World of Tanks is a brilliant free-to-play, arcade-styled, squad-based World War II tank sim MMO game developed and published by Wargaming.net and runs atop the BigWorld MMO Technology suite. Since its debut in North America and Europe on April 12, 2011 it has become something of a sensation among gamers. The game sports a sense of authenticity by producing highly detailed and as-accurate-as-possible WWII era tanks, right down to the detailing on their models and their statistics in combat.
So far, World of Tanks is the only tank-shooter on the market that stands up to a high bar of excellence. It reviews extremely well here on GameOgre, I’ve already given it a treatment with a luminescent first impressions article, and the game won “Best European Online Game” at the European Games Award ceremony. We’re about to see why.
- Numerous tanks to choose from, over 150+ total mechanized armor;
- A variety of maps based on World War II battle scenarios;
- Fast-paced battle-format, very quick lobby-to-combat;
- Easy controls with an intuitive interface (although mastery is difficult.)
- Pushes players heavily towards microtransactions via experience grinding;
- Steep learning curve (becomes a numbers/tactics game);
- Maximum teams of friends set to 2 (3 if you’re a subscriber);
- Pure PvP gameplay, no PvE or narrative campaigns to captivate interest.
The game uses standard FPS controls and not the expected tank controls (i.e. no two-treads movement mechanism) so it will be extremely easy for MMOFPS players used to the arcade setup. The simplicity of the controls means that it’s very easy get directly into the battle; however, mastery of tactics and controls is much harder and there’s no advanced UI for players who want to take advantage of tighter controls.
The primary game mode is squad-based combat across a map 15×15 tanks across two squads. The game ends with time running out—15 minutes—as a draw or a victory condition when either all the enemy tanks are destroyed or a successful capture of the enemy flag. In this fashion, there’s only one squad game-mode: total annihilation or capture-the-flag. Often the composition of the squad and the map will affect the team tactics needed to take the enemy flag (or obliterate all of them.)
Each tank type provides a particular role in the team tactics, and played well in coordination with teammates will often lead to a spectacular win.
Light tanks are scouts and harassers used primarily to rush into enemy territory and get eyes-on-target for artillery and provide intel on enemy disposition for medium tank wolfpacks.
Medium tanks are the armored cavalry, riding in wolfpacks to break up enemy entrenchment or to provide armored defense for friendly artillery. A wolfpack of mediums should never been underestimated, they can outflank and annihilate enemy heavies with extreme prejudice. As defense, they’re relatively mobile while providing higher armor values than lights, which makes them ideal for protecting artillery from enemy light tanks.
Heavy tanks provide for the gauntlet of steel on the battlefield and act as heavy armored support for base defense as an entrenched position or to support an advance by smaller tanks such as a medium wolfpack. The presence of a heavy tank means that there’s a tank holding down a position that can take a lot of hammering before it goes down and is capable of vaporizing most other tanks with one shot if it catches them in its crosshairs.
Tank Destroyers sit as the snipers of the battlefield. They sport immensely powerful guns and suppress enemy advances by catching them in the field. Usually, tank destroyers lurk in bushes and find camouflaged positions to command the battlefield and turn an area into a killing field. Think of them as tank hunters; patiently taking up position and then sniping enemy forces when they come into view. Destroyers do all they can to avoid close combat; since most of them have a turret that cannot turn except for a few degrees in front of them, the tank itself must traverse a turn to follow a target.
SPGs (artillery) play a special role on the battlefield by providing arcing fire into enemy ranks. They have an extremely long range but are blind at range without the support of other tanks to spot for them—this role is usually lent to the swift, scout-oriented light tanks who act as eyes for artillery. Artillery have a special SPG-mode that gives them an overview of the battlefield and an arc of fire; when a light spots an enemy tank, the artillery can focus in and rain death from above onto enemy tanks. With a very slow reload speed and poor accuracy in direct-lay fire, SPGs can be obliterated easily if they’re caught by enemy tanks out in the open.
There’s a little bit of RPG elements included in that players get to choose names and faces for their tank crews (although it does nothing in-game and nobody else can see them.) Tank crews also gain experience themselves adding to a huge statistics game played under the surface of the World of Tanks battle mechanics. This is where mastery of gameplay becomes extremely steeply advanced. Tank crews can add extra speed to the tank, loading time, camouflage, repairs, etc.
Players advance from low tier tanks to higher tier tanks by involving themselves in battles. The amount of experience they gain (extremely slow at first) enables them to research higher tier tanks and gear to outfit them. The credits that they earn from combat also allows them to purchase new tanks and outfit them. Ammunition and tank repairs cost a little bit of credits after each battle.
