Tanks have been used in video games for just about as long as the medium has existed. It's easy to see why; it's wonderful blasting your digital foes into craters with a gun the size of a telephone pole. What is amazing is that it's taken this long for the world to be introduced to a title like World of Tanks. It may be a free-to-play title, but will it be worth our time?
Wargaming.net started development on World of Tanks over three years ago and has had 140 employees hard at work. They recently started a closed beta in Russia that’s been running very well for over three months. After what seems like endless PR teasing and media blasts, they created an English interface and let me hop in the driver’s seat. I was completely unprepared for what I was about to experience.
Let’s start with the tanks because that’s quite literally the name of the game. There are light, medium, and heavy-class tanks in addition to self-propelled guns and anti-tank vehicles. All in-game tanks are based on units that were used from 1930-1960. I’m certainly not an expert when it comes to their real-world counterparts, but all vehicles are exquisitely modeled and realistically detailed. They all have true-to-life properties that govern speed, weight, armor and ammunition. This gives every single tank its own “feel” and place on the battlefield.
Part of the initial learning curve arises from discovering the limitations of each. The Soviet SU-152 (self-propelled heavy artillery) is a slow moving beast that hits hard. On the other hand, the German VK 1602 Leopard (light tank) has speed but causes less damage. Thankfully, each tank has dozens of ways that it can be upgraded including hull, engine, armor, turret, gun, chassis, ammo types and more. Taking the time to make wise selections will give you an advantage over just a standard tank.
Russians players have started calling World of Tanks “Counterstrike with Tanks.” That should give you some idea of the realism and tactical awareness that is involved. However, such realism can be frustrating if you aren’t prepared for it. A heavy tank can slow to a crawl going up a seemingly insignificant incline. You might get destroyed while still trying to turn your main gun at an agonizing pace. Artillery can sometimes be taken out with one hit. These are all inherent balancing methods that mimic the real world. They also prove the point that teamwork is necessary along with a good mix of all unit types on a given team.
The beta I played only allowed for 30-vs-30 matches on random maps. The battle would last until an entire team is destroyed or the enemy base is captured. On average battles only last about 5-15 minutes long. This mode does not allow you to re-spawn so it’s imperative to not be hasty or reckless. If you are destroyed early in a match, though, just exit the battle and return to your garage.
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