Hearts of Iron 4 – What DLC to start with?

“Hearts of iron 4” is by far one of the most amazing strategy games out there and when you launch it for the first time, you might think, that its gameplay mechanics and alternative history scenarios cannot get any more detailed and complicated than that.

Well, that was what I was thinking back in the day, when I started playing the game. I was so into mastering all the countries that had developed focus trees, that completely forgot about the existing DLCs and at first, honestly, didn’t really feel the need of them. I remember that one day I wanted to restore the Austro-Hungarian Empire and since it looked hard, I needed to help myself by taking a look at some HOI4 videos on the Internet. I was shocked to figure out, that Hungary had completely bigger focus tree and a large part of it was dedicated to the single reason of recreating the Habsburg monarchy.

At first, I thought that this was some kind of a mod, but soon I realized it was one of the DLCs that I had to this point completely ignored (remember guys, I was a complete noob back then 😊). Later I found it interesting to learn more about those DLCs and what do they bring to the table. Unfortunately, there weren’t if any, then certainly not qualitative enough information sources, whether or not a specific DLC is to be preferred for beginners to start off with.

That’s why I am writing this article, to help you guys choose your next DLC. I will talk about what is, in my opinion, the best order, in which you can buy the available Hearts of iron 4 DLCs and what are they consisted of. Their price in the market, what they introduce to the game etc. I hope you enjoy and let’s jump straight to the main point.

There are a couple of different types of DLCs – expansions, music packs, flavor packs, cosmetic packs and e-books. I am going to focus on the expansion packs, because they are the ones that truly influence the gaming experience, but I will also briefly cover the other types of packs, just for the sake of completeness. Remember, that I write this guide in favour of the beginners and not my personal opinion, even though I will try to cover some of my own experience as well.

Best HOI4 expansion packs

One of the HOI4 expansion packs that are worth trying

5. Together for Victory

Released: 2016 (you can buy it here)

Price: $14.99

What it provides?

  • New focus trees for all the dominions of the UK – Canada, Australia. New Zealand, South Africa and the British Raj (India).
  • Improved autonomy system that allows puppet state nations to move through different stages of dependence from their overlord and eventually become free. Also, the system helps the overlords to integrate their subjects fully.
  • Gives the player the opportunity to ask for land-lease from their nation’s allies, in order to fulfil its shortage.
  • Technology sharing, which helps less-developed nations in the faction research modern equipment faster.
  • New voiceovers in German, French, Italian, British English, American English, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.
  • 19 new infantry and airplane models for the featured nations.

We will start off with the first ever expansion DLC, that was released back in the final days of 2016 – “Together for Victory”. It introduced a couple of interesting game-changing mechanics to the game, including the first ever reworked focus trees for non-major powers countries. These were the countries from the British Commonwealth – Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the British Raj. The dominions were given the choice to either stay loyal to the Crown or oppose the British and follow their own path towards independence. The pack also included a reworked autonomy system (different levels of puppet states), the option to ask your allies for a land-lease, when you lack the much needed equipment, a spearhead battleplan command (for more control when encircling enemy troops on the battlefield) and last, but not least – technology sharing. This is in order for the British dominions to easily catch up with the newly researched technology from their master.

Now to be fair, this sound really good and most certainly improves the game, but in spite of being the very first DLC, I bought it as the last one. There is a reason for that. First of all, when looking at the DLCs, that were later introduced, this one seems a bit outdated and not that fun to be honest. The truth is, that the focuses trees, that were given to the Commonwealth nations are super small and limited, maybe other than the one developed for South Africa. I mean I get it; it was their first DLC and back than it must had been huge, but from the prospective of a player, that started playing “Hearts of iron 4” right after “Man the Guns” was released, I must say that it is just too “flat”.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some cool things that come with “Together for Victory”, like for example the possibility to stage a coup in the Dutch East Indies as Australia and break them off their Dutch overlords. This is really interesting, but it is down to that, when it comes to alternative history paths, other than of course the ability to change ideologies. I mean, the New Zealand focus tree is a bit pointless, but hey, that is just my own opinion 😊.

The other upgrades provide valuable improvements, nevertheless I think, that as a beginner, there are DLCs that possess far higher fun-factor and also add more interesting game mechanics. That is why, I rank the DLC “Together for Victory” in the last place, when it comes to overall reviewing all the expansion packs.

4. La Résistance

Released: 2020

Price: $19.99

What it provides?

  • New focus trees for Spain, Portugal and France (normal France, as well as Vichy and Free France, after the capitulation of the French Republic)
  • Two separate focus trees for Nationalist Spain and Republican Spain, with the option to escalate the conflict to all-out four-way civil war
  • The ability to create an intelligence agency, to send spies in other countries and infiltrate their industry, economy, army, navy etc.
  • Recruit operatives to perform a large variety of missions – from staling blueprints to staging coups.
  • You can now create collaboration governments in occupied areas with over 75% compliance.
  • New units are added – scout planes, Armored Cars + special recon companies.

