Monday has come again, and thereÃ‚'s cheering in the streets; a fresh opportunity to get away from needless weekend frivolity and seek out the life shaping drudgery of a structured work environment. If this isnÃ‚'t glorious bliss then nothing is. Some of you unfortunate Americans readers might be struggling with a three-day weekend, your life stymied by an additional 24 hours of free time and one less joyful day to your beloved work week. Fear not valiant laborer, these holidays will be few and far between in the coming months, and you can look forward to a steady stream of brain bending mundanity under the soothing glow of buzzing flourescents through winterÃ‚'s glorious months. Joy!LetÃ‚'s talk more about games for a moment, shall we?
This weekend found me finally taking the plunge and delving into X-Box Live. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons I was unable to either plunge or delve into actually playing online. My primary problem has been a somewhat awkward networking layout, and an additionally problematic ISP who apparently hordes IPs as if they had collectible value and could be sold on Ebay. Eventually it occurred to me that perhaps my ISP would grant me connectivity if I fooled them into thinking that my Xbox was my PC by changing its MAC address. And when I say it occurred to me, I only mean that I hunted down a solution on Google, tried it, and once successful, claimed myself a networking guru for having foiled my ISPs evil scheme. I think of it as a bold strike for the proletariat!
However, while shopping for my Xbox Live, I finally picked up a PC game IÃ‚'d been meaning to investigate for several weeks. Having played - played is the wrong word, perhaps I mean having been humiliated by - Europa Universalis, I was intrigued by ParadoxÃ‚'s latest, Hearts of Iron. Hearts is set in the heady, tranquil years of the 1930s and 40s, and puts the player into the seat of almost any power across the globe. While the game certainly levies the bulk of its focus on the valiant English, the militaristic Germans, the beleaguered French, the surprisingly cold and slightly liquored Soviet Union, or the isolationist Ã‚"˜world? what world?Ã‚' Americans, you can choose to lead nearly any force through the formative WWII years. Always had an aching to reshape the brave course of SwedenÃ‚'s history? Fine! Always wanted Brazil to be the country to step up and squash the Afrika Korps? Good luck with that!
Of course, being a world leader is not a particularly easy task. It is, however, easier than figuring out how the hell to play Hearts of Iron. IÃ‚'m pretty sure that the game requires a masters degree in Hearts-of-Ironology, and canÃ‚'t be played to its fullest depth without rigorous study, a battery of brain enhancing implants, and a special hot line to Paradox entertainment. ItÃ‚'s easy to say Hearts of Iron is a complex strategy game that comes close to simulating the intricacies of steering a world power through a war ravaged time. ItÃ‚'s more correct to say that Hearts of Iron is an intimidating monster that creeps off your hard drive while you sleep and sucks your brain out with a straw.
HereÃ‚'s how a typical game begins for me. I start the program, initiate a new scenario, enter the world of 1936, and then scroll around the screen for several minutes trying to figure out what in GodÃ‚'s name IÃ‚'m supposed to be doing. Eventually I queue up some technology for my scientists to research, whoÃ‚'ve been standing in the corner smoking and drumming their fingers while I dolt about, randomly selecting from the massive technology tree projects like Ã‚"˜reinforced, non-jamming, warmed rifle triggersÃ‚', Ã‚"˜improved tank-hatch bolt lubricationÃ‚', and Ã‚"˜prototype torpedo door slide casingsÃ‚'. Of course, changing my economy so dramatically as to set four or five red-faced, heavily smoking scientists to work in underground labs, has a ripple effect much like dropping a house in a shallow pond. Suddenly I had to reshape the distribution of food, regroup convoys sailing from darkest Africa, and send the 14th rregiment marching mysteriously into the sea just to compensate. At this point I usually save me "progress", read the manual for about an hour to find out all the things I did wrong, and then perhaps cry.
IÃ‚'m not actually finding fault with Hearts of Iron here. It seems to me that for measured geniuses and the occasional savant, this game would be a phenomenal but rewarding challenge. I just think it should be made clear that Hearts of Iron is not a game you can sit mindlessly down with for fifteen or twenty minutes and annex, say, Belgium without much thought.
Enough about Hearts of Iron. IÃ‚'ve got some news hunting to do, and I wanted to finish working up a Panzer Dragoon impressions for posting, though with the holiday I wouldn't expect much big news today. Maybe later, IÃ‚'ll try and discover the deep world shaking effects of increasing the infrastructure of Southampton. It could change the tide of the war!- Elysium