Hearts of Iron III: Ultimate German Immersion – “From Stars to Crosses”

Hello my fellow national leaders!

Paradox Interactive games like Victoria II and Europa Universalis have always had a special place in my heart for these games are on a truly epic scale and offered so much depth that I literally spent many nights leading my nations behind a computer screen. Ever since Hearts of Iron IV was released, I have kept the game on my Steam wishlist to see if the fourth release was worth the purchase. Sadly, so far the reviews have been quite discouraging and I believe that it won’t be for another year until I reconsider the option to buy. Despite extensive Steam workshop modding support, HOI 4 apparently lacks the depth of previous versions. One reviewer mentioned that HOI 4 is dumb-downed and that he no longer felt attached to his divisions and brigades. This disappointing setback forced me to return to Hearts of Iron III, a game that I played about 4 years ago but stopped due to my interests in other games.

hearts_of_iron_iv_simple_interface
A great looking interface but it sure lacks the uber-detailed feel of previous versions…

Considering the historical period in which Hearts of Iron III plays out, Germany is probably the most interesting country to play as you will make many important decisions that will shape the future of Europe and the world. If you think that Adolf Hitler should not have declared war on Poland on 1st September 1939, you may choose to delay the invasion for as long as you want. In fact, it is completely possible to have a peaceful Germany that does not invade anyone (there are plenty of peaceful German gameplay walkthroughs on Paradox Interactive forums). When I play as Germany or any other nation, I often care a great deal about immersion. Imagine that you are the leader of Germany and you see an image or a piece of text that belongs to the United States. How disturbing is that from the point of view of a gamer who wants to feel as if he is leading Germany? One such image is the army production button which is shown below:

hearts_of_iron_iii_generic_production_ui
Look closely at the “Division”, “Air Wing” and “Flotilla” icons. Do they look particularly German to you? I don’t think so…

If you look closely, the soldier in the “Division” button seems to be an American soldier wearing an American M1 helmet. What is an American soldier doing in a German division builder interface? For me, these little details matter quite a bit as they break my immersion from the game. This is what the Dies Irae Götterdämmerung DLC sought to improve by using German-themed UI. One of the things I found most satisfying about the DLC is its brigade details screen like the one below:

hearts_of_iron_iii_dies_irae_details
OMG! This is what I am talking about! Panzer crewmen have their unique uniforms and all the medals are authentic German ones! Now, doesn’t this really make you feel as if you are commanding a breathing German unit?

As you can see, these medals and badges are uniquely German. It would be awesome if the DLC was capable of distinguishing a panzer brigade from a fallschirmjäger regiment by giving medals that only belong to a specific unit type. For instance, it wouldn’t make any sense for a fallschirmjäger regiment to receive a panzer badge. However, this level of detail, while desirable, is not required (for now at least hehe). In comparison, the vanilla version and other mods display a unit’s level of experience with stars.

hearts_of_iron_iii_unit_experience_stars
Please zoom in for this image to see more closely. If you zoom into the left box that shows three infantry regiments, you will see yellow stars to indicate their experience levels (1 star = 20%). FYI, stars weren’t very common in the German military honors system.

These stars would suffice if one is playing USA or the Soviet Union. If one is familiar with the German military honors system in WW2, then he knows that iron crosses were the standard. By digging through the graphics folder, I was able to find a DDS file by the name of “units_stars”. By using a combination of Microsoft PowerPoint,  MS Paint and a couple of online file converters, I was able to achieve the following result.

hearts_of_iron_iii_unit_experience_crosses
First of all, I apologize to anyone who may be offended by the swastika symbol on the top left. I have simply added that flag to maximize historical accuracy and immersion for the user. If you zoom in again, you will see that the stars have been replaced with iron crosses (I know, it’s hard to see given the panel sizes).

There are several other immersion tweaks that I achieved. Currently, I am also exploring even more tweaks through trial-and-error. If you want to know the exact instructions, leave a comment and I will help to the best of my ability. Finally, if you know other immersion-improving techniques, let me know!

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