Firstly, before everybody starts hating on my list, keep in mind, that it is dedicated to helping the new members of our “Hearts of iron 4” community to easily and better understand the aim of the game, but at the same time have fun and enjoy themselves, while conquering nations and shaping the world’s history.

“La Résistance” is without a doubt one of the best DLCs ever introduced to the game and I personally love it. The French focus tree received its waited rework and the Spanish and Portuguese focus trees (especially the Spanish one) are simply a work of art, full of original and fun ideas that encourage players to take on risks and challenge their skills. Of course, there are some drawbacks and they are the reason, why I put the expansion pack that low on the list.

First of all, in my opinion, the DLC is well developed, but complicates the game a lot. I mean all of the espionage upgrade is not necessarily suitable for the new players, as they won’t be aware of how to use it optimally. It is cool that it adds recon units, but they are also useless if you cannot handle the intelligence agency correctly. Second of all, the mechanics with the collaboration governments and the higher levels of resistance in occupied regions further complicate the overall gameplay.

Don’t get me wrong, the DLC is amazing and the amount of effort the Paradox team put into it is astonishing and when it came out it was well and truly beyond my expectations. I just think, that if players want to buy it, they must at first master the basic game mechanics and gameplay.

3. Man the Guns

Released: 2019

Price: $19.99

What it provides?

  • Reworked focus tree for the UK and the USA with the ability to decolonize (as the UK) or bring back the Confederates (as the USA).
  • New focus trees for Mexico and the Netherlands
  • Completely reworked naval warfare with the ability to upgrade ships and design different models, suitable for different purposes.
  • You can now upgrade admirals with specific abilities and bonuses (just like the generals from the “Waking the Tiger” DLC)
  • You can now host Governments-in-Exile. This gives you bonuses if you are the hosting country, but if you are the capitulated country- you can keep playing, until your land is liberated.
  • You can now deploy mines to sea zones to help defend key water-based territory.
  • New Amphibious equipment in the form of tanks and troop transports have been unlocked for naval invasions & attacking across rivers.
  • You can also choose the route that your convoys take through the different sea zones.

When “Man the Guns” first came out it was a huge deal. It introduced a lot of game changing improvements, drastically focusing on naval warfare and also improving the focus trees for the USA, the UK and adding a completely new ones for the Netherlands and Mexico. Moreover, the addition of fuel to the game as a separate resource was a milestone in the overall “Hearts of iron 4” game development. Three were also a lot of other different mechanics (Government-In-Exile) and decisions (for example the London Naval Treaties) that were added with the DLC.

You may ask yourself, why I put this expansion pack in the third place of our list for beginners and the main reason is the fact, that the whole idea of the DLC is to improve the naval warfare experience. A lot of people complained that, the major upgrade “overcomplicates” the navy, which is the main debated drawback, that “Man the Guns” has to deal with. Being able to design ships, constructing either large and heavy fleet or preferring a more flexible, but more effective navy is really cool by itself, but as being the leading factor in the “Man the Guns” DLC not a lot of people would appreciate it. It is down to your own enjoyment of the naval aspects of WW2.

2. Death or Dishonor

Released: 2017

Price: $9.99

What it provides?

  • New focus trees for four European minor states – Hungary, Romania. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
  • You can now use equipment gained by the defeat of your enemy to fulfil your shortage or to modify it cheaper.
  • New voice covers and music.
  • You can buy licenses from other nations, in order to boost your research for that exact piece of tech. They cost civilian factories.
  • New subject types for Fascist nations such as the Reichskommissariat which behave differently from normal puppets.

One of my personal favorite DLCs. I was really struggling to define its place on this list and was even willing to put it on the number one spot. I remember, when I bought it, because it was my very first “Hearts of iron 4” DLC and I really enjoyed it. Restoring Austria-Hungary or dominating the Balkans with Romania – it was all amazing experience. I was a bit frustrated with the fact, that the developers did not included a Bulgarian focus tree in the DLC, but I am really hoping, that they will earn their respectable place in the upcoming “Mediterranean” DLC alongside Italy, Turkey and Greece.

Anyway, in my opinion, the content designers did a significantly better job, regarding the focus trees and the fun factor in comparison to the previous “Together for Victory” DLC.  The Central-Eastern European expansion package provides entertaining games and interesting new events, that will not only improve the gaming experience, but at the same time help the new players understand how the game works by stimulating their effort to achieve greater goals. Nevertheless, the DLC was only the second to be released, so it has some issues like for example the lack of newly mechanics, that are normally expected from those types of DLC (expansion ones).

