Military games are all the rage these days. Players just can’t get enough of the tactical explorations undertaken by soldiers who band together through impossible odds. But have you ever just wanted to take a step back from it all? From the emotions, from the story, from the characters? Well you’re in luck because such a game already exists. Enter a world where teams of tanks duke it out for victory and claim dominion over the land. Welcome to a place of steel and explosions. Welcome to the World of Tanks.
Surprisingly enough for an MMO centred on anonymous crews piloting weapons of devastation, World of Tanks can’t be said to have a plot. Though with the plethora of detailed tanks available, you may just come to characterise a few. Though that’s solely dependent on your imagination. Also, with all of the online chat taking place in battle, you may just invent a reason as to why you want the other team to explode. Again, purely circumstantial.
Exactly as you would expect from a game named thusly, World of Tanks throws you into the driver’s seat of a tank. It is therefore your mission to utilise said weapon to blow up the opposing team in each match. A Standard match will pit teams against each other in one of the numerous maps contained within the game. Each team possesses their own base and can win the match by capturing their opponent’s base before the 15 minute time limit runs out. Classic capture the point style gameplay. Alternatively, victory can be achieved by simply annihilating the entire opposing team. In Encounter, there is but one base and each team must attempt to capture it, or destroy the opposing force entirely. Assault provides one team with a base that they must defend at all costs, whilst the attacking side attempts to capture the point. Victory can also be achieved by decimating the opposing team. Sensing a pattern here?
Rather than the typical “die-respawn-retry” style of play, each player receives only one life per match. So when you die, you’re out. Whilst this may seem frustrating to players, especially those still lacking in skill, WoT implements a fantastic feature to help mitigate this. If you don’t wish to remain in spectator mode for the remaining minutes of a match, you cna simply return to you garage (menu) and enter another match. Though your destroyed tank will remain “in battle” until the match ends, leaving will not prevent you from acquiring any rewards for the match. Such a simple feature, but one that allows WoT to retain its single kill combat without enraging players.
The concept of multiple battles in rapid succession also serves as motivation for players to acquire new tanks. Though the game provides you with two light tanks and one medium when you begin, they are almost immediately outclassed by every other online player. However, by entering numerous matches you can acquire Silver, Tank XP and Free XP, all necessary components of the upgrade process. However, whilst Silver and Free XP accumulate into pools, Tank XP is assigned to individual tanks and is non transferable, forcing you to battle with numerous tanks should you wish to upgrade them. The tanks themselves possess a branching sequence of abilities that allow you to improve your tank in various ways, such as improving it’s defensive capabilities or altering its turret’s firing style. Each branch also eventuates in the choice to buy an entirely new tank to add to your garage. Which you then enter into battle, gain points and the whole cycle repeats itself ad infinitum. In addition to these upgrades, you may also choose to spend some money on attachable equipment. Though more expensive than the upgrades on some of the weaker tanks, they provide passive bonuses that serve to further improve your war machines, such as a 10% increase to aiming speed. Which is always helpful. The only limitation of this equipment comes from each individual tank and their capacity, with some capping out at three.
Within combat itself, your own organisation of upgrades and equipment definitely shines through. Though the different classes of tank (light, medium and heavy) are a simple way of discerning a tank’s capabilities, it is merely the surface of gameplay variances. Should a tank possess a long range for example, said machine may fill the role of sniper for the team, sitting back and picking of enemies from a distance. Such a weapon may even utilise stealth tactics, using shrubbery to avoid detection. Others may be more suited to brute force tactics, barrelling straight for the front lines and taking out anything in its way. Though that is definitely a risky strategy. Within these more high octane manoeuvres, one must also be wary of the tank’s own shortcomings, lest they lead to defeat. One such weakness is the turret rotation speed. Though you may turn the camera to aim at an opponent, the barrel of the tank moves at a slower speed. As such, suddenly zooming in may have you looking in the wrong direction, possibly leading to defeat. Should you need to fire and move in tandem, the game includes a handy auto aim that can be turned on, allowing you to focus solely on evasionary tactics.
