Wargaming.net’s World of Tanks is a team-based, online action title where players in two armored vehicle groups slug it out for domination of numerous maps based on Word War II battlefields. While summing the game up in one sentence is possible, it is an experience akin to the classic game Othello – a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. World of Tanks is deceptively complex and, especially once players make the jump to joining a tank platoon, the game blows wide-open with options in the way of strategy.
Starting out, players get the lowest level tanks of the three nationalities represented: The United States, Russia, and Germany (French vehicles will be added at a later date). Upon starting a game, players are entered into a large queue where a very ingenious battle-generation system goes to work, pulling out various vehicles of appropriate levels and types to create teams and then sending those teams into a randomly-selected map. The point of this system is to make sure all games are fun and balanced. For the most part, the system works very well – ensuring that teams consist of a nice blend of tanks, tank destroyers, and SPG (artillery) vehicles. Sometimes, however, the system gets a bit “off” and you will end up with some very interesting team makeups. There were times when my team consisted of mostly tank destroyers or an obscenely-large number of SPGs.
After mentioning the vehicle types in the last paragraph, I would be remiss in my journalistic duties not to inform you about them now. Tanks are divided up into light, medium, and heavy categories – each of which have their pro’s and con’s as you can imagine (heavies are slow and armored, lights are quicker but less-armored). There are also tank destroyers, which are armored gun carriages built with the sole-purpose of destroying enemy armor. These vehicles usually have a limited firing arc due to their construction. Finally, there are the SPGs or artillery units which make use of a special aiming view to lob shells across the map at enemy forces detected by other tanks (also taking into account whether or not they are in radio range).
After the mission-generator does its work, players are sent into the battlefield for a 30 second countdown to allow all players to “catch-up” and avoid any latency problems. In those 30 seconds, teams formulate their battle plans via text and voice chat, then the battle is on. Each map is well-designed with several areas for vehicles on offense, defense, and support missions. Each of the game’s maps is based on World War II battlefields and environments.
World of Tanks is a beautiful game to look at, with crisp and detailed visuals. Environments are lush and buildings are well-detailed, no matter if they are intact or gutted by the brutality of combat. Tanks are accurately-modeled after their real-world counterparts and it is easy to see that Wargaming.net did a ton of research into the vehicles of their game. After playing the game for a while, I went to an online WWII image repository and looked at the various vehicles depicted. Due to my participation in World of Tanks, I was able to determine the majority of vehicles I was surveying, without help. And they say video games are not good for anything! The game also features some great sound design and, not only will you be treated to the various creaks and groans your tank makes, you will also hear a lot of ambient effects and nature sounds. Players will also hear shells as they whiz past their vehicles or the visceral crunch that rings out when those shells connect with their intended targets.
Damage modeling is implemented with extra complexity, taking into account range, angle (both of the shell and the armor surface it is impacting), velocity, and a plethora of additional variables. Tanks can have various parts of their construction damaged or destroyed, and this just adds to the strategy. For instance, small and nimble vehicles can “track” (the act of shooting a vehicles tracks until they break) larger vehicles, temporarily immobilizing them. This allows the smaller vehicles a chance to move around the target to its weaker rear armor. Many tank destroyers, with their limited firing arc, have been rendered helpless this way. Aiming can be done via an automatic system which has a higher probability of missing on the move, or manually through the scope for accurate shooting.
Gameplay is exciting and interesting, with vehicles making use of buildings and other obstructions for cover as well as bushes and trees for camouflage. Each tank has its own ratings for detection and camouflage, which is coupled with its crews ratings for each of these as well. No matter how camouflaged a vehicle is, however, this all goes away once you start shooting. So, many less-armored vehicles will do best to use “hit-and-run” tactics, darting back and forth between cover while laying down fire. The point to all this madness is to either kill every enemy vehicle on the field or capture their base by staying next to it for a certain amount of time. In fact, you don’t really have to kill anyone on the map in certain situations. For instance, there was one battle I took part in where everyone on the team went one direction and, unbeknownst to us, the other team went a completely different direction. We ended up at their base first to find no resistance and got their base captured to 50% before the other team arrived at our base and began doing the same. Not one kill was made, but we still won!
Players stay interested not only because of the exciting gameplay but also thanks to a huge system of vehicle types and upgrades – not to mention the strategy in finding the best tactics to use on each of the various maps. Customizing your tank is not just a matter of grabbing the most expensive gear. Sometimes, players might go with a lesser-expensive piece of equipment due to its properties and benefits. For instance, the M3 Stuart is a light scout tank which boasts some serious speed and turning capabilities. In this tank, I personally have taken on four opponents of the light and medium tank variety, and come out on top. This was due to my good piloting of the vehicle, and the fact that it is, at full speed, insanely difficult to get a good bead on with manual or automatic aim modes. But, I digress… So, this tank can wield both traditional tank canons as well as a lighter auto-cannon style weapon. Each have their benefits and, depending on the team I was going to join or my own preferences, I would swap these out between battles. The point is, there is a lot of variety available to players in how they outfit their personal machines. Players paying for premium accounts can join tank groups (groups of friends who can all join the same battle) or tank platoons (the equivalent of a guild) – each of which add an enormous amount of fun to the World of Tanks experience.
Overall, World of Tanks is an insanely-fun online action game with a ton of strategy available to players looking for it. It is free-to-play and available now at its official website.
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- Crisp and detailed environments
- Accurately-modeled vehicles
- Lots of strategy available to players
- Free to play
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- Can’t drive your tank off the computer screen and ride it down your block, impressing your neighbors