Despite this however, that is why I recommend “Death or Dishonor” for beginners, because it introduces both exciting experience and entertaining gameplay.

1.Waking the Tiger

Released: 2018

Price: $19.99

What it provides?

  • Brand new focus trees for China, Communist China, the imperial puppet state of Manchukuo and the Chinese warlords. They have the ability to eventually become dominant in the region without the need of bloody and endless war. Manchukuo can restore the Qing dynasty.
  • New focus tree branches for the German Reich and Japan – Germany can oppose Hitler and become democratic or bring back the Kaiser and restore the German empire. Japan also gets a democratic and communist path.
  • Command Abilities allow generals with certain traits to spend Command Power on temporary, unique buffs to the armies they lead.
  • Expanded decisions add the ability to restore nations, existed for a specific time period throughout human history. For example, you can, with the help of a decision, after conquering all the needed territories as Italy – restore the Roman Empire. The same can be done as Greece to reform the Byzantine Empire. Germany can even reform two nations – the Hoy Roman Empire after taking the monarchist path and the European Union – after choosing democracy.
  • Troops who remain in a hot or cold area long enough can become acclimatized, gaining modified unit models and reduced penalties for fighting in that climate.
  • Air wings can now be sent as volunteers along with land divisions.
  • New orders give more control over what types of targets strategic bombers prioritize.
  • You can now send military attachés to countries, fighting in a war, in order to gain xp.
  • A minimap is added.
  • All Chinese equipment, tanks, planes etc. have new and unique skins.

We finally reached our winner! The “Waking the Tiger” DLC is without a doubt the most value you can get for your money of all the currently “Hearts of iron 4” DLCs. It is the most beginner-friendly and the most entertaining nevertheless.

The alternative paths for Germany and Japan are amazingly created and provide a truly unique touch. For example, with this expansion you are given the opportunity to oppose Hitler and bring back the Kaiser to lead the restored German Empire. Further down this focus path you can force the restoration of Austria-Hungary (force Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia to unite and thus form the Central European empire) and also even assassinate Mussolini and stage a coup in the country via a single focus, turning the Kingdom of Italy into your faithful ally.

The general idea of this DLC is, however, the focus to be concentrated on East Asia and more specifically China, Communist China, all the Chinese warlords and Japan. This opens a hole bunch of alternative history paths from uniting all of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong and thus proclaiming the formation of the present-day People’s Republic of China to staging a coup in Japan and announcing the formation of a democratic government to guide the nation in those insecure times.

Other than improved or completely new focus trees, upon buying the “Waking the Tiger” DLC you get to be rewarded with the most options for improved gameplay experience out of any other DLC. That is why it is in the first place on our list, generally because these new mechanics, that are added, are essential for the new player to master, in order for them to be easier to understand the game as a whole.

There you have it! I covered most of the important stuff about all the “Hearts of iron 4” expansion packs. Now we will take a look at the other types of DLCs, that I briefly mentioned before, but they do not impact the gameplay and are not in any way linked to the in-game progress.

Music Packs

Contains a total of 35 songs, divided into tree radio channels (Allied, Axis and Comintern), each with their own look and design.

Also, there is a Sabaton songs packs (two, actually) for all the fans out there and an Allied leader’s speeches pack, which is the newest of them all.

  • Winston Churchill – Their finest hour
  • Winston Churchill – We shall fight on beaches
  • Winston Churchill – Blood, toil, tears and sweat
  • Neville Chamberlain – Peace in our time
  • Neville Chamberlain – Declaration of War
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower – Order of the day
  • Douglas MacArthur – I have returned
  • Douglas MacArthur – Today the guns are silent
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – A date which will live in infamy
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – The Great Arsenal of Democracy
  • Harry S. Truman – Warning to Japan
  • Joseph Stalin – No invincible armies
  • Georgy Zhukov – Victory Parade

These are all the speeches, included in the pack.

Cosmetic Packs

These are consisted of Axis and Allies armored packs, providing additional tank and SPGs skins for a more realistic-looking tanks in-game. In my opinion, you can skip those, if you are not interested in detailed WW2 war machines, but they are cool nevertheless. If you want to check those packs and see all the skins for yourself, then click here.

There is also one more cosmetic pack – the “Colonel” edition, which includes seven new models for heavy cruisers from various Allied and Axis nations. Also, eight new tank models each for the Soviet Union, United States, Britain, Germany, and France (for a total of 40). You can check all the available packs following the link from above.

I hope you enjoyed this article and if so, please, check out my other articles regarding our beloved Hearts of iron 4 game.