For players who happen to have gold there are retail tanks available for gold-only. These tanks are interesting in that while they’re excellent tanks in their own right, none of them have any equipment customization opportunities. They come with their highest tier arms and armor already; however, this also means that players cannot trade off for play style with that tank between a fast-loading/low-damage gun, for a slow-loading/high-damage gun.
PvP Campaigns 10/10
As World of Tanks doesn’t have any PvE and there’s no campaign or narrative, I’m replacing what would be the “Narrative” section for RPGs with a “Campaign” section for PvP primary games. Aside from random battles, players can also engage in a PvP clan-warfare using a RISK-style map of the world and bidding for territorial control.
Clan Wars, which is in beta, allows players who have joined into the WoT version of guilds to play a turn-based strategy game against one another. It introduces a browser-based strategy component where clan leaders choose how and where to commit forces in order to take parcels of land. The battles themselves are decided in-game between squads of tanks.
This is really makes for an interesting side-affect to the game where clan leaders suddenly must become master strategists and choose what battles they want to commit their actual forces into. It means that when it comes to the PvP front.
This innovative concept really brings to life a missing element from many clan-based PvP games that really puts WoT on the map.
In spite of what I think this game lacks in PvP campaigns, it deserves a 10 just for promoting and enabling a command-and-conquer style of clan-based combat. Also, Wargaming.net has suggested that they will be adding even further PvP campaign modes that involve tiered ladders that will work players through historical battles and that just tickles my fancy.
They graphics of World of Tanks is pretty good and just enough to get the job done. It’s hard to actually come up with a proper critique of them—but it does a very good job of brining across a gritty-sense of arcade-realism to the battlefield with the different maps.
Initially, most of the maps suffered a little bit of a problem where everything seemed a little bit the same. That is, most of the maps were either a burnt-out-city or a large expanse of fields with some buildings here and there. Not very aesthetically pleasing. However, there’s now also an artic map (with snow), a map with sand, and a map that involves rocky hills and a beach. Thus upping the aesthetics a bit and diverging from a heavy descent into brownness.
The tanks themselves are amazing and beautifully detailed. The WoT team spent a lot of tender loving care trying to make them as fittingly authentic as possible; even tanks that never saw battle are carefully researched and rendered for display and play within the game. In fact, that’s an amusing part about WoT is some additional tanks were blueprint only, or they never made it to the battlefield due to some odd flaw or other design issue. As a result, they get to see life again in a tank MMO.
There’s really little to look at in WoT and when you’re admiring a tank it’s usually not when it’s about to put a slug through your armor. As a result, this game can get away with less-than-bleeding-edge graphics and the takeaway from that is that it’ll run well on a lot of machines.
I think part of what makes World of Tanks such a fun game is that it really manages to surround the player in the tank atmosphere without forcing them to take the disadvantage of a full simulator. Usually, this means cutting a lot of corners. As with the common sims, it forgives a lot of actual physics, loading, indicator lights, and etc. and favors a very simple control system. Also as a result, there’s less going on and that can really injure the suspension of disbelief factor when it comes to playing the game.
So enters the audio. In WoT everything makes some sort of noise. Different tanks seem to have a slightly different idle sound, the engines whine as they attempt to traverse rough terrain, the guns bang and boom when they fire—and there’s even the clank of an ejecting shell in some cases. Sometimes playing artillery or zoomed into sniper-mode you can hear the rumble of another tank driving past. Its engine chewing out a gravelly guttural groan as it chugs past.
The tank crews are also voiced (unfortunately, it’s all the same voices, I believe—perhaps a nice update would be to have different nationalities of crews have different accents.) They let you know vocally when things are happening such as striking critical hits (“We hit them hard!”), getting struck and losing modules of your tank (“The track is hit! We can’t move!”) and giving you the satisfaction of knowing when you turned someone else into smoldering wreckage (“They’re knocked out! Find us another target.”)
Originally, I didn’t like that there seemed to be only two or three different musical scores; but now they’ve grown on me. At the beginning of tank battles a score plays, they’re often rising and lifting orchestral pieces that set an action mood as the line of steel pushes forward into the face of certain doom. In a way, it’s a nice touch.
I would give this a full 10 for WoT, but I really think that they could add a lot more sounds to their repertoire—notably tank voicing—and I think that there also needs to be a setting that allows you to get a vocal report when enemy and friendly tanks go up in smoke. Otherwise you have to rely on battle reports on the side of the screen and that can get tedious. I also think that when tanks are spotted or if one gets into a certain proximity when you’re in sniper mode might be good (tell me some of the members of your crew are on lookout when they can be—you already notice the tank coming up on you on the radar anyway.)
