World of Tanks|
World of Tanks is a Free-to-Play (F2P) online multiplayer game developed by Wargaming.net. Though it has been available to play for almost a year, it is still being actively patched and updated with new features and content on a regular basis. It is a team based action-shooter game that puts two fifteen tank teams against each other on huge, beautifully detailed maps ranging from open countryside to dense, bombed out cities. There are currently a total of 24 distinct maps and there are more to come. Each one is exciting and offers players of all different strategies ways to really take advantage of their environment. You fight your opponent on these various maps using armored vehicles from the 1930’s through the 1950’s.
I’m pretty big into military history and I will start off by saying that I was impressed by the historical accuracy of the massive list of available tanks. And when I say massive...I mean they have well over 100 unique tanks to choose from, with more on the way. The models are nearly perfect, from what I can tell, and the available upgrades follow the actual tech progressions that each individual tank went through during its production cycle. I was leery of the game, initially, and was worried that it would go too far in its attempt at being fast-paced and fudge a lot of the actual capabilities of the tanks in favor of making a “fun” game. Instead, what they’ve done is to stay true to the actual capabilities of each tank (i.e. speed, armor thickness, shell penetration, turret rotation speeds, etc.) but made the controls simple accessible so that you’re not sitting there hitting a hundred different keys just to make the thing go forward. Now, when I say it’s simple, I don’t mean it’s easy. There is a lot of skill that goes into being successful in this game. Not just pointing and clicking and watching your opponent go boom. No, if you want to win and survive in this game, you’re going to have to outsmart the other guy.
Wargaming.net has done a really good job of blending the FPS controls that most gamers have become completely familiar and comfortable with, with a vehicle based combat game, making an incredibly intuitive and exciting game. The tanks move and shoot as they should, but the game plays smoothly and easily so you don’t feel like you’re driving a beastly machine that you have to wrangle to your will or hit with a monkey wrench to get it going the way you want.
You start with four tanks in your garage. They are the lowest tier tanks from Germany, Russia, the USA, and France. They are all pretty much evenly matched, with similar guns, armor, speed, etc. But, fear not, for the game is very good at creating evenly matched teams. Once you begin a battle, it will put you in with a group of fairly evenly matched allies and an opposing team with a very even loadout of tanks. You’ll start off playing against people of commensurate experience and power. Herein, however, is where one of my biggest complaints about the game lies. The game doesn’t care what nationality your tank is. You can play as an American tank and be on the same team as a German, French and Russian tank. In fact, most of the time, this will be the case. And your opposing team will be equally assorted. Now, while I agree that this makes it much easier to balance the playing field, I like authenticity. I wish there were an option to only take part in Axis vs. Allies style battles where the only tanks on your team are tanks that would have been on the same side historically. I find it confusing and somewhat frustrating that this isn’t even an option. It doesn’t make me hate the game, I just think it should be added. And maybe it will be. Who knows?
As you play, you will earn credits and experience points that you can apply towards several different things. Basically, there is a tech tree that you must develop in order to get bigger, better, more powerful tanks. Also, you can spend points on your tank crews in order to make them better at what they do and make your tank that much more effective on the battlefield.
Now, this is where the F2P mechanic kicks in and gets a little hairy. You can play completely for free and not spend a single dime on this game and you can still have a lot of fun. But, (and this is a big but) if you want to have everything you want, you might end up having to shell out some cash in order to do it. You can use real money to purchase gold, which can then be converted into either credits or experience points, or you can use it to buy certain things that can only be bought with gold. Like certain tanks or special camouflage. And I was surprised at the amount of money that it takes to get certain things in this game. If you wanted to just purchase a tank with real money, there is one that you can purchase as a gift for someone else for $51.95. That’s more money for a single tank that most of us pay for a full retail PC game. Granted, most of the tanks you can buy with gold are only about $7, which isn’t too bad, but there was a little bit of sticker shock when I saw the one for over fifty.
