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Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour Expansion Interview

Jim Zabek, 11 July 2012

GrogHeads’ Editor Jim Zabek just wrapped up a hot interview with David "Darkrenown" Ballantyne, Scripter from Paradox Development Studio on the upcoming Hearts of Iron III expansion Their Finest Hour.

Hearts of Iron III had something of a rocky launch, with a number of vexing bugs that took time to get a handle on. For gamers who haven’t been following the updates closely could you give us an update as to the game’s state?

I´d say Hearts of Iron III is a whole new game now, it runs faster, it's more stable, it has an improved UI, so without going into details - it's just so much better.


There are a lot of really cool additions being planned but the first to catch my eye is the “Battle Plan” feature. Could you tell us more about how that works?

Basically you have a selection of icons and an arrow drawing tool to make cool battle plans on the map. In single player it can be a useful reminder of what you were up to when you return to a game, and we hope players will find the added immersion and planning fun. It becomes even better in multiplayer though, as you can send your plans to other players to let them know what you're up to and engage in some joint planning sessions.



The Custom Game Mode is perfectly tailored for gamers wishing to play out “What-If” scenarios in single-and multiplayer. Does this mean we’ll be seeing lots of AARs on Operation Sealion? What else can gamers look forward to?

I expect we'll see a few Sealions, yes. Equally players might want to start as a United Kindom which is entirely prepared for the coming war, crush Germany when they occupy the Rhineland, and then prepare to fight the USSR. We want to have very few limits on players in the CGM setup, they can use it to make minor tweaks to their setup or they can throw history out the window and remake their nation the way they want it.
We also hope this will help the MP players, as they'll be able to start at later dates with techs and units of their choosing without having to play through the buildup years.

We also have two new scenarios will be included that our gamers can look forward to: the Spanish Civil War and the Finnish Winter War.


What kinds of challenges did you have in designing the new scenarios and are there any surprises you found that you can share with us?

Well, the Spanish Civil War has a fair amount of research, but one of the real challenges was that the Winter War was more difficult to find source material for. Luckily the Winter War is already part of the main campaign, so we already had a fair amount of research done.
And well, as for surprises, anyone reading this who hasn't heard of Simo Häyhä, also known as The White Death, should google him ASAP.



The press releases have discussed a “deeper naval invasion system.” What kinds of specialized units might gamers be able to develop and how do you think this will affect players’ approach to the game? Can we expect even more robust US Marine activity in the PTO?

We've changed the invasion mechanics somewhat in Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour, so invading units are much less effective until they have unloaded from their transports. We've also added two new units: Landing Craft and Assault Ships which are able to unload troops faster. We hope this will discourage early invasions using only the basic Transport units since the defender will have more time to react to these invasions. Hopefully we'll also get some more Pacific action too, but it's not directly related to the new units...





Tell us about some of the new specialized units that players will be able to access. Will some of them be tied to owning a specific geographical location (e.g. Ghurkas)?

No, the unique units will be tied to specific nations, not ownership of locations. These units are basically improved infantry with a unique model and improved stats, but their numbers are limited. Each nation has different bonuses on their unit, for example Italian Alpini are great at mountain attacks, while Soviet Guards have high morale so they are able to attack more often.


The phrase “Their Finest Hour” is memorable for a specific time, place, and battle. Will there be any greater emphasis placed upon air combat, and more specifically, the Battle of Britain, in this expansion? If not, why was the name chosen?

Firstly, there's no such thing as too much Churchill, but the name is also party due to our new Strategic Warfare screen which player can use to judge how the overall war is going. The Battle of Britain, like the Battle of the Atlantic, was more of a campaign than an individual battle, with relative rates of production and losses being more important than who won a specific skirmish.


Tell us more about leaders’ traits and how they can be upgraded. How significantly will this impact gameplay and how do you expect players to use it to maximum advantage?

To be clear, Leaders can gain new traits, existing traits aren't upgraded. In this, as in life, practice makes perfect. We have added several new traits, most terrain types have a related trait now, and if a Leader spends enough time fighting in, for example, mountains he'll gain the Mountaineer trait granting some bonuses in mountain combat. You can also gain some of the older traits by engaging in the relevant type of combat, such as the Fleet Destroyer trait by bombing fleets. The bonuses aren't huge, so the gameplay effect won't be either, but it should be nice to see your generals have learned something by the end of their campaigns, and it will give a battle-hardened leader a bit of an advantage when fighting a green leader until they learn the same lessons.


The espionage system will be reworked and expanded to include covert missions. What kinds of missions might players expect? Will they be something as specific as the assault on Eben Emael and St. Nazaire or will it be more abstract?

A bit more abstract, to be honest. You will be able to take out specific Strategic Resources for a limited time, intel-related tricks like revealing enemy units, or slow down enemy movements in an area.



Thank you for your time in describing the expansion. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Besides the announced features we're of course also making a lot of tweaks and small improvements to the UI. As someone who plays a lot of Hearts of Iron, these make me almost more excited than the new features and I think a lot of our fans will enjoy them too. We also have a couple of not-yet-announced features which are pretty cool, so stay tuned for those!

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