That’s it. WoT does an excellent job with sound, it’s just not quite entirely at the max for me yet. Really, to get the full 10, all Wargaming.net will need to do is customize tank voices to nationalities with accents and I’d probably be sold on audio.
Pricing Model 8/10
The steep learning curve and the slow-but-sure experience model of World of Tanks is designed to pressure users into going to the microtransactions shop. I’m not about to fault Wargaming.net here for this, it’s a brilliant portion of their model. Most experience goes directly to the tank you’re on; but some of it becomes free experience (can be spent on any tank) but with a little gold, you can transfer tank experience into free experience.
Gold can be bought outright via the website in bulk and it leads to the capability of purchasing a premium subscription. 12 months of premium subscription runs for 24k gold which is just under $96. Users running with the prescription receive 50% more credits per battle and 50% more experience; they’re also able to bring 3 people into a platoon and play together in battles.
Gold also allows you to quickly train individual tankers up to 100% training (giving bonuses to your tank) for about 200g a pop. Otherwise you have to slowly grind from 50% battle-to-battle; and when you move into another tank, you get knocked down a few percentage points and need to train up again. There’s a lot of appeal to jump right back into the driver’s seat with that gold.
The game also offers a series of retail tanks that can only be purchased with gold. These tanks are pretty powerful and reasonably awesome. However, WoT did an interesting thing with them by making certain none of them require any experience (i.e. there’s no customization to equipment beyond external devices) so they all play the same from the get-go. Also, each of the retail tanks seem to have a fatal flaw fitting with their historical characteristics. This means that people driving a gold tank could be vulnerable to well-studied players who know how to take them out. There are currently 23 premium retail tanks available and one if them is a Chinese tank.
The point where the microtransaction gambit for WoT falls down, however, happens to be that they supply what would be termed gold ammunition. When it comes down to brass tacks, each gun type has normal ammo (purchasable for credits) and gold ammo that has superior qualities to the credit-only ammo. Looking at it, I suspect it’s only a 7-12% benefit in overall firepower; but it would definitely give someone spending gold an edge of superiority over anyone they can hit.
Premium consumables do also exist that give notable crew and tank benefits per-battle. Although, running with consumables in every battle could get extremely expensive, but it also means that players with gold to their name can yet get even better boons.
In a way, this means that in clan battles and group battles, an organized team with a lot of gold to go around for that ammunition will tend to rule the day. The Clan Wars metagame works around this by allowing clans to earn gold by fighting in battlefields; so they don’t need to spend microtransaction money to stay on the top of their game, just fight well and distribute their earnings intelligently.
Other uses for gold happen to be renaming tankers and changing their portrait. That’s a common use—sadly nobody else can see your customizations there.
Wargaming.net has suggested that future upgrades to the game might permit player-skinning of their tanks, which will increase variety of customization so I look forward to that. I expect that doing so will also be gold driven and that would be a perfect use for the microtransaction currency.
World of Tanks is an outstanding game!
It suffers a little bit in that you only get one sort of battle (capture-the-flag, total annihilation) but it makes up for that with the excellent experience. As a tank sim, it rides the line between providing a detailed and strong simulation experience vs. the accessible-to-all arcade experience. There are always hundreds of people online and getting into a battle is pretty quick. In fact, this game has a very short from-register-to-combat time.
The mastery curve is extremely steep, which will make gamecrafters and hardcore players extremely happy; but the controls themselves are simple, minimal, and easy to intuit which makes the game extremely accessible to new and casual players. Providing also the PvP metagame with the Clan Wars, it opens itself up to even more opportunities to be part of a competitive community who cooperate as teams.
I expect that as Wargaming.net grows WoT they’ll begin to add many more thanks, much more customization, enhance gameplay with more audio clips, and perhaps even deliver a more enjoyable experience with the skinnable tanks. (As long as we can turn them off should we not want to watch the Hello Kitty tank dancing around our smoking corpse.)
While WoT isn’t going to drawn in all gamers—it is an MMOFPS arcade-style tank sim—it panders extremely well to its community and that will probably give it a lot of popular momentum to feed on. I expect to see more awards and hopefully more integration with other combat modes in the future as Wargaming.net brings its guns to bear.
WoT has come a long way in a short time; an outstanding steel-on-steel experience with elements for both casual and hardcore players to enjoy.