Hearts of Iron
May 17, 2016
Hearts of Iron: War Stories is a branching narrative about a young British pilot during the Battle of Britain.
Churchill once said “Never was so much owed by so many to so few"! Take part in this historic turning point during WWII as you make your own choices on the way.
Be wise! The decisions you make will influence which skills you learn, your relationships with other characters and even the story’s outcome.
The narrative is written by the well-known writer Aaron Rosenberg and lovingly edited by Paradox Interactive.
Hearts of Iron: War Stories is part of the Paradox Interactive’s Hearts of Iron franchise, which includes the PC grand strategy video games, music and books.
You are strongly encouraged to create an account and login, especially if you own other Paradox games, although it is not required to experience this game book.
Hearts of Iron: War Stories is an interactive story told within an app. Paradox Interactive released the app on May 17 to iOS and Android.
The first five chapters are free, and after that you must pay $4.99 to unlock the full story (Which consists of 22 chapters).
Because I only had access to the first five chapters, this review may not be as complete as other reviews. However I will say that the little bit of the app I saw was pretty fun.
According to the press release, Hearts of Iron: War Stories “tells the tale of a young British pilot during the Battle of Britain, and you must deal with thrilling enemy attacks, the routine of flight preparation and the painful joy of young love. The story takes you through multiple vantage points using different story mechanics that return you to this thrilling battle for freedom.”
Aaron Rosenberg wrote the story, which is part of the Hearts of Iron franchise, and includes four PC grand strategy videos games, music, and books.
The story itself is told through second person POV, and is in the format of choose-your-own-adventure. You select a chapter, and each page within the chapter ends with a set of options for you to choose and confirm.
The chapters are pretty short, but the writing is playful and gives you a sense of the author’s personality. For example, in this line:
[…] the man—who you realise must be her father because they have the same eyes, though his are far cooler—replies, edging forward to better block your view of the passage.
From what I can tell, not all chapters have many choices, such as in chapter 2, where you only make 2-3 decisions.
Also, sometimes you have choices but one choice is greyed out. For example, in Chapter 3, my choices were (*spoiler alert*):
- Your parents are alive (greyed out)
- Your parents are dead
This is probably based on some of my earlier choices, where I made my character fairly brash.
Some of the choices have red exclamation marks next to them, though as far as I can tell, there’s no explanation as to why. It could be something pivotal in the story or something particularly adventurous.
Because this is an interactive story, there is more to it than just words. If your sound is turned on, you’ll hear epic background music and well-timed sound effects as you scroll through the text. The music goes well with the story—fast paced during times of crisis, and slower and more friendly during the first love scenes.
You can also tap to see information on the people you’ve met in the story, information about your airplanes (your character is a pilot), and your skill level in the story. Yes, it’s a bit gamified. You can gain or lose skills, such as discipline, based on your choices.
If you’d like, you can restart chapters to see how the story unfolds based on different choices, but then you lose progress. Once you finish all 22 chapters it’s probably easier to go back and start again.
The app itself has a few features I could do without, such as when it repeatedly asks for access to my phone’s contacts and the ability to make phone calls. Maybe the app does something with this in later chapters? Either way I doubt I’d accept it.
Also when you select chapters there’s a pop-up that allows you to optionally login to your account. If you don’t have an account, you will have to tap the back arrow and select the chapter again.
Last, there are a couple instances where the HTML shows through in the text, such as the line, “there&339;s no need to be sour.”
However, you can easily connect with other people who have downloaded the app or are invested in the Hearts of Iron world, since the app links to forums with FAQ.
I think Hearts of Iron: War Stories, has a lot of potential, but it’s hard to know from just five chapters.
So far, there’s been an introduction to the war, the protagonist has met love interest Emma, the protag’s parents have died, so he’s signed up for the Royal Air Force, and has taken part in his first battle.
I’m curious though, what happens at the end? What do the skills I acquire mean—do I get anything out of them at the end? And how is this story connected to the other media in the franchise?