Damaging an opponent also centres around a rather detailed system, with a number of factors that attribute to attack and defence. For example, firing at an opponent from an angle will reduce the damage of your shells, whereas a direct hit will retain its true destructive force. The impact each shot will have is easily determined by colour of the reticule itself: yellow implies a slim chance of penetrating enemy armour, orange means fifty/fifty and red represents a very high probability. If that wasn’t enough, individual tanks also possess unique armour values for individual sections, such as the tracks. Yet another factor to consider when firing. Speaking of tracks, it is also possible to immobilise your opponent for a time by focusing damage there. Easy pickings. However, should you wish for an easier (not easy) approach, simply spend some of your hard earned war profits on some more powerful ammunition. I hear armour piercing is quite effective.
Also, though more of a side note compared to previous points, moving around the battlefield is rather empowering, what with you being in a tank and all. Watch environmental assets crumble as you roll over them on the path to war. Gamers will definitely appreciate the fact that trees are also a part of this list, lacking the usual invulnerable obstacle status that they possess in other games. That being said, you are still in a tank and there are some thing a tank just can’t handle. Though travelling through mud and water reduces speed, particularly deep patches may result in drowning. Which is bad. Also the bane of the tank within each map is most assuredly inclines. Attempting to traverse a hill will reduce you speed dramatically and result in an embarrassing slide down the slope. Be wary of fall damages well, a feature that was also surprisingly included. It definitely showcases an attention to detail. Humorous, embarrassing detail.
Owing to the fact that it is centred within a world filled to the brim with tanks, the game contains a plethora of uniquely designed tanks from across the globe. Well England, America and Germany specifically. A great deal of effort was poured into recreating these real world weapons in CG form, a fact supported by the inclusion of a bio for each machine that specifies the various elements of their design. Whilst surely a dream for military buffs, these numerous models also serve to keep each battle visually fresh and engaging. The different sizes of the tanks also serve as an immediate representation of their skills, making it easier to determine how your team will approach the upcoming battle. If nothing else, seeing a brand new tank roll across the battlefield serves to entice other players, who will work to acquire one of their own.
Just as with the tanks, a great deal of effort was placed into the various environments in which you fight. However, more emphasis was definitely placed on playability than visual complexity. That isn;t to say that the environments don’t look appealing, it’s just that they are fairly simple in their layout. Most likely owing to the fact that both teams are comprised of nothing but tanks of varying size. For example, the map Malinovka is primarily a flat, wide open plain which, though creating an interesting tactical issue to overcome, is not that interesting to look at. However, as the gameplay treats environmental objects as nothing more than hurdles and cover from fire, it suits the concept of the game perfectly.
Occasionally within battle, especially during rapid movement, there was also some visual distortion around the borders of the HUD elements and the tank itself. Though relatively minor, it can become a tad distracting during combat.
Possibly opting for a more “realistic” approach to combat, WoT contains no background music during combat. Instead just the cold, dead silence of two warring factions moments from pouncing. The lack of musical sound definitely adds a sense of tension to the game, as any sound you do hear is assuredly coming from the advance of the enemy. The devastating silence also serves to amplify the impact and suddenness of each and every shell fired. Though the lack of in battle music definitely makes the victory tune that plays over the scoreboard all the more triumphant.
World of Tanks is an interesting game. Though on the surface it seems to be just another team based war game, there is a great degree of detail and subtlety in it’s gameplay. In order to truly master the game, you must pay careful attention to each individual stat, each unique weapon, every player, the environment…everything. Though you can definitely still have some fun rolling around in a war machine, you will not live very long. Though depending on your team, you might not need to. Battles can be over in mere minutes or drag on until the bell goes ding. No two matches are identical and that’s what will keep you going back for more…if you’re not too frustrated by previous outcomes. All in all, World of Tanks is a fun, surprisingly detailed exploration into the art of war.
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