Reflections on Black ICE

As I had previously stated yesterday, I intended to write another post about my experiences of playing the Black ICE mod for HOI IV as Germany. Today, I will be sharing my observations here. The mod is ridiculously time-consuming; time seems to fly faster while playing than whenever I am writing on The Fourth Estate. It has become necessary for me to set a two or three hour timer whenever I am playing, planning my goals with a prepared strategy in mind before playing. This is something that I normally do not encounter with most video games, because once somebody begins playing any video game, they just jump straight into the gameplay and let things unfold on their own. To plan one’s session before actually playing is a rare occurrence, an intended goal of the modders who created the mod.

Gameplay wise, I am currently in December 1941, and it is clear to me that I have reached the midpoint of what the mod has to offer. The battlelines are finally drawn between the Axis and Allied Powers. There are numerous differences between my playthrough and the historical record.

  • The Germans did not invade the Soviet Union nor have plans to invade the British Isles. Most of the European mainland is either allied with Germany or remained neutral such as Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Sweden. Vichy France appears to be interested in joining the Axis.
  • The Soviets are close to annexing Finland, preferring to stay on the sidelines and refraining from declaring war on the Germans. It remains to be seen as to how long before the Germans and Soviets start fighting to each other.
  • The Italians have already lost North Africa and struggling to hold the Mediterranean. Whole portions of Africa are under British control and likewise for the Middle East because the French colonies over there have chosen to revolt against French colonial rule.  
  • The Japanese have already reunified Mainland China with a puppet regime, declared war on the Allied Powers and are just beginning to fight alongside the Axis.
  • The Americans lead the Allied Powers and have yet to breach the European Mainland or cross the Pacific. In either case, the goal remains consistent with that of the British: knocking Germany and Japan out will enable the Allies control over much of the Eurasian landmass.

Much like in the historical record, the Soviets are the force which will tip the balance of power toward the Allies or the Axis. The Soviets in my playthrough can easily outnumber the Allies or the Axis, should they decide to align themselves with either side. Most playthroughs of HOI IV as Germany do not bode well because the Soviets often defeat the Germans with sheer ease. Any invasion of the Soviet Union will cause this playthrough to start resembling the historical record, which is something I would like to avoid. So long as the Soviets have no intentions of declaring war or siding with the Allies, the strategy going forward would be to retake Africa and restore the Middle Eastern regimes that were overthrown by the Allied Powers. From there, all that remains will be the British Isles and North America.

It may seem ahistorical, but this is pretty close to what the Germans had originally intended to achieve by signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. That is the actual problem with the Black ICE mod when mentioned in the last post. The modders’ definitions for what passes as “historical” and “ahistorical” are skewed to reflect what actually happened, not what was planned at first. In terms of the game design for a game like HOI, it makes far more sense to focus more on the latter than on the former, but I digress.   

The grand strategy that the Axis Powers would have chosen, had they not tried to fight the Soviet Union, is straightforward after splitting Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. Basically, the the Eurasian landmass into German, Italian, Soviet, and Japanese spheres of influence. Pursuing such a goal will entail the removal of the British, French, Belgian, and Dutch Empires’ colonial holdings throughout Eurasia. It is possible to expect new nations emerging from the power vacuums, albeit under the influence of either power. That in turn leaves America as the sole remaining Allied power, rather than becoming the “world’s sole superpower” that it ended up as at the end of the previous century.

Judging by the basic premises of such a world order in terms of International Relations, this is a multipolar world order. It may not be like the multipolar world order that also existed at the beginning of the 20th century, seeing how it would entail an interesting blend of the old and new. It also raises all kinds of questions. Would the Cold War still happen, albeit under different circumstances? If so, would it mark the continuation of the Second World War or the beginnings of the Third World War? Remember, the Cold War was in reality a continuation of World War II under an entirely different title. There needs to be something far more than just ideology to allow World War II to continue.  

Moreover, what would the postwar world be like, compared to what was historically? That is a topic which the Black ICE mod refrains from trying to provide definitive answers for the major powers, a problem stemming from its definitions of what passes as “historical” and “ahistorical.” HOI IV has seen at least two other mods over the years which tried to provide pseudo-realistic depictions of a postwar world, differing in terms of specific details and unfortunately some alternative history scenarios that undermines their plausibility. These two mods are called the “Thousand Week Reich” (TWR) and “The New Order” (TNO), and they place great emphasis on Germany and the political forces which led the nation into the Second World War. Both mods share a common scenario which I will outline as the following.

Germany ‘wins’ the Second World War by invading the Soviet Union and annexing much of European Russia and the Caucasus. The Hitlerists remained in power, but a number of postwar setbacks have introduced political-economic turmoil in Germany and the European mainland. TWR and TNO have their own ideas on how this turmoil came about. TWR insists that it will be the result of political intrigue and dissent as well as economic stagnation from trying to colonize Eastern Europe. TNO has similar ideas, except it relies on failed postwar projects like the proposed Atlantropa Project as one of its examples. In both mods, however, Germany finds itself without a postwar successor after Hitler’s passing (1953 in TWR and 1963 for TNO) and the Hitlerists plunging the whole country into a civil war.   

Besides that, the TWR and TNO have differing ideas on what the Eurasian landmass should look like, politically and geographically. In TWR, the Switzerland has been partitioned between Germany and Italy, whereas in TNO it still remains neutral. Similarly, TWR kept Spain and Portugal as separate countries, but TNO allowed them to become a single nation controlling the Iberian Peninsula. TWR has Japan as a US-controlled puppet regime about become a Communist People’s Republic and Mainland China reunited under the Kuomintang, while in TNO the Japanese are locked in a Cold War with the US and left Mainland China divided into different provincial puppet regimes. This pattern continues in the Soviet Union, where it has once again been split between the Soviets and pro-US Russians in TWR or disintegrated into warring factions like in TNO. Something similar is occurring with Great Britain, where it is depicted in TWR as having survived the Second World War or as a pro-German puppet regime in TNO.    

If there is anything that both mods share, it is that they are adamant about the Hitlerists invading the Soviet Union thanks to the US being isolationist and refusing to enter the Second World War. That is arguably the biggest drawback for those two mods because both were developed with that cliched alternative history scenario of the Hitlerists somehow ‘winning’ World War II. I honestly do not recommend either mod due to their unrealistic and absurd depictions of the postwar world. I do feel that both mods are just there for the sake of being edgy, to satiate some form of instant gratification rather than try to be realistic and somehow plausible like Black ICE.      

Categories: Philosophy

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