80s action films lied to me. The Cold War wasn't all Communist spies and muscled up Americans facing off on glacial peaks - or even Rocky punching out Dolph Lundgren to the cheers of converted Ruskies. No, usually it was boring with the mild threat of annihilation. Oh sure, there were a few interesting bits now and again: there was that clock from Watchmen right? And what about the whole Vietnam thing? Great soundtrack. But where is the whack-a-mole sentiment needed to craft a game?
As if sent by the high gods of strategy, Paradox have arrived to show us exactly how we mould this shifting tectonic of a time period into enthralling intrigue. East vs West: A Hearts of Iron Game is a simulation of the years 1946 through to 1991, complete with all of the diversionary plotting and escalating politics that you could desire from the era.
Set around a similar premise to their already massive roster of grand strategy titles, EvsW is less about military supply lines and troop movements, and instead about the tension of the time. Choosing from a staggering amount of nations, it's up to you to successfully navigate past DEFCON warnings, subterfuge antics, and diplomatic situations.
How the campaign between 46 and 91 proceeds, is generally privy to whichever nation you select to lead. Controlling either superpower USA or Russia will give you a different style of play, and one that can have the tendency to go nuclear without the right amount of strategy. Of course one interesting scenario can play out with the US opening hostilities before the Reds get an atomic bomb, thus potentially preventing the Cold War: and these are the choices Paradox invariably give to you.
But like most grand strategy titles, the most interesting scenarios are usually thrown up in the absence of power. Guiding the newly formed Israel through this time for instance can be a testing experience for anyone.
Given that war comes from all sides, and allies are few but immense, playing the Jewish state can shape the entire world around you. Through diplomacy you can curry favour with the US, whilst squeezing the territories around you.
The tension however arises when those nations you beat down link up with Russia or other belligerent states. Soon your land grab conquest can turn into an international incident, with the UN imposing sanctions, refusing membership, and also making the political adventure that much tougher.
The barometer of your actions will also take form in the doomsday clock, with each minute closer to midnight signifying nuclear annihilation. It's your job making sure that doesn't happen.
Other elements thrown into this heightened atmosphere of political pressure are subterfuge, economy, and internal politics. Governments can change and shift on their political axis - one country may change from capitalism to communism without careful guard, robbing you of certain advantages and decisions.
And wrestling between all of this is the technology of the time. Whether you pursue military goals and flex atomic muscle, or become a pacifist state intent on making peace is your choice. Paradox have managed to create the toolset for your ideal scenario to play out - the only thing standing in the way is maniacal AI and your own sordid ambitions.
Supporting a 32 player multiplayer also, East vs. West manages to conjure that sense of intrigue and tension like no other. While these battles for political ideology might not catch on in eSports circles, you can bet there will be many nights spent between friends, accusing one another of sneaking around their intelligence agencies and stealing technologies.
Expected for launch in the Q2 window, East vs. West: A Hearts of Iron game looks, as if to live up to its title, intriguing. Part history lesson, part sneaky-bastard trainer, check this space for more as the game nears release.