Paradox Development Studio announced La Resistance, a spy-themed expansion for World War 2 simulator Hearts of Iron 4 (opens in new tab), at the latest PDXCon. After infiltrating their employees-only area wearing a rubber John Romero mask and cornering game director Dan Lind, I was able to dig into some top secret details of what’s coming in the DLC, as well as the accompanying free patch, from commando raids to customized spy agencies. This article will self-destruct in 90 seconds.
Handling conquered territory now comes with more strategic choices
In the current version of Hearts of Iron 4, you can choose between harsh and gentle occupation for conquered lands. Ruling with an iron fist gives you more control over an area’s resources, but increases the risk that resistance fighters will work against you. In the update, this system has been expanded with a concept called Compliance. The less harsh you are on conquered areas, the more they will come to accept your rule over time. Lind says they’re aiming to create a trade-off between short-term gains from harsh occupation at the cost of having to deal with more resistance in the long run, or long-term gains from building cooperation with the locals slowly.
Resistance fighters will constantly be working against your occupation in off-map skirmishes
Resistance in occupied territories used to just mean that every once in a while, a factory or some railroad tracks would get bombed. The update will expand on this system to allow resistance cells to grow in conquered areas, clashing with off-map garrison forces you've allocated there. They will cause casualties, destroy your equipment, and can eventually even start an uprising with actual units on the map if not properly dealt with, similar to how rebellions work in Paradox’s other strategy games. Moving most of the action off-map should also come with a major performance boost—previously you had to have dozens of horse cop divisions running around to weed out unruly elements.
You get to run a spy agency
The headline feature of the DLC is the ability to establish your very own intelligence agency. You'll be able to give it a name, choose a logo, and fill it out with branches that specialize in different spying and counter-spying activities. Hearts of Iron 4 is already a bit of an overwhelming game, so those who don’t wish to interact with this system can easily put their spies on a defensive, counter-espionage mode and not have to worry about it. But one country per major faction (the player will always get first dibs) can choose to become their side’s 'Spymaster', netting them lots of handy abilities.
Your spies are all individual, procedurally-generated characters you can get to know
Hearts of Iron 4 already features some larger-than-life figures, from Stalin to Rommel to FDR, but now Lind wants spies to inject a bit of Crusader Kings into the war. Each operative you hire will be generated with a random name, appearance, and visual accessories. Where you recruit them from will matter, too. For instance, a French-born spy will be more effective at working in France than an American one, so you’ll want to build a diverse roster no matter what country you’re playing as. Operatives level up over time, but they can also be captured, wounded, or killed. Once in enemy custody, they can be made to slowly leak intel about your faction to the enemy—so Lind says it might be wise to equip them with a suicide pill for such an eventuality.
Spies are now one of the main ways you can get intel about the other side
Cryptography, the art of encoding and decoding messages, has been removed from the tech tree and now represents one of the branches you can add to your agency. Having better cryptography than the enemy will still allow you to know more about their forces and industrial might, while keeping them from knowing much about yours. It will also be possible to send spies on missions to steal ciphers and code books, giving you an immediate advantage in the information game if they succeed. This advantage will be powerful but temporary, Lind says, since they’re probably going to stop using that specific cipher once they realize you have it.
Spy networks let you influence other nations
Sending your operatives abroad to build a spy network gives you a base from which you can do a lot of meddling. In addition to giving your armies a planning bonus when fighting in the area they’re stationed in, your network strength will slowly build over time and unlock abilities like distributing propaganda to influence local politics, countering resistance fighters in your conquered territories, exerting diplomatic pressure to keep neutral nations out of the war, influencing trade, and catching enemy spies.
Operations are big, flashy, action-packed missions
The most dramatic action you can take with your operatives is sending them on operations, which are momentous missions that require multiple spies and a lot of planning. One example given was the dramatic heavy water raid in Norway that historically delayed Nazi Germany’s development of the atomic bomb—a scenario which will now be modeled in HoI4 by an event chain that gives Germany a huge speed boost to nuclear research if not countered in time. Other uses for operations include assassinating certain enemy leaders and staging a coup to change the ruling ideology of a target country. Operations will always be costly and risky, but with a huge pay-off if you manage to pull them off.
One piece of intel that we're still waiting on is Hearts of Iron 4: La Resistance's release date. Paradox has that locked away.