++Review: James Bacon takes on Wargaming America's "World of Tanks"

Alright, guys. I can admit when I’m in the wrong, and I am so in the wrong on this one. You see, I promised you a third entry in the MOBA series that I’d begun about a hojillion years ago, and still the site hasn’t been updated with a whiff of battle arena content. It’s extremely unprofessional, and I am thoroughly embarrassed. So, I’m going to apologize to you. Especially you, Mad Tyger, who’s been pimping my prose all across the internet social media-verse.

Because the time has come and gone for that particular thing, and because I want to make it up to you guys, what I’m going to do is try to be as regular as possible (weekly, even, if you can believe that) with publishing reviews and other editorial pieces, beginning with several MOBA articles. One game, one review, one week. It’ll give me the opportunity to elaborate on the systems contained within the games (which is something a LOT of people had mentioned to me in the MOBA pieces; I wasn’t in depth enough for all the novices out there), as well as establish a regular schedule you can expect new content from.

Now that that’s settled, let’s dive into World of Tanks. WoT is typically billed as an MMO, but this game had it’s formative months in an era when “MOBA” wasn’t even a genre title, and since everyone else is comfortable calling it an MMO, it stuck. It is, however, an online battle arena.

My MS-1 in the garage… my most favorite light tank.

When you first register (at http://worldoftanks.com/; completely free) and log in, you’ll be given a selection of several light tanks to choose from to get yourself into battle, straight away. These tanks will never need to be repaired (which costs credits — earned simply by playing matches). They’re you’re old stand-byes. If all else fails (read: your medium and heavy tanks get junked), these will always be there for you to jump back into some games, and earn yourself some credits to fix up those scrapped monsters. This is the reason why you honestly never have to spend a dime on this game. You will always have a tank with which to earn currency, and not just credits. You also slowly accumulate “free experience” which you can then use to upgrade your tanks and crew, or trade it in for gold to buy new tanks of varying class. You can also outright purchase gold, if you’re not earning fast enough, but you never have to. Personally, I always tend to pick up a little bit of currency for cash. It helps support the fine men and women who make these wonderful games, and my middle name happens to be “Instant Gratification.”

On top of this, you can link your World of Tanks account to Amazon.com’s Game Connect feature, and pick yourself up some excellent exclusives. I mean, while you’re spending money on the game, you might as well compound your benefits. Not only can you buy gold through Amazon.com, but each package comes with a brand new tank for you to pilot, as well as a 100% trained crew to man it. Crew is vital in WoT, and it takes a lot of time to train your guys up from 0% to 100%. You can certainly do it without spending any money, but it’ll take you months to do so. The cheapest package is a mere $10 dollars, and it lands you 250 gold, 50,000 credits, an M22 Locust, and a 100% trained crew to man it. It also unlocks an extra slot in your garage, so you don’t need to worry about it taking up your limited space.

The calm before the storm… or, as I like to put it, the 30 second wait before I rain explosive death upon all who oppose me!

The game plays as you’d expect an arcade style tank simulator to play. Your WASD controls, move and turn your craft, while the turret is tied to your mouse-look. Range finding in WoT is extremely easy — if an enemy tank is spotted by an ally, there’s a red diamond that appears above them and the map is automatically pinged. You know you’re properly aiming at an enemy because they’ll be outlined in a bold, red line when they’re in your sights. Two reticles aid you in aiming, as well — a static circle that stays centered on your screen and not only marks where you’re aiming, but also tightens to indicate a steady, well fired shot the longer you remain still… moving and firing is a bit difficult to master; and a semi-transparent circle that actually accounts for terain, showing you were your shell will land in relation to where you’re aiming. It’s a simple system, but ingenious. It conveys all the important information regarding your aim in as compact a package as possible.

Himmelsdorf – A beautiful recreation of a WWII urban environment. The detail astounds.

World of Tanks is beautiful. The textures are appropriately gritty, but also colorful. In the screenshot above, you can see the blue of the sky, the white of the clouds, the red roofs, and green trees. Though this is a war game, gunmetal gray is nowhere to be found! And the attention to detail is incredible. Look at the segmented windows, with cracked and broken glass. The piles of rubble that seem to have each individual rock textured and shadowed; in other areas of this city, park benches are present, wrought iron fences, and telephone poles all modeled with a great degree of care… which you can then roll over in your hulking slab of armored cavalry. Shells hit the dirt and send earth flying, exhaust fumes belch forth from the bellies of your steel beasts. I have, and often, been shot dead in the middle of taking in the environments, because they’re just so nice to look at. Most free-to-play games don’t have this level of detail… Hell, some box titles don’t have this level of detail! All those years working on proper battle field visuals has really been put on display by Wargaming.net in WoT.

Don’t ever get caught in an open field like this… needless to say, I wasn’t alive for much longer.

There are several game modes in World of Tanks; however, only three of them are available for random matchmaking, and even then it’s only the secondary objective that’s ever headed. In the Standard game mode, winning involves either capturing the enemy base (while defending your own) by piling everyone into a specific area to grab their flag by the 15 minute mark… or just eliminate their whole team. Assault is an attacker/defender mode with only one base on the map — attackers need to capture it, and the defenders need to hold it. For Assault, the time limit is mercifully reduced to 10 minutes, but the secondary objective, “kill the entire enemy team,” can be achieved in far less. In the Encounter Battle mode, only one base exists again, like in Assault, but it starts neutral, and the first team to capture it wins… or the first team to kill their enemies. After playing the game for nearly its entire 2 year lifespan, I feel comfortable outlining, definitively, the community mind set. It looks something like this: “I’m in a tank. Screw the flags and bases, I’m going to blow everyone up!” The diversity is appreciated, but often lost to baser urges.

What’d I tell you…

Verdict: ++Good (9.0 out of 10) — Though this particular game style won’t appeal to everyone, and there is a limited amount of game modes to participate in, both competitive arena gamers and WWII buffs will get tons of mileage out of World of Tanks. What is here is done extremely well, and the Wargaming.net team knows tanks better than any other development house in the business, providing proper heft to the tanks themselves, excellent play-mechanics and responsive controls, as well as authentic sound effects for the cannons and engines. It’s fun for 15 minutes, or 5 hours!

[Indeed, it’s no coincidence that World of Tanks is the first game I chose to review springboarding off of the MOBA piece. ++Good Games has the illustrious honor of interviewing Mr. Chris Cook, Senior PR Manager at Wargaming America. We record this Thursday (tomorrow!!!), so look forward to our next Bonus Round sooner, rather than later.

And while you’re waiting to listen in, do yourself a favor and register for World of Tanks. With the implementation of the new physics engine, there has never been a more appropriate time for new players to join on in. Old maps are changing to accommodate the systems upgrade, and old tactics will be rendered obsolete, putting everyone — rookie and veteran, alike — on similar footing.] – James Bacon