This Blog post is definitely going to be a brief one, so I will be cut to the chase and provide the fundamental details. I normally do not write posts about playing video games, but when I do, the experience has to be supportive of any ongoing efforts on the Blog. Geopolitical simulators and grand strategy games will always be the games of choice here. The last time I wrote a gaming-related post it was about my gameplay sessions of the four games released by the Russian indie gaming developer Kremlin Games. Crisis in the Kremlin in particular was no doubt the most satisfying of the four, followed by Collapse: A Political Simulator.
Over the past several days, I had been playing a personal favorite classic video game mod from a couple years back. It is the Hearts of Iron IV rendition of a mod called “Black Ice,” which was originally developed as a mod for Hearts of Iron III. Both renditions of the mod are designed to create a more historically accurate experience of the Second World War, from the countless variety of different events before and during the conflict to the huge diversity of armaments and military units. The HOI IV version has definitely changed in the years since I had last played it on Steam. The mod goes as far as to consider wartime rationing, political-economic lawmaking, diplomacy, elaborate trade agreements, and interventionism to simulate World War II from a non-military angle. I am enjoying every bit of it, and I cannot wait to finish it to provide my thoughts about it.
There is a user’s guide published on Steam that gives an in-depth look at the mod. I am including the link here because it was an entertaining read from start to finish. The guide is a bit dated as of late, having been written about two years ago, back when I had last played it.
“Black ICE is a total overhaul mod for Hearts of Iron 4 that intends to give the game a more historical feel while keeping to plausible outcomes. All of the major nations have had an extensive makeover, with improved national focus trees, events, technologies, units, and more. Many influential minor nations also have their own national focus trees, events, and flavor. BICE incorporates mechanics from many official DLCs, though none are required in order to play the mod. If you do not have a DLC, some of BICE’s expanded mechanics and features related to or relying on that DLC may be unavailable to you.
BICE is designed for singleplayer playthroughs that roughly follow historical events, but still allows for a few alternative choices. It is very important to note, however, that unlike the base game, selecting the ahistorical focus setting is very likely to ‘break’ the game by having countries act in unforeseen ways. BICE does not include many alternate history scenarios or focuses, and the developers generally don’t provide support for bugs in ahistorical games. The mod is also not particularly fine-tuned for multiplayer, though the BICE discord community still regularly hosts multiplayer games, and we are always looking for more players.”
The guide also documents some of the technical shortcomings that the modders have had to contend with, including the fact that HOI IV is constantly being updated with new DLCs instead of expansion packs like in HOI III. The most obvious is that, in its quest to become historically accurate, the mod eventually becomes ahistorical due to a combination of player choice and how the vast majority of events were made for anyone playing as Germany, the Soviet Union, or these United States. The other major powers left much to be desired because there was not a whole lot for them in terms of coverage on historical events. I think the two biggest exceptions, from what I was able to discern, were the Maoists and the Kuomintang because those two have player decisions that are as recent as the 1970s like the “Socialist Market Economy” under Deng Xiaoping.
Overall, it is a fascinating mod that has undoubtedly taken up a lot of time due to the sheer level of detail put into the mod. I should be glad that I am only playing the HOI IV version and not the HOI III rendition. The latter always suffered from micromanagement issues due to the built-in game mechanics of the original base version. Here, it is a lot easier to work with and at least respects my personal time outside of the mod such as this Blog or my personal life offline.
That is all I have to say for today. If I have time tomorrow, I will definitely write another post based on my experiences of playing Black Ice on HOI IV.