese troops were traipsing through Beijing? Fixed.

Other fixes are subtle, such as “AI will now start considering buildup of military constructions after a while, even if peaceful and not directly threatened”. Likewise, the overall methodology for threat evaluation and unit deployment has been drastically upgraded, particularly for multi-front conflicts. There are fully eighty such additions and improvements to the game’s artificial intelligence, both major and minor.

Besides the AI, “Torch 1.3.3” provides hundreds of improvements to game balance, stability, performance, the user interface, game content, and even Hearts of Iron IV‘s moddability. So, if you thought Hearts of Iron IV was something of a pushover or too clunky for your Grand Plan of World Conquest, perhaps it’s time to get back in there and see if your strategies still hold up.

Here are the highlights (I calls ’em as I sees ’em)…

 

Stability/Performance

Data processing has been streamlined by roughly 20%, noticeably reducing lag spikes (particularly the infamous “24-hour hangtime”, which got special attention). Beyond that, Paradox nailed down a good half-dozen crash-to-desktop issues, both unusual and random. Taken together, your gameplay should go much more smoothly than you may have experienced in the past.

 

Game Content

On the terrain/resource front, ten African nations now produce Rubber, while a number of strategic islands including Cuba went from Desert to Hills and Plains. More importantly, the Italian ports have been shifted about and the French port of Brest now faces the Bay of Biscay instead of the English Channel. That’s going to make it harder for the Allies to clamp down on Axis naval ambitions, especially if Germany conquers France and starts basing U-Boats out of Brest (as it did historically).

Plenty of changes to national orders of battle (meaning starting units) and tech trees – the big stuff being that America gets three Colorado-class Battleships, Britain gets Artillery added to its divisions, various nations get a bunch of variant aircraft, and Yugoslavia gets an overall makeover to both military and tech. A number of cosmetic changes also add or change national tags, flavor names for units and certain types of equipment, not to mention portraits and names of various leaders.

Last but far from least, Italy got served a much-needed sanity check to its National Focus “War With Greece” – which it would carry out even if Greece was a puppet state, or if Italy was already at war with them!

HeartsOfIron4Battleships

Historically outmoded, but we still love ’em don’t we?

 

Balance

In the immortal words of Johnny Bravo, “Whoa, momma.”

On the combat side, first big thing is that heavy Armor units now give attack bonuses against fortifications, creating more options for breaching those pesky Maginot and Siegfried Lines. The second is that most forms of Artillery have been nerfed for “soft attack” (meaning mainly against infantry) across the board and that Self-Propelled Artillery Battalions now use fewer vehicles the heavier they get. Third, Advanced and Jet Fighters each have better attack values now, making them more worthwhile investments.

Politically, the handling of Poland has been improved – like, for example, joining the Communist faction won’t result in Stalin giving Hitler half the country (to honor the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) anymore. The world takes more notice of nations who pick a lot of fights, as well as whether or not its targets are industrialized, making it progressively harder to politically justify going to war. At the same time, legitimate claims don’t create so much pushback. World Tension has also been re-jiggered to respond more to National Focus effects, and less to other sorts of actions, so it should be more controllable.

Industrial mechanics also got a major overhaul, a lot of which is “under the hood”. Dozens of things from dockyard bonuses to post-bombing repair rates for civilian factories have been rebalanced, as have production-related technologies and even some national laws. One big highlight is that Synthetic Refineries – critical to nations with limited Oil supplies, like Germany – now cost much less and produce much more. Another is that switching a production line from one vehicle to another now retains 30% of the efficiency you’ve built up – 70% if the vehicle is in the same family (such as Panzer III and StuG III).

 

User Interface

A tooltip now shows who’s lagging and how badly during multiplayer matches, so players with faster connections aren’t left to guess what’s going on. Message spam has been chopped down, with popups automatically timing out if they don’t require a decision from you. You can switch nations in mid-war, without the tech tree breaking. And my personal favorite: “Changed production line tooltip to no longer lie about total output and resource efficiency to the player” – I hate when my games lie to me, don’t you?

 

Modding

Unless you create mods yourself, you probably won’t find any of these changes useful or interesting. However, if you use any mods which have suddenly stopped working, this list probably contains at least one of the reasons why. Your mod’s creator is probably already going over these and doing updates as fast as they can, so all I can suggest is the usual patience until they get caught up.

 

Bughunting

In addition to all the above, the dev team crushed a slew of bugs – 102, to be exact. You’ll want to read the patch notes for the full scoop, but once again here are the more interesting ones –

  • Naval Air Superiority is now a force multiplier, not just an add-on, making carriers much more valuable!
  • Fix for volunteer forces able to perform invasion without actual proper naval superiority – I don’t know about you, but I always thought it hilarious when still-neutral Italian volunteers would “help” Germany by invading France via Calais.
  • Civil wars had a bunch of problems involving divisions of manpower between the factions, which would result in really wonky one-sided affairs, or result in democratic nations no longer having elections afterward. That’s all fixed now.
  • I don’t know why you would, but now you can directly declare war on your own subject and puppeted nations. Britain invades Canada when?
  • Did you successfully move Germany from Fascism to Democracy? Well, now you don’t have to worry about the “Oster Coup” against Hitler suddenly putting Himmler or Göering in the driver’s seat, since the game now recognizes Hitler’s not in charge anymore.
  • If France challenges Germany reoccupying the Rhineland, it now spawns a civil war even if France is Communist. That’s how badly World War One affected the nation’s mindset towards new conflicts.
  • The Japanese “Strike The USA” focus now checks to see if Japan is in a faction with USA. That’s a thing?
  • Fixed issue with Australia demanding New Zealand causing Australia to be kicked out of any faction it is currently in… wew lad (or is that “ewe lad”?).

All things considered, Hearts of Iron IV is now a substantially different animal compared to what it was just yesterday. If, like me, you maybe already felt a little burned out on it, “Torch 1.3.3” should help turn that mood around. One major caveat, though: according to dev “Podcat” over at Paradox, “players with Windows Vista will probably no longer be able to start the game starting with this update. Hearts of Iron IV has never supported Vista, but it has somewhat worked before. Now it no longer does so I thought we should give a heads-up on that”.

 

Tell us what you think in the comments below! Has Paradox improved the game with these changes, or do any of these (such as loss of playability on Windows Vista) represent a step backward to you?


Scott Malcomson

Staff Writer

Old enough to have watched the first moon landing live on TV, I've been gaming since the days of ApVenture and the Zork series. My last console was an Atari 2600, and my first PC was an Apple IIc (in glorious monochrome!). If you want to understand the kind of person I am, it might help a bit to play Ultima IV.


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