When one speaks of tanks in MMOs, usually the first thing that comes to mind would be a character that can soak up enemy fire for the team while his team mates lay waste on the opposition. It has been a staple in games that each team should have within their ranks in order to progress in their quests. But while there is nothing wrong with this notion, something seems to have been lacking in relation to what a tank is really supposed to be; aside from armored juggernauts that can soak damage, the other aspect that defines tanks is their firepower they give to their squadrons in the battlefield. The expression "bringing out the big guns" aptly describes tanks as they are essentially hulking, mobile cannons that are more than capable of decimating enemies in their wake - who doesn't like blowing things up with such high-caliber weaponry?
With this in mind, the folks at Wargaming.net have created World of Tanks, the widely popular and critically acclaimed Free-to-Play MMO that has made strides in the MMO world and have garnered multiple awards since its release, including "Best Free MMORPG" during MMORPG Center's 2010 Player's Choice Awards, "Best MMO" in the Golden Joystick Awards in 2012, and "Best Online Game" the following year. It also holds the Guinness World record for the most number of players simultaneously online on one MOG Server last January 2011. The awards are impressive, but does having such accolades live up to the hype? Let's batten down the hatch and find out in the World of Tanks review!
Treading Through History
Graphically speaking, World of Tanks looks really polished, with very detailed maps that have interactive surroundings - when a tank runs down a tree, you can see the tree fall and lay on the ground for a bit. The same goes for cars and crates in the cityscape maps that get destroyed and flattened when tanks run through them.
Tanks have been present in most, if not all, of the major wars in history. That is a pretty tall order to put into a game, but that is just what World of Tanks has done. Sticking true to the game's title, World of Tanks boasts a roster of at least 240 different kinds of armored vehicles hailing from the Soviet Union, Germany, Britain, France, China, Japan and the United States that have treaded the battlefield from the first World War up to the 1960's. Most of the tanks have been detailed to be as visually accurate to the real-life historical tanks as possible and the designers have followed through with highly authentic-looking vehicles; it was very surprising to find so many different tank designs in one game! Having such a huge roster of historically correct tanks is great way to pay homage to these mechanical marvels that have helped shape our history.
World of Tanks' controls are easy to get the hang of for those who have played any First-Person Shooter in the PC - the game uses the same W,S,A and D for the tank movement, and the mouse for aiming and shooting which will be taught to the player as soon as he plays the game for the first time via tutorial, and a very fast one at that. The inclusion of an easy-to-learn tutorial is a great way to get even non-PC players into the thick of things right away.
World of Tanks' gameplay is another unexpected component, as games often revolve around the right placing of one's tanks within the battlefield. This is somewhat interesting, as usually any game that has tanks as its main proponent would opt to have an in-your-face, balls of the wall action where players would rush into the fray. But while players can opt to go that route, World of Tanks really plays more of a strategy game, as it rewards players who use tactics, patience and being at the right place to snipe down (yes, tanks can snipe!) opponents. Knowing the pros and cons of your tanks is crucial, as each type varies on mobility and range; there is also some bullet physics at work when shooting - one has to take into account how far the enemy is and will have to adjust his cannon before firing. It is commendable of World of Tanks to have a realistic take on the wait-for-the-right-moment aspect of tank warfare, but those who are impatient might feel let down when battles drag on because no one wants to move from their positions.
The game modes available are Random Battles, Team Battle, Clan Battle, Tank Company, Team Training and Tournaments. Random battles pit two teams of 15 players who are randomly selected to duke it out on a randomly selected map. Games are won when all 15 players from any one team are eliminated, or if their base has been captured; players can play with friends in random battles via the Platoon option, where up to 3 players can join in and battle random opponents. Team, Company and Clan battles are a more organized version of the random battles, each having a matchmaking and tier limit system - Team Battle is a skirmish between two peer teams of 5 to 7 players per team and Company Battle relies on a manual match making of allies against random enemies. Clan Battles revolve around capture-point mechanics, with both teams vying for a specified area; Clan Battles require gold in order to be played. Team Training, as the name suggests, is a game mode for honing one's skills or a team's synergy in devising plans and learning to be more cohesive. Finally, tournaments are team-based events that are arranged in a bracket-style elimination rounds that have specific rules; the winners of these tournaments are usually rewarded with in-game currency, real-life cash and other incentives.
Of all the game modes, Random Battles is the most fast-paced, fulfilling and enjoyable game mode in World of Tanks. Single players itching to level up, rake in in-game currency, or test out the different tanks in the garage and upgrades are immediately thrust into the battlefield with other players and it right off the bat, the game tests each players' mettle and wits. For gamers who prefer a more organized and strategic way of tank warfare and have a team arranged, the other game modes might suit their fancy.
Climbing Up the Tech Tree
With the exception of Team Training, all the other game modes reward players with experience, gold and credits which are used to unlock higher-ranked tanks and upgrades, as well as ammunition.
The type of tanks available in the game are the following: light tanks, medium tanks, heavy tanks, tank destroyers (or TDs), and the self-propelled guns (SPGs or Artillery). Each type has their strengths and weaknesses. Light tanks, keeping to their namesake, are the more mobile of the tank types and are capable of out-maneuvering the bigger, heavier tanks, but do not deal as much damage as their bigger counterparts can dish out and are also easily shot down if players aren't careful. Medium tanks are slightly slower than the light tanks, but are more armored and carry more firepower; heavy tanks boast the most armor and pack the strongest armaments, but are extremely sluggish and slow-maneuvering. Tank destroyers and SPGs are vehicles that are fitted with missile launchers capable of ripping through armor.
Each player has in his disposal a garage of free tanks of different types to use. As they progress in the game, they are given the chance to upgrade their preferred tanks to a higher tier or outfit them with new gear such as a better cannon, treads, radio emitters and engines; all of these cost experience points, gold and credits to unlock and research. These in-game currencies are World of Tanks' freemium items, and are readily available in the in-game store for purchase. While it is compelling to see one's favorite armored vehicle progress with the strongest allowable upgrades, the freemium items tend to cater for the more serious gamers who'd love to invest in making the best possible tanks in the game. Casual gamers who are not really into tanks can still play the game using the stock tanks and enjoy the game just the same. There is also the issue of having to buy ammo for the more powerful cannons that compared to the standard ones, are a bit more expensive to use since they need to be replenished every time after a battle; the standard cannons use normal ammunition and can be replaced for free.
Aimed Towards the Future
As Wargaming.net's most successful game to date, World of Tanks has also found its way into consoles and soon into tablets and smartphones with World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition for the Xbox 360, and World of Tanks Blitz for Android and iOS. The console version was released last February 2014, and is free to play for Xbox Live Gold subscribers; as with other PC-to-Console cross platforms, World of Tanks: Xbox 360 edition will have a different servers, meaning PC players can't play with Xbox users. World of Tanks Blitz for the iOS and Android can have 7-on-7 battles between games, and is already in the closed beta test last March 2014, and is expected to hit the shelves in Spring 2014.
With easy-to-learn controls, fast-paced battles, historically accurate and a robust roster of unlockable vehicles, World of Tanks really lives up to the hype. Tank aficionados will certainly get a kick out of this game, while casual gamers can still enjoy blowing up their enemies and bring about wanton destruction, one cannon shot at a time!