The other thing that you can only purchase with game-gold is garage space. Initially, you have space in your garage for five tanks; basically, one of each category (light, medium, heavy, self-propelled gun, and tank-destroyer). If you want to have more tanks in your garage, you have to purchase garage space with gold. So, if you want to play the game for free, get ready to sell off tanks that you have taken time grinding and purchasing the best equipment available for in order to make room for the next bigger, better tank on the list.
You can earn gold without spending money, however, by competing and doing well in regularly held tournaments or by participating in the “Clan War”, which I will mention in a little more detail below. So, you can still end up getting everything out of this game, with a little luck and a lot of skill (or maybe the other way around) without having to spend any of your hard-earned money on it. But for those of us who like to have our cake and eat it to, you’ll probably end up spending a few bucks here and there to get things that you just can’t wait to have. There are different battle modes, from quick 15 on 15 random matches all the way to a global domination style “Clan War” that I mentioned before that involves 15 person clans pitting it out long-term over many, many maps to try and take control of various regions on the map for points and prizes, including game gold and other really nice toys.
One of the things that I really like about this game is that there is a huge amount of skill involved. Just because you have the biggest, strongest, meanest tank on the battlefield doesn’t mean jack if you just drive it straight up the middle of the map towards the opposing base. You might take another tank down with you, but you’ll be sliced and diced before you even know what’s happening if you try and go it alone. Teamwork is the best weapon in this game, and working together gets things done. If you work well with others, a group of two tier-1 tanks can easily defeat a tank of a much higher tier that doesn’t play its cards right.
Using cover and concealment also is a big factor in this game, as well as communication. You can use your radio to report the location of enemy tanks on your team’s map, which allows the long-range tanks to attack from a distance without ever being seen. Hiding your tank in the bushes and waiting patiently to pounce on an unsuspecting opponent can be just as successful as quickly racing around to try and get a good angle of attack or darting from cover to cover hoping to get lucky.
They’ve really done a fantastic job of making the smaller, weaker tanks just as important in the fight as the big, lumbering ones. Each tank has its strengths and weaknesses. The light tanks move fast and can literally run circles around the heavies. You can’t kill it if you can’t aim at it. But don’t get caught driving straight towards a tank destroyer, which is designed for exactly one thing, and it ain’t doin’ the dishes! But they don’t have turrets that rotate, so they’re weak from their flanks and have very weak armor behind, so if you can sneak up on them, they’re dead in the dirt. Then, there are the SPG’s or self-propelled guns, which are basically artillery guns on tracks. These bad-boys are lightly armored, but when you switch to your gun sight mode, you get a top-down view of the battlefield and can pretty much drop shells on anyone that your team-mates have spotted for you.
In the end, this game has a lot of strengths and very few weaknesses. First of all, it can be enjoyed at absolutely no cost to you, so there’s not a lot to complain about there. The graphics are top-notch and the game runs smoothly at maximum settings. The models of all the tanks are superb. I really was impressed with how accurately detailed each of the tanks was. I felt like they took the 72nd scale models I’ve played with since I was a kid, and put them in the game. The sounds are pretty good, though the guns and engines border on being weak. The voices of your crew are repetitive and dull, but its not the focus of the game, so it doesn’t really detract too much, either.
The online play is solid with hardly any noticeable lag at all and the other players are usually pretty cool, though I did get intentionally team-killed once. I’d say that was the exception to the rule, though. Like I said above, my main complaint is that there is no “realism” option that would force Axis tanks on one team and Allied tanks on another, but perhaps that will come. And for a free game that boasts arcade-action, I was extremely impressed with how well they blended in simulation elements into a fast paced, easy to learn, exciting, and addictive game.
I look forward to playing this game long after this review is on the shelf, and I look forward to future patches and additions to this game, as well as future installments from Wargaming.net. They’re working on similar style games called World of Battleships and World of Warplanes. These games will be a part of a trilogy that will use your common account and, as I understand it, your earnings will be transferable between them as well. So, expect to see a couple more reviews in the not-too-distant future.