Review Date: April 20 2011
ESRB Rating: Teen
Genre: Online Action Game
It seems that the most inventive games often come from independent developers that have little to lose and everything to gain from trying something different. World of Tanks is an inspired mixture of simulation game and shooter with a viral quality that leaves you wondering why no one has done this before. Here's a closer look a this new F2P online tank game from Wargaming.net.
Although World of Tanks is labelled a MMOG by it's developer, it lacks both the player numbers and the persistent world that many people associate with massively multiplayer games. Matches in WoT are just 30 players, which is fewer than many online FPS games like Counter-Strike or Battlefield 2. Between matches you're sitting in the garage, which is essentially a chat lobby where you can buy and upgrade different tanks. Needless to say, this is not World of Warcraft, or PlanetSide, or even Battleground Europe.
For the most part, controlling your tank will come easily to FPS fans, with WASD keys for movement, the left mouse button to fire, and number keys to switch weapons and use consumables. The mouse wheel zooms your camera, which goes from a view outside your tank to a first-person view through the gunsight. SPGs are slightly more complicated as they employ a long range targetting mechanic that is toggled with the Shift key and provides a bird's eye view of the map, letting you zero in on the enemy at great distances.
Tank Types and Classes
As well as the customary designations of light, medium, and heavy tank, WoT also divides its vehicles into tanks, tank destroyers, and self-propelled guns (SPG). Tanks tend to have turrets that rotate 360 degrees, while tank destroyers and SPGs must shoot forward. SPGs have weak armor, they're difficult to aim at short range, and they have very long reload times, making them the "glass cannons" of the game. They do tremendous damage when they do hit, so it's often necessary to use hills, rocks, and buildings for cover.
There are some simulation-game qualities to the vehicles in WoT. Rather than a single health bar, tanks have different components and crew that can be damaged independently. You can take a hit to your gun or turret, for example, that will cause it to operate more slowly for the rest of match. A damaged track temporarily brings you to a standstill, which can be very dangerous after you've been detected. Your crew does attempt to repair certain components, and they always seem to be able to at least get you moving and shooting again, even if at greatly reduced capacities.
Another way WoT diverges from typical shooters is the way spotting, hits, and damage are calculated. Depending on range and the gun you have equipped, you can quite easily miss a still target that is dead in your sights. There are also a plethora of "bounces," "ricochets," direct hits that "barely scratched them," and so on. Your crew helpfully gives you some feedback on the result of your apparent hits, but there's plenty of room for improvement. It's baffling to hear that you've "penetrated their armor" or scored a "critical hit" while the target remains at full health.
Spotting tanks on the other team is also handled in a unique way, as it takes movement and camouflage into account. When you're hiding in the bushes an enemy moving toward you is unlikely to see you before you see them. They also appear on the mini-map for all teammates within radio range.
Collecting and Upgrading Tanks
There are currently over 100 WWII tanks and upgrades in the game which are unlocked through research trees for German, Soviet, and American vehicles. Upgrades include a variety of guns, engines, turrets, tracks, and radios, depending on the tank. Players are not limited to a single research tree, they can research and play every tank in the game if they want to. You can collect a vast garage of tanks of different types and levels, although you'll need gold if you want more than 5 slots. Progressing through the research trees also becomes extremely slow and repetitive at about tier 5, especially with only one match type to play.