Hearts of Iron IV‘s latest expansion is called La Resistance. The name itself speaks volumes as this add-on finally adds a multiple mechanics related to espionage, intelligence, resistance movements, and covert actions. So, is Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance worth your while? Let’s find out in our official review.
Note: For more information, check out our Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance espionage mechanics and reworks guide.
Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance – Knowing your enemy
Covert actions, intelligence, reconnaissance, collaboration, and resistance movements played a large role during World War II. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan ruled through fear while collaborationist politicians jockeyed for support. As for the Allies, resistance forces countered Axis dominance thanks to sabotage and misinformation. Likewise, the success of Operation Overlord and D-Day hinged on ruses such as Patton’s fake army as well as the feigned invasion of Calais. There were even dummy paratroopers that sowed confusion.
These stories, from the cat-and-mouse game of spies to the breaking of the Enigma code, were audacious and shocking, equal to the greatest battles of the age. That also makes one wonder why we’ve never seen a proper representation of intelligence and espionage in Paradox Interactive’s Hearts of Iron games.
Hearts of Iron III had a passable system, sure, whereas Hearts of Iron IV nearly forgot about it. The closest we had to a working system was the Steam Workshop mod Espionage. That brings us to the present, set to see Hearts of Iron IV‘s La Resistance expansion and what it brings to the table.
The Intelligence Agency
In Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance, the core of your covert operations will be your Intelligence Agency. You can choose from historical variants, custom insignias, or even rename your organization to something else entirely. Major nations have unique variants seen above.
There are five agency branches and a few of them also have additional ranks. Each upgrade boosts your espionage capabilities significantly.
Your operatives are shaken, not stirred
Once your Intelligence Agency in Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance has been set up, you’ll get your first operative. There’s also the “Become Spymaster” option that’s limited to faction leaders, letting you recruit more operatives down the line (more on this feature later).
Operatives can build an intel network, aid ideological and propaganda spread, root out resistance, or conduct counterintelligence. Once the world is engulfed in war, you’ll notice that more operatives are flocking to your nation in an attempt to subvert your rule. As such, counterintelligence defenses help in capturing them. Of course, the same can also happen to you since it’s possible for your spy to get captured or killed.
Operations and cryptology
Had Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance stopped at the actions of operatives on the strategic map, the expansion might be considered half-baked. But, the features of operations and cryptology (part of your Intelligence Agency) add more activities.
Once you have the required intel network, you can commence with an operation to see the fruits of your labor. Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance has several noteworthy examples from rescuing captured agents, sabotaging railways, and infiltrating armies to outright historical assassination attempts and stopping Nazi Germany from researching the atomic bomb.
As for cryptology, it’s all about revealing intel and cracking ciphers. You can select countries and after many days have elapsed, you can reveal the intel for that nation. This leads to major buffs once you enact your grand battle plans.
Make no mistake, Hearts of Iron IV‘s La Resistance expansion gives you a lot of things to do under the hood and in total secrecy. But, there are a few caveats. The most noticeable is that all nations will have no espionage capabilities even if you start via the 1939 scenario. It does seem questionable given that several countries established intelligence-gathering organizations well before World War II’s storm clouds gathered over Europe. Examples include MI6 (1909), the NKVD (1917), and the Abwehr (1925).
From a practical standpoint, you’ll realize that you need multiple months until you can get an Intelligence Agency and multiple upgrades, agents, and operations ready. Ideally, it’d be better if the espionage system was up and running for late-game scenarios as opposed to players starting from scratch.
That’s for most other nations. If you’re playing as Britain, however, then the sky’s the limit. This is due to the way Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance lets countries recruit operatives. Most of your spies will come from becoming a spymaster (limited to faction leaders) and waiting for others to join your faction. Basically, once Germany steamrolls other European countries, Britain (as the spymaster of the Allies) gets more spies.
This happened in my campaign while playing as the Germans. By the time I was ready to march onto Moscow, I decided to use the “tag” command to see how the UK was doing. This was what I beheld:
You’ll see nine agent slots, multiple operations being readied, and the cryptologists revealing intel for multiple countries. I snowballed offensively, and Britain started snowballing by way of espionage.
I also decided to check out the Pacific War. Sure enough, Japan was bogged down in China. They hardly focused on espionage and no one would join the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere anyway. The same goes for the Soviet Union which leads the Comintern.
Quibbles with Quisling
Going back to the Germany campaign, I also had a few quibbles with how collaborationist governments are set up. They’re akin to the governments-in-exile concept from Hearts of Iron IV: Man the Guns. Then again, the mechanic is quite easy to handle for the Allies. Just like spies, you just need to wait for Germany and Japan to occupy territories and beleaguered forces will ask for your aid.
For collaborationist governments, meanwhile, this is the process:
- Recruit an operative and build an intel network in a country that you’re about to conquer.
- Once you have enough intel strength, commence with the operation to prepare a collaborationist government and keep repeating it. This operation increases a nation’s compliance once it’s taken over.
- Conquer the said nation and wait to have the “A New Regime” modifier.
- Turn the subject into a “Collaboration Government.”
It takes a lot more work than expected. Funnily enough, if you neglected to do this early on (likely when you start via the 1939 scenario) this will gimp your progress. Conquered territories will be considered as the lands of your “ally,” thus preventing you from building an intel network.
Similarly, I would’ve preferred more integration with Man the Guns‘ elite troops for governments-in-exile. Imagine committing to a concerted effort for army veterans, expeditionary forces, and partisans to free their homeland?
Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance review – The final verdict
Despite a few concerns, Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance manages to capture the essence of espionage in World War II. The expansion has a lot of concepts and mechanics for you to sink your teeth into, useful for a majority of nations that you choose. You can play the spying game actively or passively, and it won’t feel like a detriment to your military objectives.
I haven’t even gone into detail about the new national focus trees for France, Vichy France, Nationalist Spain, Republican Spain, and Portugal. Likewise, there are changes to the Spanish Civil War, though you may encounter some issues if you try to go for an extremely ahistorical route. The expansion also adds new units such as scout planes and armored cars, and an update reworks the mechanics for resistance, compliance, and occupation.
That’s how much I was engrossed and immersed while playing La Resistance. The extras are notable, but the core gameplay mechanics already revitalize the campaign in countless ways. Simply put, La Resistance might be one of the best Hearts of Iron IV expansions to date. I could almost forgive Paradox Interactive for taking four years to finally add a full-fledged espionage system in the game. “Vive la DLC” indeed.
Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance releases today, February 25, 2020. You can purchase the expansion via Steam for $19.99. For more information, check out our Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance espionage mechanics and reworks guide.