February 25 2013
The explosive action in World of Tanks has been underway for a couple of years, and the game has now reached version 0.8.3. I've played on and off since beta, and I reviewed World of Tanks shortly after release in 2011, so I thought it would be good time to have another look at this online tank shooter.
Wargaming has had a lot of success with World of Tanks, especially in Russia where the game originated, and Wargaming has been growing steadily ever since. For one thing, they bought BigWorld, the company from which they had previously licenced the game engine. This has led to improved graphics and physics as well as better overall game performance.
As well as adding nice selection of new maps, it looks like all of the old maps have had a revamp along the way, and I'm happy to say that tanks are no longer glued to the ground. You can now fall off cliffs and the frustration that stemmed from getting stuck on small objects that appear passable has been greatly reduced.
Vast numbers of tanks have been added to the game since launch, including entire tech trees for British, French, and Chinese tanks. As you can imagine, the debate rages on over just how balanced it all is, on top of the age-old discussion of the role of SPGs (self-propelled guns), the game's artillery. I'm not so sure it's even possible, with so many vehicles, to arrive at a perfect balance, but they do seem to be making progress.
Matchmaking is a tricky business and it was my biggest grievance with World of Tanks when it launched. For a long time it would routinely drop you into matches where you were hopelessly outgunned. The system has been re-tuned and it's a huge improvement when playing low and mid tier tanks. It still seems to struggle a little at the highest tiers, perhaps because there are fewer players with top tier tanks, and platoons can also mess with things. Platoons are groups of up to 3 players that can join a battle together and fight on the same side. The matchmaking handles the platoon according the tier of its highest tier member, so grouping with tanks several tiers above you rarely goes well.
Of course, there are other variables to be considered, such as the distribution of vehicle types on each side of the battle. I see far fewer matches now where half the team is driving SPGs, which is a good thing.
Another welcome addition to World of Tanks are two new game modes: Encounter and Assault. Encounter mode is essentially King-of-the-Hill, and Assault entails an attack/defence scenario. There's no arguing that three game modes are better than one, but they all employ last-team-standing rules, so they usually end in the elimination of one team rather than capturing the objective.
The lengthy grind at the game's higher tiers remains, and the free-to-play pricing has also stayed about the same. They have, at least, tweaked gold ammo such that it can now also be bought with currency earned in game.
Given the success that World of Tanks has had, it's remarkable that the core idea hasn't been cloned a dozen times by now. As it stands, there just aren't that many multiplayer online tank games to choose from, and even fewer that are as accessible as World of Tanks. If tanks aren't your style, Wargaming plans to bring a similar kind of action to other military vehicles with their upcoming World of Warplanes and World of Warships.